Alumni Spotlight: Colin Budd ('07)

In the atrium of Bill and Melinda Gates Hall, a modern glass building on Cornell’s southern campus, hangs a glowing twist of purple and grey LED lights. The Mood Cloud sculpture began in 2014 as a collaborative project among programmers, artists, and social scientists. The glowing cloud sculpture hangs in the Gates lobby above the flow of nearly 900 faculty and students of Cornell’s Computing and Information Science programs. Initially a piece to collect and reflect the emotional tones of the campus, Mood Cloud had been dormant until its animated algorithm was reimagined by Colin Budd ’07, an undergraduate senior pursuing concurrent degrees in Fine Arts and Information Science at Cornell University. Colin has programmed the animation of Mood Cloud to react to live data documenting the weather in Ithaca, creating an interactive piece that engages with the conditions all resident Cornelians face.

Mood Cloud is one of his most prominently displayed pieces, but Colin has spent his time at Cornell studying, designing, and inventing various artful applications of technology and psychology. Acting as the Chief Editor for the Cornelian yearbook, the Photography Head of Slope Media Group, and the Creative Director of Cornell’s TEDx program, Colin’s experience as a creative leader has prepared him for a user experience designer position at IBM in Austin.

From his small art studio in Ithaca, Colin shared with me the history of his interest in technology, citing St. Edmund’s Academy’s Flash Coding summer camp as one of his earliest interactions with computer programming. “I remember the colorful Macintosh computers in the classrooms. But while other kids were playing games, I was digging through the file systems.” His curiosity about technology has only grown as Colin continues to pursue new artistic and academic avenues, applying his creative interests with his programming abilities, and always wondering, “How does this work?” He notes that this curiosity, a fascination for how computers operate, is critical to the participation in a technological workforce. To St. Edmund’s students, students ten or fifteen years his junior, he encourages a fluency in computer programming language, not just as preparation for a future career, but as a way to revolutionize one’s own thinking. He hopes to apply this perspective as he begins his career at IBM this fall, contributing and leading projects in socially impactful ways.