Skip to main content

Collaborative project bridges gap between arts, engineering

March 08, 2013

A combination of the arts and engineering may seem like an unusual coupling, but one group of ASU students from the College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) proves that the fusion of the two fields can be rewarding and a valuable teaching model. 

CTI students and Mesa Arts Center executives collaborated on an iProject that bridges the gap between creative arts and engineering with an exhibit to be debuted at Mesa Arts Center’s Spark Festival of Creativity, occurring March 13-17. The Spark Festival of Creativity is an annual event celebrating the work of creative community members and businesses that aim to inspire the community to build, decorate and design.  

Their project is an example of a STEAM Machine (science, technology, engineering, arts and math machine). Designed to perform one simple task through a chain reaction, the STEAM Machine takes participants on an interactive journey of a cactus named Spike who goes on a voyage through time in an effort to get back home.  As the narrated story ends, participants can explore the city of West Prickly, hometown of Spike the cactus. West Prickly will feature interactive modules that explain the science behind imaging technology.

“People who are attracted to arts are creative, and to me engineering is a creative profession,” said Shawn Jordan, assistant engineering professor at CTI and co-mentor for the group. “CTI is interested in creating a pathway for people involved in the arts to consider and see ways to connect their artistic passion into engineering.”

The exhibit will run every half hour throughout the duration of the festival.

Students from the Engineering and Graphic Information Technology programs at CTI worked together to design the creative, visual and mechanical aspects of the project. Jordan says many of these students have an interest in the arts outside of school, and for these students this project is an opportunity to embrace their interests in the arts and engineering in a truly side-by-side and interactive manner.

Co-mentor and Graphic Information Technology senior lecturer Penny Dolin says the collaboration of the two studies helps students gain experience working in interdisciplinary teams, preparing them for more dynamic careers after graduation.

“Engineering without art can be a little one-dimensional, just as art without engineering can be one-dimensional,” Dolin said. “Great art projects are engineering marvels. Art without an understanding of materials and tools doesn’t do the project justice. When our students understand this collaboration, they are better prepared for real-world situations.”

CTI faculty mentors hope to engage even more young minds in the theories behind STEAM with a special summer series called STEAM Machines Invention Camp during the CTI Academy, a hands-on summer camp program geared toward middle and high school students.

Through a partnership with the Mesa Arts Center, the Invention Camp will explore the creative aspect of STEAM Machines through traditional artistic outlets. Participants choose a discipline (dance, drama, spoken word and music) and learn how to brainstorm, design and make a STEAM Machine that will be thematically integrated into the artistic discipline. Classes will be taught by CTI faculty and professional artists.

Written by Sydney B. Donaldson, College of Technology and Innovation