The New School

Welcome to Catalogue Five!

We are RISD, Brown, MIT, Yale, Rutgers, BU, Harvard, and The New School STEAM. STEAM stands for STEM + Arts/Humanities/Design.

We strive to integrate the creativity and aesthetics of the arts; the problem solving tools and rigor of the STEM fields; & the critical thinking and ethical considerations of the humanities. We believe that this unification powerfully drives progress toward the future.

This fifth catalogue contains everything we've done from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016.

About Catalogue Five

This Catalogue, like the catalogue of a show, is a collection of documented work. At STEAM, this includes workshops, lectures, installations, discussions, and writing we created this spring. Our fifth installment documents the two semesters of Fall 2015 and Spring 2016.

STEAM Press, the mechanism through which Catalogue is published, accepts submissions from members of our communities, and outside contributors. Please reach out to us if you would like to add to the next issue of Catalogue.

The theme of this Catalogue is "Expansion".


Foreword: Expansion
Minsoo Thigpen
Hello From:
Rutgers University
Danica Sapit
Boston University
Alyssa Arnheim / Julia Pan / Hayley Walker / Katie Walker
Harvard University
Jessica Paik
The New School
Isata Yansaneh / Neha Bhatia
University of Michigan
(Incoming, Summer 2016)
Maya Deshmukh
University of Ottawa
(Incoming, Summer 2016)
Diyyinah Jamora
Grace Li
Discovery and Digitalization: A Year for Exploring New Paradigms
Chanthia Ma
GENSPACE: Biology + Textiles
Callie Clayton
Citizen + Virtual Workshop Series
Kevin Cadena
Brian Oakes
Gingko Bioworks
Eli Block
Brainy Beats: A Music Cognition Workshop
Leanne Block


Foreword: Expansion

Minsoo Thigpen

Let’s start with the shape of the pentagon.

The five vertices of the pentagon stands for the five points of the STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Going further, now that STEAM as a student-led grassroots movement is expanding nationwide, the shape of the pentagon is different for each school. Each school has different needs and resources with which each specific chapter was founded on. The pentagon symbolically represents the pulling and reshaping of how the five disciplines of STEAM interact with each other at each school.

Each catalogue is the center point of the STEAM network, as the culmination of the students’ manifestation of the idea of STEAM, brought together in one place to be disseminated to educators, students, policy makers, and industry leaders. This is our story and the work we have done, are doing, and will continue to do as we diversify and expand. Each school will have its own story, its own way of working together to unite seemingly disparate fields of study or groups of people together, to forge new ways of learning, of growing, and of experiencing the world. Whether it is through meeting different people or creating work collaboratively with someone who sees the problem in a completely different light, there has always been a place for the sciences to co-exist and flourish alongside the arts. Our world is no longer about purism, but rather, inter-connectedness. We are the nodes bouncing around wildly, making connections with the communities around us, the resources available to us, and to other nodes that we collide with.

The pentagon assembles the different disciplines, joined together in a charged pursuit for knowledge, innovation, and new ways of seeing our world so that we may help each other get outside of our single point (of view) and together, form new areas for exploration and expansion.

Read more


Hello From:

The STEAM network continues to expand, driven by student-led efforts at campuses across the country. Four years ago, STEAM only existed on one campus, RISD, joined shortly by STEAM at Brown, close neighbors on College Hill. Last year, MIT and Yale STEAM joined the STEAM network. Most recently, this past year, STEAM welcomed four new STEAM groups—Rutgers, Boston University, Harvard University, and The New School, with University of Michigan and University of Ottawa incoming soon.

The following five articles, written by the founders of the STEAM groups on these five campuses, describe what STEAM means to them and their school, and document some of their projects, past and future. Welcome to Rutgers, BU, Harvard, The New School, University of Michigan, and University of Ottawa STEAM!

Rutgers University

Danica Split

Mission Statement

Rutgers STEAM, in New Brunswick, is a growing student-led movement to integrate traditionally-disparate fields and mindsets, broadly in the areas of the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and the Arts and Humanities. We aim to develop STEAM as a tool that enables, whether it be by enabling learning, open discussions, product improvements, or new ideas and inventions. In the real world, each of us will have to work alongside those with different skillsets and thought processes, and STEAM emulates both this understanding and teamwork as well as encourages it. It seeks to open those in the STEM fields to more creative branches of thought, and those in the arts to more methodical implementations. These intersecting areas will be the hub that will drive forward innovation, manifested through discussions, workshops, projects, trips, and other events, all of which will showcase how these integrations can work alongside one another to solve problems, explore ideas, evaluate beauty in its different abstractions, and above all, make a difference.

We at Rutgers lie on a breeding ground for STEAM-centric innovation. As a research university, we are dedicated to seeking answers to “what if” questions. An open supporter of diversity, Rutgers is home to different schools in the arts, the sciences, and engineering. Each houses a specialized “small-school” environment in a large-school setting that enables many students to focus on a specific discipline but to still be able to converse and interact with others of radically different backgrounds in a shared space. Through current research thrusts, such as Polynomiography and Musical Technology, as well as other creative spaces, such as the Makerspace and Hackerspace, we are already on our way to democratizing STEM, the Arts, and the new area of STEAM. Based close to NYC, we can also easily access various art and Science-Art hubs that are developing in the city to fuel our projects. We at Rutgers STEAM have access to tools and are creating means that not only enable answers but prompt further questions for exploration.

What is STEAM for Rutgers?

Rutgers is divided into different schools and sub-campuses, and as a result, microcosms of each specialty field have formed and become very isolated in their work and ideas. This has resulted in students reporting they feel siloed in their major or unsure of how to expand their technical and interpersonal skills outside of their field’s traditional domains. Thus, for our first semester, our first main goal was to break those barriers and create a culture for our members to freely experiment with new fields and interact with different majors. Our second main goal was to showcase the different combinations of those fields already present at Rutgers and beyond through hands-on workshops and talks.

As we close for the year, we asked some of our current Board what STEAM is for them, as both an organization and as a movement:

Danica (President & new STEAM x Technology Head):

“Founding a STEAM chapter, for me, came originally from a place of discomfort. As a computer engineer and artist, I felt there were no outlets around that mutually respected the left-brain and right-brain beauty of each of my fields of interest. My experiences in engineering seemed coldly pragmatic, and my experiences in the arts seemed unappreciative of the details of complicated engineering systems. I began noticing that my art show submissions often sat in the intersection of different fields, like interactive art, technology, social justice, and optics. Whenever I learned a new concept, I enjoyed integrating my understanding and appreciation of it in a wholly expressive, but technologically-complex way. So I searched for a community that wanted to explore STEM through more culturally-aware means, and once I found the STEAM University network, I knew I wanted to be a part. I’m grateful for STEAM for enabling me to meet people who validate utilizing the whole-brain to consolidate ideas in more interesting, impactful ways.”

Brian (Treasurer & STEAM x Math Head):

“A lot of my personal projects involve either applying mathematical thinking as inspiration for artwork or leveraging creativity to present abstract technical topics in visually intuitive ways. Until I joined up with STEAM, however, most of these projects didn’t have much scope beyond my own enjoyment. This in mind, I think an important aspect to STEAM is its potential to bring relevance and exposure to these types of creative projects that don’t fit neatly into any other organization’s range of interest. Connecting like-minded people by contributing to STEAM has afforded myself and others a platform to showcase interesting projects that might otherwise be left unshared.”

Samvitha (Secretary & STEAM x Science Head):

“STEAM club was intriguing for me because I, as a biochemistry major, wanted to promote STEM education and encourage others to get interested in STEM. I especially wanted others to know that the STEM fields were not as rigid as traditionally believed and actually involved and invoked a lot of creativity. To me, originally STEAM was a way of identifying the artistic nature of science, but through our past events, I learned that STEAM is not just about combining art and science, but rather it is about finding the unique and intertwined concepts for both fields. It’s about finding the hidden areas in which those intersections come naturally. I hope that through our club, we can spark interest in others to think creatively and explore new ideas.”

Nicole (STEAM x Society Head):

“STEAM is a club where you can think freely and get a taste of fields you wish to collaborate with but might not have thought you could otherwise. If it weren't for STEAM, I don't believe I would’ve met so many different individuals in such fascinating fields, and it not only furthered my understanding of my own sub-disciplines but drove me to work with various distinct mindsets. STEAM is meant for the individuals with an appreciation for differing perspectives and a passion in a broad vision of the world. It also enables people to create what otherwise they would not have the specialty in to complete. STEAM can change the world by simply reminding our work-culture that not only do we need to appreciate an artistic mind, but work collaboratively, for better well-rounded innovations.”


Rutgers STEAM had a wonderful first semester this past Spring 2016!

Kickoff - Glowstick Dissection

The organization introduced STEAM and its future goals, and we jumped into an activity discussing the chemical composition of illumination, linking and quantifying the beauty to the reactions happening at the molecular level. We then dissected glow sticks and poured the chemicals into petri dishes, transforming the dishes and chemicals into our canvas and paint. We each put on lab goggles and gloves and had fun illuminating the room.

Protein Coloring Book - Workshop

Rutgers Biochemistry professor Dr. Peter Kahn discussed his work on a children's book he made showing real protein structures from his research and encouraged artists to transform them into creatures based on their function, such as a “cellulase chomper.” During the meeting, he gave an introduction on proteins using 3D visualizations and had members make their own protein creatures. We had various creatures, like the superhero “SuperOxide Girl,” decorating the tables. STEAM hopes to bring the activity to nearby elementary schools to teach about biochemistry.

Protein creatures with Dr. Peter Kahn.

Glitch Art - Workshop

We held a workshop discussing the artform of glitch art, with questions such as “Is it art if done by a computer?” and "Is it glitch if we can direct its output?” This delved into learning about image compression techniques and data. We then began an activity to make our own glitch art creations using databending and pixel sorting techniques, then showcased them on an Apple TV by having members bluetooth them up!

Glitch art.

Teaching a Computer to Be A Visual Artist - A Talk with Babak Saleh

Rutgers researcher Babak Saleh has received worldwide attention for his “controversial” research on a computer algorithm that can "not only trace artistic influence but quantify creativity." We invited him to speak on the basics of computer vision. He then showcased some of his findings on both fine arts and graphic design, which included connections not even art historians have found, and shared his programmatic definition of “creative”: artwork with small “scores of influence” from other art and a high score of “influence” in successive works of art. Through his computations, he was able to accurately pinpoint innovators of certain artistic periods and even reasonably suggest how to help make artworks more creative.

Teaching a Computer To Be A Visual Artist, with Babak Saleh.

The Math & Science of Pixar

“Pixar in a Box” is an education collaboration effort between Pixar and Khan Academy illuminating the STEM behind computer animation. We invited Tony De Rose, lead Pixar researcher, and Brit Cruise, a content creator at Khan, to speak on the project and go through an animation exercise on interpolation. We learned about how certain concepts are used in animation, such as combinatorics for character design and phoneme modeling. Cruise emphasized the need for other organizations to do these education projects and left us with a message to do good, creative work with your passions.

Creative Coding - Workshop

STEAM held an introductory Processing workshop, teaching basics of 2D/3D drawing, interactivity, classes, PVectors, and importing different libraries, such as those for webcam and augmented reality. It educated non-coders on how much of what we see can be created using code and introduced broader coding concepts and expressions. We invited members to create, and several made games, animations, artworks, and creatures.

Closing - Music Visualization - Workshop

For our last event, STEAM used computer programming to match sound frequencies to certain visuals, such as color frequencies, and turned songs into beautiful animations. We also worked in a concert hall with live musical performances and large banner paper and art supplies for members to create their own visualization/sonification techniques and artwork inspired by the methods!

Moving Forward

Moving forward, Rutgers STEAM has gathered allies with Rutgers art schools and galleries, the Douglass Project (a STEM initiative for women), the Makerspace and Director of Virtual Worlds, Autodesk, activist organizations, and the STEAM initiative for elementary schools in New Brunswick. We aim to expand our reach through different committees: STEAM x Science, STEAM x Technology, STEAM x Mathematics, and STEAM x Society, which together we hope will encompass all of the different facets of STEAM innovation.

Read more

Mission Statement

BU STEAM is a student group at Boston University that strives to make accessible and illuminate the technical aspects of the STEM fields through the arts so that these fields can be more easily understood and appreciated by all. We aim to more fully integrate creative problem-solving in order to invite a unique approach to real world STEM problems that cannot simply be solved with current by-the-book methods. Additionally, BU STEAM endeavors to create works around the BU Community that use STEM as a tool to reflect artistic or philosophical questions about the world.

We inspire discussion about the inherent overlap of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics fields and empower all generations to embrace the interconnectivity of these fields. In addition to the exchange of ideas, we conduct interdisciplinary projects that contribute both technically and aesthetically to our community, and integrate our STEAM ideals through after school programs at public schools in the greater Boston area.


BU STEAM had an action-packed first year on campus. In the fall, we applied to be an officially-recognized student group on campus and hosted an information meeting, during which we discussed the meaning of STEAM, and the three main pillars of the group: inspiration, innovation, and integration. This was a wonderful opportunity for us to establish ourselves as a presence on campus and spread the word about our STEAM mission.

As we close for the year, we asked some of our current Board what STEAM is for them, as both an organization and as a movement:

Physics + Art: Playing with Dimensions! Workshop; December 6th, 2015

BU STEAM led a workshop in the winter to demonstrate how visual thinking can help us understand physics, specifically the fourth spacial dimension with hypercubes. We introduced some relevant modern artists (such as Alexa Meade and Felice Varini), discussed the physics of other dimensions, and then made anamorphic typography sculptures out of cardboard, projecting stencils onto the uneven surfaces to trace and paint over.

Citizen + Virtual Wintersession Workshop; January 23, 2016

Though our students were unable to participate in creating exhibition pieces during the workshop series, we were incredibly excited to host a Citizen + Virtual Winter Workshop session on BU’s campus and to facilitate discussions. Sharon Goldberg, an associate Computer Science professor, led a talk on cybersecurity and its global legislation.

Sharon Goldberg discussing her research in cybersecurity at the Citien + Virtual session at BU.

Biology + Art Membrane exhibit; March 25, 2016

This semester, in addition to hosting some events on campus, we’ve also done our best to take advantage of the STEAM related events in the greater Boston area. A group of our members went to the opening of Membrane: Biology + Art by Boston Cyberarts. This exhibit explored the relationship of science and art with a number of biology inspired installations, from shadowboxes containing living fluorescent arachnids to pottery designs created by slime mold colonies. This was a great way to become acquainted with the STEAM community in greater Boston.

Sustainability Festival; April 21, 2016

We were happy to be a part of the annual Sustainability Festival at BU. Our table featured a laser cut tree and newspaper leaves that passersby could write on (with their ideas about how STEM and the arts can contribute to sustainability) and hook onto the tree. Additionally, we created bow-ties out of comic strips to demonstrate the beauty in repurposed things.

Collaboration with Engineers Without Borders (EWB)

BU STEAM has also partnered with the Engineers Without Borders chapter at BU, which aims to sustainably increase access to clean water, to improve sanitation standards, and to promote hygiene in Naluja, Zambia. Together, STEAM at BU and EWB are working together to develop educational materials to go along with their projects. We're developing visual media to explain how to build and use technology such as a hand washing stations and sanitary outdoor toilets. EWB partnered with us to provide an artistic perspective to their technical knowledge. Education plays a significant role in making technology sustainable in low-resource regions, and these materials will be implemented during EWB’s next trip to Zambia this summer.

Looking Forward

Crochet + Critters + Curves

Our Crochet, Critters and Curves project will explore the relationships between math, ecology and sculpture.This workshop series will introduce members to the hyperbolic plane, which naturally occurs in crochet and is also seen in the intricate folds of coral. We will learn how to create a coral reef with crochet, as well as investigating the ecological changes coral reefs have undergone in the last decade in the process.

Bezier String Art

Our bezier string art project will represent mathematical bézier curves (commonly used in graphic design softwares) using string configurations. We hope to create an installation that can be temporarily displayed on BU’s campus.


In addition to all the wonderful progress we’ve been able to make this past year as well as the exciting projects we have planned for the upcoming school year, we hope to continue to foster stronger relationships with the other STEAM groups, especially with those in the Boston/Cambridge area. We are looking forward to hosting joint events and collaborating on projects in the future!

Read more

Harvard University

Jessica Paik

Mission Statement

Harvard STEAM is a student-led initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Our team aims to explore innovative resources and learning experiences in order to foster an evolvement of education culture at large. For now, our initiative remains broad in order to mold into the relevant themes, skills and needs present within the university and education communities.

At Harvard Graduate School of Education, STEAM aims to foster trans-disciplinary dialogue to generate creative collaborations and connections. In this way, our team would like to focus on equalizing relevance in both Arts and STEM; improving the accessibility and inclusivity of STEAM initiatives; and establishing a model of adaptability within STEAM education. Harvard STEAM plans to conduct research or workshops to explore the stated focuses. Each founding team member will choose which area of focus to tackle according to his or her set of skills, ideals, and experiences to lead an idea with the Harvard community and neighboring universities.

Jessica Paik

Once upon a time

A cellist told me that she can hear the paintings on the walls.
A blind artist asked me to describe the painting.
In between these thoughts, a collaborative story came to be.

A cellist, technologist, and Harvard STEAM joined forces to prototype a translation of the visual medium to a sonic one, so that a marginalized population may experience arts in an innovative way.

STEAM contributed to this creative process by organizing a diverse team, pitching ideas on how to extract sounds from paintings, and researching into the stories and history from selected paintings. As a collective, we selected Charing Cross Bridge: Fog on Thames painting by Claude Monet from the Harvard Art Museums to prototype this idea on.

According to Harvard Art Museum curator’s research, this painting exemplifies how Monet persistently practiced defining and capturing the abstract elements of atmosphere, color, light, and also by memory.

According to David Odo, the Director of Department of Academic and Public Programs at the Harvard Art Museums, there once was a case when a visually impaired visitor asked for a museum staff to read the labels and describe the paintings at the museum. Odo realized that there was a need to serve visitors with sensory disabilities in a creative way. In fact, one of Harvard STEAM’s main goals is to create accessible learning environments for all. And so, we were compelled to find a question and prototype a solution for those who need a different avenue for experiencing the visual media. The conclusive question for this project formed into something like this: If a friend or family wants to bring someone who is visually impaired to an art museum, how can we make this a more personalized experience for everyone?

Classical cellist, Eru Matsumoto, created this music piece after she met with the Harvard STEAM team. Harvard STEAM provided Eru with research about Monet’s Fog on Thames painting’s story, process, and history. As a team, we also discussed what subjective feelings, thoughts, and memories come about when looking at the painting. As a final step to this project, a remix of Eru’s music, Ming’s digitized sounds, and other found music or sounds were mixed together. For this remix piece, we found sounds and songs from YouTube, which were related to themes of water, repetition, and ephemerality. The remix element was meant to demonstrate how other people could take this idea to personalize and create their own sonic interpretation of an artwork to share with close friends or family, and perhaps someone they know who is visually impaired. We hoped that this experience would allow all to practice “describing” visual art by using other important senses.

Classical cellist, Eru Matsumoto, demonstrates the process in creating musical notes for each of the select paintings. One of the ideas about graphing the Monet painting was pitched by an MIT student to help find another way in deconstructing the painting.


Cellist, Eru Matsumoto
Technologist, Ming Che Tu
Remixed songs: Song of the Seas, Bruno Coulais and Kila; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Mermaids

Eru Matsumoto, STEAM Monet

Rowing Boat (Rowboat Row Oar Oars Paddle Paddling Lake Pond River Sea Fog Hor Water Splashing Noise Clip) (Sound Effect), Finnolia Sound Effects, Sound Effects Library 1 © 2015 Finnolia Productions Inc.; Fog Horn Sound effect, Audio Productions Resources

Special Thanks to Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mrs. Henry Lyman

Translations by Eru Matsumoto, Ming Che Tu, and Harvard STEAM.

Read more

The New School

Isata Yansaneh / Neha Bhatia

Mission Statement

STEAM at The New School for Design will leverage its internal design and art expertise to further foster collaborative relationships within the NYC community in an effort to advocate for the value of the arts in education. Our mission is to elevate the work of our student body, provide exposure to innovative career paths, and foster a spirit of collaboration across the arts, and technological fields of study.

As our world becomes more complex, the methods with which we solve problems must also evolve to better address the rapid shifts across global industries. By employing methods that are human centered, art and design education facilitates an empathetic and synthesized approach to conveying complex information. STEAM at The New School will engage its multidisciplinary communities through workshops, student led projects/events, and by strengthening external partnerships.


Starting a new organization at The New School in an effort to advocate for the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration has been an incredible journey. Because the arts are such a critical component of our education at The New School, we saw STEAM as a natural fit and have been very excited about the warm reception we’ve received from the faculty, the student body and the community. When creating a vision for STEAM at the New School, we wanted our focus to be about integrating the mission of the movement with what makes getting an education at our institution unique and special. Our student body is very entrepreneurial and career focused, therefore, our goal for STEAM programming is to showcase how students can envision a career that has potential to transcend their choice of major, if they so choose. Long term, our goal for STEAM at The New School is to foster a community of interdependent learning and to be a source of inspiration for innovative ways of approaching one’s professional practice. We want to provide a space for students to collaborate on projects that are cross-disciplinary in nature.

We chose to accomplish our vision by setting three paths for programming:

1. KinderSTEAM: Volunteer opportunities with K-12 NYC organizations
2. Speaker Series Initiative: Panel discussions, talks, presentations
3. Community Collaboration: STEAM university chapters, external partnerships - workshops, sponsorships, hackathons, etc, cross discipline collaborations at The New School


Thus far we have hosted two speaker series events, solidified two KinderSTEAM partnerships, and partnered with a Non-Profit organization in order to build community collaborations:

Speaker Series #1 – Neil Harbisson: The world’s first cyborg

Neil Harbisson gave a presentation to The New School community about the bluetooth enabled antenna implant in his skull that uses audible vibrations to report information to him. By translating vibrations into sound, Neil uses the information to inform his art. The union between technology and the human body to create art makes Neil a living embodiment of STEAM.

Neil Harbisson at The New School.

Speaker Series #2 – The Future Hunters: “Staying Agile in a Competitive Job Market”

Erica Orange and Jared Weiner, futurists by profession, spoke to students about what it means to have a job that is very much by one’s own design. Futurism is a somewhat amorphous discipline that needs one to have a wide breadth of knowledge while also being cognizant of our current world. They gave tips to an eager group of upcoming graduates and seasoned professionals on how to think more strategically about their future careers. In this workshop/lecture participants were encouraged to imagine jobs that will exist in the future that aren’t around today and speculate on what skill sets would be necessary for those careers.

KinderSTEAM #1 – The Blue School

The Blue School is a specialized STEAM K-8 school that adopts a loose focus on specific subjects (math, history) and a stronger focus on the soft and hard skills that children need to have in order to thrive in the world. Tactile and play based learning is a way of life for the kids. Our role in this school has been focused on enabling the children to envision their future careers through workshops, chatting with the students, and then volunteering in their production class, which is the center point for all learning to be processed through tactile objects and experiences.

KinderSTEAM #2 – BioBus

BioBus is a non-profit organization that operates a mobile science lab, a partially solar and biofuel-powered refurbished 1974 transit bus with over $100,000 of microscopes, and the BioBase, a research grade science lab located in New York City’s Lower East Side. STEAM at the New School is partnering with Biobus, providing an artist volunteer to help bring the kids’ science experiments to life.

Community Collaboration - Creative Art Works

For 30 years, Creative Art Works has provided programming to empower New York City youth through the arts. The STEAM at The New School team partnered with CAW for their annual benefit gala where we organized logistics for the event and helped attendees learn more about CAW and STEAM. We expect the partnership with CAW to live on and evolve over time.

The New School STEAM x Creative Arts Works.

Read more

University of Michigan

Maya Deshmukh

(Incoming, Summer 2016)

Mission Statement

STEAM at University of Michigan is an initiative driving collaboration between leading departments in STEM fields and art to foster an educational and professional community of civically engaged researchers spanning disciplines. Our aim is to create a community to inspire dialogue regarding the future of interdisciplinary work and accordingly implement programs to tangibly realize ways to encourage collaboration by means of seminars, gallery events, and workshops, as well as publication of work and curriculum enrichment. In addition to bringing STEAM to University of Michigan, our outreach program will work on introducing STEAM curricula and events and local secondary schools.

An impetus of the initiative is the idea that art and science are tools to answer similar questions about life. But rather than running in parallel, these fields often intersect. We would like to continue to strengthen the essential link between technology and design to create intuitive interfaces between users and big data and further incorporate collaborations between the life sciences and art to provide meaningful iterations of innovations and discoveries in research to authentically engage society in dialogue regarding developments in science. We believe this would build bridges between science, policy, and policy-influencers to further cultivate a community interested in scientific developments and their impact on healthcare and society. With STEAM, we hope to create a working synergy between existing programs to bridge the gap between arts and science and expand programs to more disciplines to increase opportunity for students in many majors. We plan to concurrently enter a phase of community development to increase awareness of STEAM at the national and university level through student-led open gallery events and poster sessions, seminars with invited speakers and panel discussions, and collaborative workshops. Based on work from these events, we will compile documentation of student work in a University publication and hope to contribute to the multi-university STEAM catalogue to engage University of Michigan STEAM students in the national involvement in integrating arts and sciences. We will simultaneously be working to bring STEAM to local secondary schools to inspire dialogue and introduce STEAM curriculum. Our long-term goal is to inspire curriculum enrichment at University of Michigan to give all University students the opportunity to understand how interdisciplinary collaboration could apply to their professional work. We hope to precipitate growing interest in the future of interdisciplinary work and allow this initiative to organically embody diverse manifestations as it spreads through disciplines to engage the new generation of professionals in STEAM fields, policy, and business.

Read more

University of Ottawa

Diyyinah Jamora

(Incoming, Summer 2016)

Mission Statement: Why STEAM?

Why STEAM is important to me and why it’s important to uOttawa: Flashback to one year ago when I began my summer co-op work term in Vancouver at TRIUMF (Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics research). There I, a political science and communication student, would be spending my entire summer communicating science.

Over the course of my time at TRIUMF, I learned that there is a need for the arts in science. When you’re sharing knowledge on cyclotrons, nuclear medicine, or the research being done using spectrometers, you have to think about your audience. Are they able to visualize and imagine what you are telling them on their own? Do they need a visual aid, or different way of explaining? Are you speaking in a way that is easy to understand? Whether it’s giving a tour, designing an infographic, writing an article, delivering a presentation, or organizing a public lecture, catering the information to your audience itself is an art.

During a tour, I showed photographs from the Global Physics Photowalk and an artist’s rendition of the cloud chamber hanging on a wall, when a participant said, “this is why I love the idea of STEAM, STEM plus arts.” And then it clicked. Fast-forward to being back at uOttawa where campus not only has a physical divide (between the north side and the south side of campus), but also a philosophical divide. The spaces and opportunities to collaborate are limited and lie largely unknown. Student culture between the disciplines is currently experiencing a disconnection.

After speaking with several students in STEM and arts programs, many echoed my sentiment and desire to build bridges between the two sides of campus. From our conversations it became clear that the desire was to transform rivalry into respect, and this can be achieved by creating opportunities for partnerships outside of the classroom through interdisciplinary teamwork with our fellow Gee-Gees (*uOttawa mascot).

The mission of uOttawa STEAM is to create opportunities for students from different areas of study to come together. Through STEAM, I hope the chapter is able to foster understanding and appreciation of the various disciplines, and to give students exposure to new fields all while engaging with others and having fun. Being in Canada’s capital, we are fortunate to be so close to educational resources including national museums. Ottawa is also the hub of government headquarters for departments and agencies that support research and innovation in science. In addition, uOttawa offers a combined music degree with sciences, and our Department of Chemistry recently partnered with uOttawa visual artists to host an interactive gallery. There are numerous opportunities for collaboration both within the university and the greater Ottawa community.

I admire Canadian universities such as Waterloo, McMaster, USask, and UNB for their leadership in promoting STEAM education by offering joint degrees in arts and science. I believe that by sharing the STEAM mission, more interdisciplinary partnerships can be created in the classroom and beyond throughout the country.

Read more



Grace Li

Give Love Campaign

In September, MIT China Care approached us about a potential collaboration to organize a fundraising and community art project together to help orphanages in China. In the nature of supporting more unexpected and interesting collaborations, we decided to take the offer. While most often viewed in the context of education, STEAM has broader applications and implications in the way we work with others and approach new experiences and problems. For me, STEAM is as much about integrating the disparate fields of art and technology as breaking down barriers of collaboration. This particular collaboration between two very different clubs resulted in the “Give Love” campaign.

“Give Love” was a community art and fundraising project to help orphanages in China, using art as a medium to raise awareness towards an important issue that is, many times, treated with apathy. The mission of the China Care Foundation is to give special needs Chinese orphans the opportunity for a better life and to empower youth through direct humanitarian service. By providing extensive medical, social, and educational programs devoted to children, China Care makes a lasting contribution to our shared future. China Care has given opportunities to many bright, young students. The MIT students who have been touched by the work of China Care feel compelled to give back, but what about others? How to do you get those not directly affected by the problem to care? As we planned the project, this is the question we set out to answer.

The brainstorming for the community art project and fundraiser was a month-long process between members of STEAM, China Care, and Arts at MIT. During the discussions, we decided that we wanted a project that would encourage teamwork between the clubs, participation from the MIT community and general Boston community, and learning new skills while making of the art piece. The final idea we came up with is depicted below:

Plans for the STEAM, China Care, and Arts at MIT "Give Love" project.

The main piece shown in the center is a wooden structure with slots, or cubbies, with an acrylic overlay of a child and a stuffed animal. The central piece is between two informational boards, and the entire piece is bordered with laser cut acrylic hearts. Participants were able to purchase stuffed animals, write a note for an orphan, and add their stuffed animal into one of the cubbies. Participant were then invited to attend the banquet and reveal of the finished piece in October. There were some slight modifications to the piece during the build process, and the finished piece is shown below:

Finished "Give Love" project.

Through the making of this project, STEAM members were given the opportunity to learn new fabrication skills such as using the CNC router, band saw, chop saw, sander, and laser cutter. The art installation was exhibited in the Wiesner Gallery during the months of November 2015 through January 2016. All proceeds and stuffed animals were donated to the OneSky foundation. More information about OneSky can be found at

HUBweek Boston

This year, Boston and Cambridge held the inaugural HUBweek Boston, a week-long festival showcasing some of the world-class work happening at the intersection of art, science, and technology. HUBweek is an unique collaboration between The Boston Globe, Harvard, MIT, and the Massachusetts General Hospital. Unfortunately, many of the events were scheduled during class times, but MIT STEAM, along with Yale STEAM president, Chanthia Ma, got to check out some of the events during the weekend.

The first event of the day was “The Future of Learning Lab,” co-hosted by educators and researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group, Cambridge Public Schools, and the Harvard Ed Portal. The event was set up to explore new possibilities for learning through hands-on workshops, interactive activities, and participatory demonstrations.

Chanthia Ma (Yale) and Grace Li (MIT) at Boston HUBweek.

I was able to play around with littleBits modules for the first time. Chanthia and I also participated in a collaborative pulley design competition with people of all ages.

As MIT STEAM plans to move forward with more events geared towards STEAM in education, the event showcased the creativity and fun possibilities of including the arts in topics such as electronics and mechanical design.

Afterwards, we took the Orange Line to Boston Cyberarts Inc., where we checked out the Curious Sound Objects series, an exhibition with sound and sculptural works at the intersection of art and science. Walking in, the exhibit was underwhelming at first. A pair of red gloves and a painting hung on one wall. There was a chair with headphones placed against another wall. A rectangular mesh of black cables stood in the center of the room, and a strange glass blown object with projections hung from the ceiling. As I started to read the descriptions of the pieces though, I was happily surprised by many of them.

The art piece with the red gloves was called Skull Whispering, made by Don Blair and Sands Fish. I touched the pointer finger of one of the red gloves to my forehead while Chanthia whispered into the pointer finger of the other glove from across the room. I was able to hear Chanthia’s voice perfectly, with her words reverberating through my skull. The installation was meant to show how the walls between our minds could be erased, making use of wireless technology and mobile devices. Another piece I really enjoyed was Ranjit Bhatnagar’s Sonnets From the Portuguese. It is terribly unassuming at first glance—a painting connected to a jar, which is placed on a shelf. When you move the jar next to different locations on the painting, however, you start hearing sonnets.

Read more


Discovery and Digitalization: A Year for Exploring New Paradigms

Chanthia Ma

Yale STEAM saw our biggest events this year through collaborations with Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID), the Digital Humanities Lab, and the Peabody Museum of Natural History. Celebrating our second year on campus, Yale STEAM is reaching a broader audience in exploring the intersection of the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Musical Acoustics and Instrumental Design, Fall 2015

Stemming from our connection built since the inception of Yale STEAM, it was about time for a STEAM event at the CEID. As a space for innovation in engineering and design, we hoped to use the center’s design space to host an event that could translate from the classroom into the workspace. Dr. Larry Wilen, one of the instructors of the ever popular Musical Acoustics and Instrumental Design course agreed to help host an integrative event under the same name for students who either could not take the course or were simply interested in the topics covered. Starting in the classroom space at the CEID, Dr. Wilen, along with co-instructors Dr. Konrad Kaczmarek and Thibault Bertrand, began the workshop with an introduction to 3D modeling. Next, we moved to the computer lab to learn the fundamentals of SolidWorks and 3D rendered our own simple musical instrument that looked oddly similar to a comb! Dr. Wilen taught us how to model the resonant frequencies of each of the prongs of the (comb) instrument. Although this feature of SolidWorks was meant to map the resonant frequencies for the design of bridges and buildings to minimize collapse due to varying wind frequencies, we used the function to create a scale on our instrument.

Dr. Larry Wilen, Dr. Konrad Kaczmarek, and Thibault Bertrand lead an introduction to 3D modeling in SolidWorks.

We then cut out from wood our musical designs using the CEID’s lasercutter - one of the facility’s most popular equipment besides the 3D printers. It was a good reminder to cut from wood – recalling that 3D modeling and design does not necessarily mean 3D printing. After collecting our comb-like musical devices, we saw the slight imperfections of the reality of computer-modeled designs. In attempting to play the scale on the instruments by plucking the prongs, we heard that the scale was grossly out of tune. The workshop now moved to the workbenches where students sanded the prongs at the tip for a higher pitch or create a dent at the base for a lower pitch. Everyone was very excited to fine-tune the instruments, which turned out to be a very time-intensive process! At the end of the workshop, each participant took home their musical instrument to show off to their friends the beautiful, albeit still slightly out of tune, instruments.

Participants assemble their 3D printed comb-like musical instruments.

Beyond Boundaries Symposium, Spring 2016

The newly established Digital Humanities Lab at Sterling Memorial Library shares many of the same fundamental goals and visions as Yale STEAM. The founding of the Yale Digital Humanities Laboratory (DHLab) in the fall of 2015 signifies Yale University’s continued commitment to cutting-edge research and teaching in the humanities. Offering space, community, and resources for Yale faculty and students working with digital methods to address humanistic inquiries, the DHLab functions as a hub on the Yale campus for sustained digital humanities conversations and research at the intersection of the arts and sciences.

Beyond Boundaries Symposium poster.

During most of the fall, we met with the director Peter Leonard and Catherine DeRose, the Outreach Manager, to discuss ideas for an collaborative event. We arrived at the idea of curating a symposium for faculty and students to present their research in digital humanities and STEAM oriented fields. Thus, the idea for the first annual STEAM symposium at Yale was born – a tradition we hope to continue through the upcoming years. This year, the Beyond Boundaries symposium hosted projects from English Literature to Near Eastern Civilizations, from the Department of Painting and Printmaking at the art school to the Technology and Innovation Lab at the Child Study Center at the medical school.

As the moderator for the roundtable discussions at the Beyond Boundaries symposium, along with Gideon Fink Shapiro, a postdoctoral associate researcher at the DHLab, I introduced professors whose research in art conservation methodology, medieval musical manuscripts, and computer graphics incorporate the rigor of the scientific method with a background in and a purpose of the arts and humanities. The faculty from various fields of study presented at the roundtable discussions:

Rebekah Ahrendt, Department of Music: “On Letters, ‘Discovery,’ and Collaboration”
Anikó Bezur, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH), Technical Studies Lab Ian McClure, Yale University Art Gallery and IPCH Conservation Lab: “Making the Invisible Visible: How Science Advances Research in Art History and Beyond”
Amy Hungerford, Director, Division of the Humanities; English, American Studies: “Reading, Machines, and the Humanities”
Holly Rushmeier, Computer Science: “Computer Graphic”

Chanthia Ma (Yale '16) moderates the rountable discussions at the Beyond Boundaries Symposium.

Students of all levels were also welcome to submit applications for either an oral presentation or poster session. The oral presentations ranged from “XML and TEI P5 as Pedagogic Tools: The Case of Medieval Manuscript Rolls” to “Tones in Vogue: An Analysis of Skin Color in Vogue Fashion Photography.” One undergraduate presenter demonstrated how an understanding of the language processing networks of the brain can create an computer algorithm that can redefine the essence of human generated poetry in his talk titled ““Glitch Lyric: Neural Networks and Poetry.” Another researcher from the medical school explained how the “Design-Thinking Approach” combines design and engineering in working with pediatric patients with disabilities at the Child Study Center at the medical school.

Poster presentations varied from the traditional poster board to interactive digital displays on Mac screens to a projection of an art piece on fiberboard that vocalized when hit with light in the right places. Projects ranged from “AERID: The Ancient Egyptian Rock Inscription Database Project” by a Postdoctoral Associate in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department, to “ A Digital Exhibit on Japanese American Internment” by an exchange scholar from Stanford University, to “Cold Body, Hot Brains: Patterns of Desire in Line and Language” from an MFA Candidate at the Department of Painting and Printmaking, to “Expanding the Museum Experience with Conversational User Interfaces” by an undergraduate student pursuing Electrical Engineering & Computer Science.

Peabody Casting and Molding Workshop, Spring 2016

After planning since the summer for a workshop with the Peabody Museum of Natural History, the oldest facility on Yale’s science hill, we finally finalized the details for two consecutive sessions with David Heiser, the Director of Student Programs at the Peabody. Headed by resident museum preparatory Michael Anderson and senior instructor Armand Morgan, we started the first session of the two-part workshop series with a tour of the Peabody museum, a wonder many Yalies have never stepped foot into due to its far location from main campus. We focused our time examining and learning the history behind the dioramas – the background painting behind each exhibit in the museum. Each diorama was painted on a rounded wall for a wide-angle perspective that starkly resembles the world outside. In the museum world, the Yale Peabody Museum’s dioramas are considered masterpieces. In a true merge of arts and sciences, painters J. Perry Wilson and Francis Lee Jaques and preparator Ralph C. Morrill not only developed the lifelike foregrounds but also painstakingly created these habitat dioramas between 1944 and 1963. Current preparator Michael Anderson led the tour with stories and little-known secrets of the dioramas, as well as current techniques being employed to revive and restore these treasures.

Museum preparator Michael Anderson explains the history and making of the dioramas at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History.

The second workshop was more technical, teaching the techniques of casting and molding for preparing various specimen on display. Each workshop participant learned to cast their finger(s) in dental silica before filling the cast with alginate to create a life-like replicas. Throughout the two workshops, we also learned about the history behind the creation of the dioramas and specimen in the Peabody and how new techniques are created each year to replace old specimen. The advent of 3D printing brings a whole new level of replication for the preparators hoping to create lightweight replicas of animal bodies to mount on the fur for taxidermy purposes. Even paper printing has proven to be a huge advance for the Peabody exhibits. Instead of creating maple leaves out of wax paper that crinkles over time, Michael Anderson has found another technique of color printing photos of maple leaves which then he encases in a plastic mold of the original leave – creating an exact replica in both shape and color for each leave photographed!

Michael Anderson explains the process of casting and molding with silica and alginate to STEAM members.

Looking Forward

Due to the success of this year’s Beyond Boundaries Symposium, we hope to host annual symposiums celebrating the research and findings of Yale student and faculty who work at the intersection of various disciplines.

For the summer, we are planning a series of design workshops for undergraduate researchers in New Haven, hopefully helping with the creation of posters and presentations for end of summer research symposiums.

In the fall, we hope to collaborate with STEM and arts organizations on campus to host the first STEAM fair in celebrating the diversity of groups and interests on Yale campus. We plan to collaborate with the CEID and IPCH on more events as well as engage more of the incoming Yale community in recognizing the power of diversity of minds and academic backgrounds in all disciplines.

Read more


Meet Me in the Middle

Jonelle Ahiligwo / Kenji Endo

As the debut event for the STEAM Pavilion, which was created in collaboration with Providence-local Pneuahus and Brown STEAM over the past year, Brown STEAM led a workshop for the 2015 Better World by Design conference, titled “Meet Me in the Middle.” Better World by Design is a student-organized conference held annually at Brown + RISD that facilitates collaboration between designers, educators, and innovators. The theme this year was access.

Jonelle Ahiligwo (Brown '16) and Kenji Endo (Brown '18) present at BWxD 2015.

Jonelle Ahiligwo ’16 and Kenji Endo ’18 led the workshop, which focused on the ways the physical structures and spaces we meet at can guide conversations we have within them. The workshop used the STEAM Pavilion to frame the conversation. The STEAM Pavilion is a 40ft by 40ft inflatable, tent-like, pentagon-shaped structure that can be entered through all five sides. The STEAM Pavilion was used as a starting point to examine the design and use of physical interdisciplinary, inclusive meeting spaces.These spaces aim to be accessible to people from different disciplines or backgrounds for exploration in a ‘middle,’ ‘neutral’ ground.

During the second half of the workshop, participants split into small groups to create some potential meeting spaces of their own. Half were given a hollow object (e.g. tubes, bottles, basket), and tasked to imagine what sort of function that form could take, going from Object/Space → Use. The other half were given a purpose (e.g. dancing, play, studio), and tasked to consider what potential forms could achieve that function, going from Use → Object/Space. From Form to Function, how can the form of an object lead to certain functions? For example, looking at an ice cream cone: the waffle cross-hatches can be used as aesthetic inspiration, the interior dome can be used as a communal space, the inverted ice cream cone can be used as structural support. In the other direction, Function to Form, what are some forms or needs that would satisfy the function you are given? For example, the function ‘play’ might require large spaces, room for a lot of tools, toys, and mobility. The participants were engaged and came up with various, creative solutions to their prompts, considering how a clear tube might be used as a vessel for ocean or space exploration, or what the aesthetic and spatial design of a meeting place for dancing might require.

Participants brainstorm possible Form to Function designs.

After a share and tell of the participants’ innovative responses, we concluded the workshop with encouraging participants to challenge the existing uses of spaces and be more flexible with how we use physical structures every day. This is imperative to keep in mind as we move more and more into cross-disciplinary academia and work, and we need spaces to accommodate this innovation.

Read more


Time Well Spent (On Design Ethics)

Minsoo Thigpen

Prior to the workshop, students from Brown and RISD worked with Tristian Harris to discuss and re-design popular applications and systems in a way that is respectful of users.

As many students go on to become designers at world's most popular consumer technology companies, we will have unprecedented power. Our design choices will shape the way a billion people perceive their world and make choices. For example, when one designer at Facebook makes a change that increases engagement of news feed by 5 minutes a day, it impacts how 9,500 human life years worth of time will be spent across the globe. In the face of such power, what does it mean to design these services 'responsibly'?

We were able to bring Tristan Harris, design thinker, philosopher and entrepreneur to RISD to talk and give a workshop specifically about design ethics. The lecture was preceded by a gathering of multidisciplinary students from Brown and RISD to think about certain design questions from an ethical point of view and redesign certain apps in accordance to a more human centric design principal. During the lecture, Tristan shed light on the questions of ethics in the fields of tech and design especially because the industry itself is currently geared towards valuing consumers’ time, clicks, and scrolls rather than consider how consumers spend time. To think about design from an ethical point of view means to subvert a capitalist system that pays you not to. It is a revolutionary act that Tristan has spent years trying to nurture a design movement from.

We students, go out into the world with the real intention to do good—but if we have not started to question these systems of power, (who it benefits, who it negatively impacts, and how to control what small power we may have as artists, designers, engineers or philosophers or whatever we may be) then we will not be able to deconstruct our roles as artist and designers in the industry. We will fall under the immense pressure to succeed which ultimately serves to prevent people from doubting. There is no room to hesitate, no room to stop and think. How do you handle working within the attention economy which measures success by how much attention you have convinced consumers to give under the thin veil of social obligation?

Tristan brings up the phrase: “The map is not the territory.”

Tristian Harris at Chace Center, RISD.

Very simply, every kind of representation points to a reality. A picture of a chair is but one representation of the reality of a chair, the word “chair” is another. These representations are the “map” but it is not the reality, “the territory.” These representations lie to you in varying degrees. Consequently, maps of tech products also change or shape how you see the world but in varying degrees of clarity.

So we must ask each other, is there a more empowering way to construct maps? Can we upgrade the design goal to be more Human centric? We’re only as good as the map that is given to us, the menu that is presented to each consumer. Designers have the responsibility to design in a way that gives people the power to live their life the way they want and empower them to have the choices that they actually want and are applicable in their lives. Tristan goes on further to discuss the idea of a doubt club. A group he and his colleagues made to stop and doubt what they were doing, to ask questions about who is given power and who ultimately benefits from these systems. He called it the Doubt Club. In a speed economy, where if you can go faster than someone else, you are forced to go as fast as the other people. This means you are priced out of the time to stop and think. But without the space or time to reflect and think critically, are you truly being an ethical designer?

In addition to the lecture, there was a special panel discussion with Damian White, Department Head of the History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences; Charlie Cannon, Department Head of Industrial Design; Daniel Hewett, lead of RISD Office of Research; and Anne Tate, Professor of Architecture. They were selected as co-facilitators who would have a good grasp on the greater momentum of student ambitions and motivations and would know how to guide students into asking more questions about what their responsibilities are as designers and artists.

Following the lecture, mmbers of the RISD faculty spoke with Tristian about questions in design ethics.

During the duration of the panel discussion, many questions arose—including but not limited to: What roles can designers play? What are the actual degrees of freedom, where are the realistic places that young designers, who want to leverage some change, have agency to do so in the industry? What is the alignment of business interest to the interest of the consumers? How does one even make time for wise considerations? Does a doubt club really help you? Does it pay off to slow down? What is the difference between ethical designers and designers who are sophisticated in the power landscapes which we live in? These discussions are ultimately the beginnings of a discussion that designers today should start having, maybe even form a doubt club of our own to stop and think because the world is not slowing down any time soon.

Read more


Mushroom Hunt

Jonelle Ahiligwo

A closeup of two colorful wild mushrooms found on the hunt.

In October 2015, Brown and RISD bioSTEAM went on a mushroom hunt guided by southern New England mushroom hunters Ryan Bouchard and Emily Schmidt. There were 13 participants from both Brown and RISD. The day started off with a presentation by Ryan and Emily in the RISD Edna Lawrence Nature Lab. We learned the basics about mushrooms, mushroom hunting and safety (“When in doubt, throw it out!”). Afterwards, we drove to nearby Lincoln Woods and foraged for mushrooms, finding quite a variety of different mushrooms in a relatively small area: including purple, red, white, brown, shelf-like, and clustered. Ryan and Emily had never seen one of the mushrooms before. After an hour of tromping through the underbrush, we sat down for a small picnic. Ryan and Emily cooked up some ‘chicken of the wood,’ an orange edible polypore mushroom from the Laetiporus family. Delicious!

During the hunt, we learned that not only are mushrooms and fungi vital parts of forest ecosystems, there are hundreds of species that contribute to the ecosystem. Each are unique and many are visually striking (though probably not edible).

Mushroom hunters take a short break from scouring the forest to share the fungi they found.

Some shelf mushrooms growing on the base of tree.

A closer look at some of the different mushrooms found on the hunt.

Beatrice Steinert and Eli Block examine a piece of Grifola frondosa, or “Hen of the Woods,” a polypore mushroom.

Read more


RISD KinderSTEAM: Laurence Humier

Anthony Peer

Laurence Humier at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island.

The Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island (JCDS) and KinderSTEAM had the amazing opportunity to host designer Laurence Humier, to discuss her work with early childhood education and to conduct a cooking material self portrait workshop.

Laurence Humier is a Belgian engineer by training, working as a designer in Milan. She debuted at international level in 2010, when one of her creations was included in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

"By drawing on a designer’s imagination, using a scientist’s method in the manner of a chef, you can change a recipes ingredients to create new material. Flour and baby powder, sawdust and breadcrumbs can be mixed to the naked eyes. They look alike, but they do not act alike. Pour a drop of ink on various materials and observe. Beads of ink form on flour, ink stains form on whipped egg whites, ink bubbles form on oil. With the matter obtained, give shape to your ideas!"

- Laurence Humier

In two groups of 30 children from grades K-2nd and 3-4th, STEAM members Eli Block, Qianyi Zhang, Sofya Zeylikman, and Anthony Peer helped the teachers of JCDS facilitate the setup and provide assistance for the children throughout the day’s events.

During the workshop, students observed the different chemical and physical changes that take place with the daily use of ordinary household cooking supplies, while also getting a little messy making their own self portraits. The students were not only able to experience how the use of these materials can provide an outlet for creativity, but also an insight into how practical chemistry can be fun and informative.

Molding flour, sugar, and oatmeal portraits.

The students of JCDS were tremendously excited to be able to get messy and delve into the use of the different tools that they had at their disposal. Many of the students used flour, sugar, and oatmeal to bring their portraits farther and farther away from the table and into their hands to mold and manipulate. It was surprising to see the amount of variety between the different grades ranging in their use of color, size, and application of the materials. Ultimately, students came away from the workshop with a greater understanding of how accessible art and chemistry can be inside of their cupboards.

A special thanks to Laurence Humier, the teachers of the JCDS, the students who had a spectacular work ethic in cleaning up, and for allowing STEAM to messy the place up a bit.

Read more


Weather or Not? Installation and Workshop Series

Kenji Endo

In November 2015, Brown and RISD STEAM hosted a series of workshops on programming in Processing, culminating in Weather or Not?—an interactive abstracted weather system installation, with dynamic audio and visual components.

Organized by Brown and RISD C+STEAM, a new STEAM branch focused on the use of computer science and technology in art and design, the installation and workshop series was open to students of all backgrounds, with many participants never having coded before. Along with many others’ help along the way, the installation was organized by Madison Beckerman (RISD ’18), Miranda Chao (Brown ’18), Kenji Endo (Brown ’18), John Filmanowicz (Brown ’17), Matt Kohn (Brown ’19), Brian Oakes (RISD ’18), Grace Oh (RISD ’19), Lauren Oh (RISD ’19), Sophie Saskin (Brown ’19), Juanda Tan (Brown ’19), Qianyi Zhang (RISD ’19), Stephanie Zhou (RISD ’19), and Zak Ziebell (Brown/RISD Dual Degree ’19).

Over the course of several weekends, students organizing the installation met to plan the format and structure of the display, learn and develop projects in Processing, and prepare the visuals for the final installation:


For the first meeting, interested students met to discuss what format this installation could take. The group split into two subgroups, based on interests, to break down the project into two focus areas: visual output and user input.

The visual output group brainstormed areas within the broad theme of weather that the installation could examine—positive feedback loops, weather data, Doppler radar, clouds, storms, lightning, thunder, and tornadoes, for example. The user input group discussed projecting cracks onto the floor, controlling weather sounds as instruments, and integrating pressure pads, motion capture, and sound input to drive the visuals. Understanding we would likely not have enough time to get to all of these ideas, the group decided that this installation could take the form of a series, building upon previous iterations in the future.

Processing and Play

At the first workshop and build session, Brown and RISD C+STEAM leaders gave a crash course on Processing and fundamentals of programming, as many participants in the workshop did not have previous programming experience.

Processing is an open-source language and IDE (integrated development environment), built for programming with instant visual feedback. Based on student interest in learning this IDE and programming in Java, the group chose Processing as the primary software we would use to create the installation’s visuals.

After introducing programming fundamentals such as loops, conditionals, and arrays, and how they are written in Java, we discussed how these concepts might be used to approach visual problems in Processing. The group set a loose framework for the final visuals, which would be developed in small groups over the next few weeks. The visuals could be any Processing sketch that dealt with weather or related phenomenon—a looped visual that could change based on numerical input, potentially driven by distance read from a Kinect sensor, ambient noise levels, or time.

After identifying shared interest areas, participants began to work on Processing visuals for the installation. Through two more work sessions and planning meetings, the team prepared visuals, audio, and logistics for the final installation event.

The Installation

On the evening of November 20th, in List Art Center 225, Weather or Not? opened to the Brown and RISD community for one-night only. Displayed with seven projectors on the walls, floor, and ceiling of the room, the Processing sketches played one after another. Abstracted sunsets, rain, shooting stars, clouds, and the Northern Lights were accompanied by weather sounds and music that pulsed and filled the room. On one wall, Zak Ziebell explored digital data storms, using Processing and the Twitter API to display an abstracted, extruded version of the last image posted to Twitter. Sitting on blankets and pillows in the center of the room, surrounded by scattered umbrellas, participants, friends, and visitors took in the visual and auditory weather system immersing them.

Clip of the final installation.

Read more


GENSPACE: Biology + Textiles

Callie Clayton

DNA Isolation / PCR Protocol Sketch ideas.

Genspace — Community Bio-lab / Maharam Fellowship 2016

As a textiles designer and artist, the basis of my study exists within the boundaries of the grid. Constrained and hierarchal, I see this grid as a space not so unlike the systems of government within society. Within the constructs of these verticals and horizontals, I analyze motifs, elements coming together and separating, repeating yet sometimes not. How does the layering or geometries of a myriad of elements come to flow seamlessly while simultaneously disguising a repeat? Organic elements, or heated gas molecules integrating within a seemingly fixed structure of cooled liquid molecules, closely resembles public involvement and the back and forth between governmental institutions and the public to evolve policy. Research of the public's role within this grid takes into consideration similar elements considered in the art and design practice: material, form, function, emotional response, user need and the aesthetic and operation of systems.

In community labs, synthetic biology is communicated to the public in a way established institutions cannot, allowing scientific innovation and honest dialogue around social and ethical implications of the technology. With technological advances resulting in DNA synthesization becoming cheaper and faster, free software allowing anyone to design DNA code and drops in the price of DNA, biology has become easier to engineer and thus more publicly accessible. Beginning in the 2000’s revising the idea of needing an advanced degree to make contributions to the biology community and encouraging open-source scientific material, the DIYbio movement has rapidly developed stemming from the rise of the "hacking" movement. As accessibility increases, this brings into question not whether the government will evolve past biotechnology regulations such as the Coordinated Framework but how comfortable the government and general public are with “amateurs” using these techniques. Spaces such as community bio-labs existing outside the traditional biotechnology industry challenge how governance structures deal with fast-paced technologies and change policy.

Currently there is no one government agency that consistently monitors National Institutes of Health Biosafety Level 1 (BS1) facilities, the level at which community bio-labs operate. While that shouldn't be of much concern as BSL1 facilities only work with agents that are not known to cause disease in immunocompetent adult humans including non-pathogenic e-coli and other non-infectious bacteria and viruses, concern arises in terms of regulation once genetically engineered "products" or "substances" for use are created. Within a community bio-lab, work spans from scientific research, entrepreneurial product development, educational learning, material design and art. Existing as a space from which genetically engineered "products," "substances" and materials are potentially produced, how can an intermediary such as design work to better communicate the innocuous processes of synthetic biology which create genetically engineered organisms and ultimate "products," "systems" or "pieces"? Visuals communicating and connecting lab protocol steps and their effect within the lab process are imperative to increase understanding and accessibility. Redefining the modes of teaching and learning within these educational biology "maker-spaces" introduces experimentation with bio-materials, microorganisms, DNA sequencing and a general understanding of growth and fragility to the general public and community of makers. Clearly visualizing protocols using technologies such as CRISPR expand public knowledge base around technical writings and media coverage on "controversial" genetic engineering techniques. As understanding expands, involvement and hopefully participation through the expansion of local, educational community bio-lab spaces will too.

Serial dilution E.coli survivability test plate.

At Genspace, I've been observing introductory synthetic biology classes, workshops, cultural programs, iGEM (international genetic engineering competition) team activity, participating in a few classes, observing CRISPR classes and contributing questions on ethics in terms of lab protocols and what mediums are being used- how the ethical considerations change with scale ex: one paramecium versus a cockroach (which has a ton of paramecium within it) and how conceptions of regulation and ethics change under the differentiation of "design" and "scientific research." I have begun visualizing lab protocols for using CRISPR technique by connecting lab protocol steps with their effect through visuals.

Additionally, I am making textile patterns acting (I would like) as more informative, infographics in pattern form communicating misconceptions around genetic modification (ex: how red ruby grapefruit was developed through seed cultivation in fields with radioactive material). In my viewpoint, infographics function very similarly to a motif in a pattern; an image made up of color associated symbols amassing together to communicate an idea, function, pattern in statistical evidence- all of which is accompanied by a key deciphering the meaning of each aspect of the motif.

Take a subway map for example — the intertwining squiggles form an overall view of the city. Where is the city most populated or contains the majority of the workforce during working hours? What times are people traveling most often and how does that reflect the schedule and pace of this city? How often do certain trains run and how are these clues linked to not only understanding the map of the city's public transportation system, but also the frequency of use and value of certain parts of the city and even the intimate patterns of a majority of individuals' daily lives? When utilizing a map of the subway, an individual often searches for a specific rail line, colored squiggle or symbol that takes them to their desired location. However, in the process of doing so, they may find alternate pathways, a multitude of rail lines leading to the same location which then creates groups of patterns seen differently by every individual. A motif within a pattern offers specific information within the details of the main image while communicating a broader idea or theme in the combination of motifs into a larger, overall pattern. While each detail may be deciphered differently by individuals, the larger idea of a motif in repeat or the expansive view of an engineered print, allows for a vaguely unified understanding of the overarching point of the content being communicated. Infographics, signs, visual instructions and logos are ubiquitous and imperative for facilitating simplified public understanding of the steps, parts, amounts and location of specific, often difficult to understand information and data.

Notes from the Genspace Beginner Biohacker class visually detailing the process of designing e coli to express ampicillin resistance through plasmid uptake transformation.

Within our daily lives, the medium, material of cloth and visuals of print within textiles are even more ubiquitous and exists as one of the highest economic valued world industries. The combination of these two elements: infographics and textiles, facilitates communication of concepts not as commonly discussed, not as accessible or easily understood in the public realm. Cloth surfaces are an underutilized space and medium that expands upon aesthetic into educational and discussion inciting content. Print design for cloth, paper, or light projected patterns in public spaces, on compostable or reusable bags out of vegetable based inks, etc. can infuse daily interactions and object use with explanatory and educational content in an adaptable manner.

Read more about Callie's work at Genspace, and the Maharam STEAM Fellows, at

Read more


Citizen + Virtual Workshop Series

(or Looking Outward and Inward with Digital Citizenship)

Kevin Cadena

The Third Installment Begins

The Wintersession & IAP (Independent Activities Period) workshop series entered its third iteration this year. Once again, Brown, MIT, RISD, along with newcomer BU STEAM came together to organize a 4-­week event, bringing Engineers, Computer Scientists, Writers, Painters, Designers, Mathematicians and more into the same room—­­blending and blurring the boundaries of all those fields through collaboration and exploration of specified themes within the realm of technology and humanism. Following “Human + Computer” and its ideas of transhumanism as well as “Body + Internet” and its ideas of telepresence. This year’s theme “Citizen + Virtual” dealt with ideas of Digital Citizenship:

“Citizen + Virtual is a student­-run Wintersession & IAP Series led by RISD, Brown, and MIT STEAM. What happens to society when our virtual existence has become so much a part of our identity? How do we behave on the internet? How do we develop and sustain community through our internet presence? We aim to dissect and redefine the novel term of ‘digital citizen,’ in its ethical, physical, and access-­based considerations, exploring how we can be active contributors to the global digital space”

The Citizen + Virtual Team Assembled

The workshop sessions were organized by myself (RISD, Graphic Design), with help from Joshua Bohar (RISD, MID) and facilitated by Becky Michelson (Emerson College, E­lab), Tara Ebsworth (MIT, Mechanical Engineering), Stephanie Muscat (RISD, Digital + Media) and Kartik Singhal (Brown, Computer Science). Citizen + Virtual also would not have been possible with campus coordinators at each of the four schools, including Kenji Endo (Brown, Computer Science), Grace Li (MIT, Mechanical Engineering) and Hayley Walker (Boston University, Mechanical Engineering).

After the team was assembled, A call for applicants was put out in the fall and 15 participants were chosen out of 40 total applicants. These 15 participants and the C+V team would meet every Saturday for four weeks in January. The location would alternate between Boston one weekend and Providence the next. With five distinct groups formed naturally, the groups were challenged to make work responding to the given prompt and to take on issues such as morality, ethics, access, filtering, and civic media within the context of digital mediums.

Looking Outward

We explored those topics accordingly, scheduling lecturers such as Barron Webster on the first date to help introduce what Citizen + Virtual means. For his presentation, Barron took textbook definitions of both Citizen:

a. a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it
b. A member in a community, and the quality of an individual’s response to membership within a community.

and Virtual:

a. being on or simulated on a computer or computer network
b. being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or admitted

and then showed how different combinations of them would lead to radically different interpretations, suggesting that it would be up to the participants to decide how they interpret the merging of “Citizen” and “Virtual”.

A slide from Barron Webster’s presentation.

Or, on the second date, we brought in Brown Computer Science professor Jeff Huang to lead a discussion on the difference between virtual citizens and virtual consumers. Jeff talked about how there’s been a shift from citizenship on the internet from where those who used it could actively contribute to it and remix whatever they found (The 90’s Web) to a more closed off web (Web 2.0) where you may have access to something but are no longer able to edit, change, or re-­release it. (For example, you don’t own and can’t edit and redistribute the songs you listen to on Spotify or can’t do anything but view the data on your Fitbit).

Jeff Huang speaks to participants at the RISD Nature Lab.

On the third date, we were joined by Sharon Goldberg, Computer Science professor at Boston University, who talked greatly about the intersection of internet, the law, and government data collection programs. She gave a call to action for us as digital citizens to disseminate information about these programs and expose their corruption.

Branch Tree Shown in Sharon Goldberg’s Lecture for Executive Order 12333.

To supplement these lecturers, we also probed the participants’ brains with workshops such as Joshua Bohar’s “Too Big to Know,” a seminar about how the internet has changed how we obtain and interact with our knowledge. Now in this new system of the internet, we no longer need to rely on scholars but instead can look to others, like ourselves, who contribute to growing and vast repositories of knowledge online (Such as Wikipedia). To give participants the tools to realize their ideas, there were also skill-based workshops that taught participants the basics of programs such as MAX MSP, how to use Python for web scraping, and how to use Arduinos to gather sensor data. Through all of this, we really wanted participants to think about their interests and see how they might begin to intersect with the internet

Lukas of Brown STEAM teaches a workshop on Arduino.

Looking Inward

While the C+V Team was looking outward with the theory, workshops and guest lecturers we provided, I was most interested in how the groups collectively took on Digital Citizenship. Discussing law, consumerism, civic media, access, and morality, the groups took all of this and redirected it inward. For us, the question was “How do we use the internet to affect others in our community”; for them it was “How does the internet community affect me?”

Separate Threads by Amelia, Val, & Raina.

This personal interpretation of our objectives, while unintentional, was one of the most rewarding aspects of the program. Groups researched beyond what we provided, referencing pieces such as The Cyborg Manifesto and discussing decentralized identity on the internet and how, on the internet, people can join radically different communities and never have those communities intersect.

Prntr.Love by Zach and Jackie

Other groups took on thinking about how the future of dating could come about thanks to advancements in technology through speculative design, bringing about a new image of possibility. Others looked at the connection between loneliness in urban environments and digital communication, trying to bridge the two to figure out how to make the emotion of a city feel tangible. These projects sought to connect individuals through common sentiment and responses to cultural phenomena that we’ve experienced in a developing community that the internet has been an integral component of.

People observing one of the projects at the Citizen + Virtual opening.

In the spirit of trying to connect more personally with a general audience, Citizen + Virtual hosted public events around the Brown/RISD campus including an exhibition, talk, and film screening. Beyond the “Plus” series, I believe the technological realm has been controlled by a few specific voices. To combat this exclusivity constantly associated with tech, public events incorporating a public audience allow the ideas developed within the workshop to seep into the community, allowing these ideas to become more inclusive of those who may not be as integrated into these fields. While there were outreach events held this year, they were only offered on two campuses which largely limits the potential outreach. Incorporating a public event series for each of the schools involved in the “Plus” workshop would allow more voices to be brought in to talk about whatever theme within technology the series has dealt with, be it transhumanism, telepresence, digital citizenship, or whatever comes next.

I want to end by giving a special thanks goes to John Caserta and Susan Mazzucco for allowing us to use the GD Commons to hold the exhibition as well as the C+V Team for taking out their weekends and helping me make this series a reality. Finally I want to thank Minsoo Thigpen (co­-president of RISD STEAM) for her constant encouragement and support over the months of planning. Citizen + Virtual was the first project I spearheaded and wouldn’t have been able to do it without the C+V team or these lovely people supporting me every step of the way.

By Kevin Cadena. Edited by Kairy Herrera­-Espinoza.

Read more



Brian Oakes

As I walked onto the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick during my spring break, many things were going through my mind: Did I park in the right place? Was I actually on the right campus? Was I too early? The main thing my mind kept coming back to as I entered a cafeteria was the question I came to answer in the first place: what is STEAM?

This is something I am sure most who come in contact with our club ask themselves. I am sure it is also something members, project leaders, co-presidents, and presidents ask themselves as well. It is a daunting task to try and explain how we work and function as a sort of all-inclusive, event-organizing, ambiguous team of do-gooders banding together for a pursuit of everything interdisciplinary, interacting and intertwining with other interdisciplinary disciplines and back in on itself. You quickly find yourself in a loop as you sort of piece together, explain, and try to give examples.

After finding myself in this loop time and time again, I was now being asked the same question once more. I was meeting with Danica Sapit, president of the newly formed Rutgers STEAM, to talk about how RISD got its start and good ways to keep the club flowing. As our conversation walked through topics like co-school communication and shared resources, we quickly came to the main task at hand—how do we use STEAM here at Rutgers? I paused for a moment while Anthony Peer, current head of RISD’s KinderSTEAM, began to talk about possibilities of touching an outer community and working with other schools and groups (all extremely important aspects of STEAM), but I felt like we were missing something greater than the all-inclusive approach. We needed to define STEAM as a more “meta” idea in order to think about how it could apply to any group.

The conclusion I came to is that there really is no definition to what STEAM is. In fact, it seems that trying to define STEAM is to limit the possibilities it can be defined as. Instead, I think that the best way to talk about STEAM is to not strictly talk about what it currently is by bringing up its beefy interdisciplinary background, but rather by showcasing its most important and probably most exciting ability: adaptation.

At RISD for example, STEAM has formed sub-branches such as C+STEAM (focusing on technology and STEAM), bioSTEAM (focusing on biology and STEAM), Kinder STEAM (focusing on teaching STEAM) and so on. It can be said that these more focused groups exist due to their absence in the curriculum that RISD upholds. It can be said that C+STEAM has grown out of RISD's lack of coding curriculum and Brown's willingness to engage with designers. That being said, schools like MIT and Yale that already have these sort of curriculums in place may find it repetitive to try and keep the same subgroups as another school, limiting their abilities for STEAM to adapt.

STEAM can and should mold to the needs of a school or collective. STEAM groups don’t strictly have to talk about biology or math, they can talk about material sciences in ceramics or watercolor technology. A group could form Glass STEAM or Sculpture STEAM or Design STEAM. The point is that STEAM takes the form of what is lacking in a community. It’s an opportunity to take charge of our own education, to pursue the intersections that are not addressed in the curriculums of the institutions we are attending, to collaborate with the community that we are surrounded by in order to nurture a more fruitful and academically inclusive space.

Read more


Gingko Bioworks

Eli Block

In February of 2016, leading biotechnology firm Ginkgo Bioworks very kindly invited members of Brown and RISD bioSTEAM to tour the Boston-based company’s offices and foundry. Ginkgo Bioworks designs microorganisms, which in turn synthesize products for industry; at present, the company designs novel scents for luxury perfumes among other food and health products.

Although founded in 2008 by godfather of synthetic biology Tom Knight, the company is rapidly expanding its automation, prototyping, and production capabilities and is currently in the process of building a second Bioworks laboratory, filled with custom, capable industrial robots—picture Dr. Wu’s lab from Jurassic Park but with even more impressive technology. Ginkgo Bioworks has raised over $45 million in venture funding, and was one of the first biology startups to receive funding from Silicon Valley’s famed fund Y Combinator.

Ginkgo Bioworks is of particular interest to members of the STEAM community because of its interdisciplinary approach to design; the Organism Company hires engineers, biologists, chemists, and computer scientists, but also employs a full-time creative director, Christina Agapakis. When bioSTEAM visited Ginkgo, Agapakis and colleague Patrick Boyle led our Brown/RISD group on a tour and shared their excitement for the work being done at the company. Ultimately, Christina and Patrick’s enthusiasm about Ginkgo and optimism about the future transformative power of biology left many of our members truly inspired. The laboratories, packed with advanced instruments and their technicians, cannot help but communicate the potential of an incredible creative venture.

Read more about the STEAM x Gingko Bioworks trip: GINGKO BIOWORKS: The Science of Designing Life.

Read more


Brainy Beats: A Music Cognition Workshop

Leanne Block

In the past, the ‘A’ in STEAM has focused mainly on visual arts and design. At the beginning of this year, however, Brown STEAM questioned how we could incorporate different areas in the arts and humanities into our projects. The Brainy Beats music cognition workshop was an effort to expand Brown STEAM’s breadth into music, while also touching on neuroscience. The event was meant to be an exploratory workshop into several topics of Music Cognition, creating a launch pad for further research and projects.

The two-part workshop was created and led by Music Cognition independent concentrators Quincy Beck (Brown ’18), Morgan Patrick (Brown ’16.5) and Marion Wellington (Brown ’16) along with Brown STEAM Project Leader, Leanne Block (Brown ’17). The group chose four overarching topics in Music Cognition to focus on: Music and Development, Language and Music, Anatomy, and Improvisation and Creativity. The Music and Development area covered how one’s perception of music changes over time, as well as different theories about the development of absolute pitch. The Language and Music section focused on the theories of music origin, the shared capacities of language and music, and how both are stored as memory. Anatomy explored the parts of the brain that allow people to process and enjoy music. Finally, the Improvisation and Creativity topic looked at the science of improvisation, spontaneity, and divergent versus convergent thinking.

About fifteen students from both Brown and RISD attended the first part of the workshop on February 13th in the Brown University Science Center. The session started with a presentation of the four focus areas, including interesting visuals and sound exercises to familiarize the attendees with the span of Music Cognition. The workshop leaders then split up into various rooms in the Science Center where they had prompts for the different discussion areas. The prompts were meant to be loose guidelines and starting points for discussion and research. For example, for the Music and Development focus group, participants were asked to track the lives of two humans with and without musical training. For Music and Language, the group was tasked to try to have a non-verbal discussion. The Anatomy subgroup was challenged to create a ‘Magic School Bus’ journey through the brain, and the Improvisation and Creativity group was to improvise lyrics.

After some time spent in the subgroups, the students came together for further free discussion. Students shared what brought them to the workshop. For instance, one RISD student was interested in how sound and music can fill space in an art installation, while a Brown engineering student wondered how the design process for engineering compared to problem solving in music. The workshop ended with several group improvisation activities including an impromptu rhythm jam and a soundscape creation. The students were then asked to think about a specific interest they had in Music Cognition and to come with some research to present at the next session the following weekend.

The second part of the workshop on February 20th included a continuation of the first session’s group discussion, with students bringing up specific ideas they had thought about over the course of the week. The group also continued improvisation activities, and the workshop culminated with the creation of a piece of music inspired by these exercises, composed by Marley Kirton (Brown ’17).

An unexpected result of the Brainy Beats workshop was the formation of a community that will hopefully continue to draw inspiration from its members. The students came from all different concentrations and music levels but were excited about the possibilities of Music Cognition and the different interpretations that were offered by the students present. The attendees are currently planning to start a GISP (Group Independent Study Project) which will take place in the 2016–2017 school year. Overall, Brown STEAM’s foray into musical arts was a success and further explorations of music and science can be expected in the future.

Read more


RIGAMAJIG: A Collaboration with the Children's Museum

Jane Chang

Lillian Krieger (RISD ID ’16), the Community Liaison for RISD and the Providence Children's Museum, approached the team with the interest of introducing STEAM to museum visitors. We brainstormed ideas on how to start conversations around the "A" in STEAM to show people the advantage of integrating art and design into other disciplines.

The Rigamajig, created by RISD professor Cas Holman, was the perfect activity to allow children to explore their creativity. They had the option to visualize ideas on paper or to dive right into experimentation. A wide variety of materials such as planks, brackets, wheels, arcs, hooks, and pulleys, allowed for many different types of inventions. We saw cars being built, a rotating coat rack, a giant fortress, and even things that have yet to be named. It was exciting to see parents have just as much fun as their children. We also saw participants make new friends and collaborate on projects together. The best part about the Rigamajig is that in the end, there were no right or wrong answers. Every child and adult took away valuable lessons from the experience of building new forms.

The event at the Providence Children’s Museum was undeniably successful. So many children wanted to engage in our activity that we were constantly breaking down previous creations for parts to add to new inventions. It was encouraging having parents come up to STEAM members and sharing stories about their artistically-gifted children or just asking general questions about STEAM. We definitely had a blast during our event and look forward to continuing our partnership with the Providence Children’s Museum.

Blueprints get creative!

Some of the many parts of the Rigamajig.

STEM to STEAM info for families and visitors.

Welcome to the Ideation Zone!

Read more


STEAM Assistive Makeathon

Taylor Alarcon / Maggie Mathieu / Ethan Mok

Brown STEAM 2016 Assistive Tech Makeathon at the Brown Design Workshop.

March 5, 2016 marked the start of the second inaugural Brown STEAM Assistive Technology Makeathon, a two-day event aimed at conceptualizing and building projects focused in the realm of assistive technology. For more than five months, an interdisciplinary team of engineers, computer scientists, mathematicians, economists, and entrepreneurs worked together to plan the event that would not only encourage people to design and build, but to design and build for good—building with users in mind, namely those with physical disabilities.

The motivation behind the Makeathon was an understanding that the world is seen through multiple lenses, depending on people’s current and past conditions or situations. Each Makeathon participant needed to consider the critical thinking and possibilities required to design for different conditions, while also making something unique, practical, and inherently beautiful in design. The Makeathon’s schedule was packed with professionally-taught workshops, group discussions and empathy exercises, with thanks to the amazing support and donations from local organizations, departments, and groups including the Brown University School of Engineering, the Brown University Science Center, Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative, Ximedica, BrainGate, and Flatbread Pizza Company. With the Brown Design Workshop (BDW) as the main location of activity and resource for innovation, Brown STEAM’s second inaugural Assistive Technology Makeathon was ready for launch.

Day 1

Despite a 9am start on a Saturday, the BDW was busy—with bags of Bagel Gourmet bagels and coffee on tap, the 20-odd participants from Brown, RISD, and Harvard filled the center of the workshop. Keynote speaker Mike Nunnery of Nunnery Orthotic & Prosthetic Technologies ran through the cornerstones of designing prosthetics, and how the same ideas could apply to all sorts of other assistive tech. As both a researcher designing prosthetics and a clinician tasked with implementing them, Mike drove home the need balance functionality and usability. He stressed that prosthetics need to be comfortable and—smacking a polypropylene leg against a table to emphasize his point—durable, or no one will use them even if they function amazingly. He introduced a deceptively simple point, but one that set the tone for the rest of the Makeathon, encouraging people to focus on making their projects work with rather than for their users.

Raina Wellman (RISD '19), Jeremy Joachim (Brown '17), and Clarke Waskowitz (RISD '19).

After the keynote, the participants broke up into groups to participate in “empathy exercises,” which challenged them to perform everyday tasks while attempting to simulate the experience of various disabilities. By cycling through the exercises—which ranged from trying to use a smartphone with the screen covered to picking one voice out of a crowd of similar ones—and by discussing their experiences, participants learned a little more about their users. Participants also started to consider the kinds of subtle improvements that could make everyday tasks—and their users’ lives—that much easier.

With the rest of the day ahead of them, the participants made ample use of the BDW’s whiteboards, paper, and materials to get to work brainstorming and building. With help from the various Makeathon mentors (BrainGate researchers Carlos Vargas-Irwin, Tommy Hosman, and Jad Saab; NYU alum Sam Galison; BDW monitors Lukas WinklerPrins and John Filmanowicz; and Brown professor Ian Gonsher), participants strove to turn what they had learned into projects they could build before the end of the weekend.

Emily Li (Brown '18) with mentors Ian Gonsher and Iris Bahar.

Day 2

After a night of rest—for some—the participants were back to work in the Brown Design Workshop. They refined their ideas and continued to prototype. From breadboarding to 3D printing, participants were not only able to gain valuable and practical knowledge in a short period of time, but they were able to implement what they had learned into their projects.

By 1:30 in the afternoon, presentations had begun. The first group to present included Zachary Deocadiz, Kenta Kondo, and Robert Lee. Their goal was to come up with a solution to augment existing products to make them more user friendly to people who don’t have an arm past the elbow. They focused on cooking and packing a backpack/bag. They noticed that when one uses a knife, a rocking motion is used to cut the food, so the group created a knife that functions based on the pressure applied. When people pack bags they have to feel around and grab things in a restricted place, though the sense of feel in the fingertips is absent if one has a prosthetic arm. As a result, they created notebooks that incorporate ‘hooking areas,’ with different shapes on each, so that the user can identify the right notebook.

Birds-eye view of the final critique in process.

The second group included Ciaran Godfrey and Ethan Mok, and the help of Tommy Hosman and Carlos Vargas-Irwin. They focused on helping people with complete blindness know what is going on around them without feeling around. The solution they came up with is a virtual ‘cane.’ It has a proximity sensor in one finger that is hooked to vibration motors in the sleeve. When the sensor gets closer to an object, sensors will vibrate more and more based on distance. This vibration can be felt along the arm. An example of how someone could use this would be at the dinner table to find food. They discussed future iterations on this concept by implementing more sensors to mimic the sense of touch with all fingers, by adding more vibrations to cover the body, and by increasing the ‘resolution’ of the vibrations to get a better feel of what objects are really around.

The third group included Carl Romines, Raina Wellman, Clarke Waskowitz, Jeremy Joachim, and Katarzyna Matlak. They created a prosthetic pick for Carl to use when playing with the guitar. Before they made this, Carl could only pick upwards when playing a guitar. To fix this, Carl needed something more stable for the pick holder and something more versatile to play a guitar with. The decided to use elastic as the stabilizer, and used acrylic as the base. Throughout this whole process, Carl was able to give his group feedback on where the prototypes worked well and where improvement was needed. It was apparent that user feedback is important to designers and engineers to have a better understanding of how the subject will interact with the project.

The fourth group included Liza Gibbs, Elizabeth Gurin, Phoebe Morrison, Emily Sauter. Their primary focus was helping people who have a hard time standing up––people who have mobility issues from knee or back pain, for example. After thinking about spring-loaded seats, pneumatics and motors, they ended up looking at rocking chairs. They learned that the first step to standing up is leaning forward. To minimize knee pressure when performing this act, they created a prototyped seat in which the pivot point would be on the front. This would then allow the user to push up on the armrests, and the hinge on the inside of the chair would life up giving the user momentum to get out of the chair.

Lastly, Humphrey Obuobi created a communication device that focused on haptic-stimulation. He made a hardware wearable that translates text from the “speaker” to Morse Code vibrations on the wearer’s wrist. To achieve this, he learned how to code in Java and C++ (Arduino). The final project was a 3D printed wearable protype device that had vibrator motors on the inside so the user could fill it on the arm. He chose to incorporate this into a wearable because it is a constant companion to an individual.

All of the projects were innovative and creative. The design process each group went through to create their product was a huge part to their successes. The judges, Ian Gonsher, Barrett Hazeltine, Ben Basseches, and guest Iris Bahar had a very difficult time determining the winners. In the end, Carl Romines, Raina Wellman, Clarke Waskowitz, Jeremy Joachim, and Katarzyna Matlak—the group that created the prosthetic guitar pick—came in first, and Ciaran Godfrey and Ethan Mok—the group that created the virtual ‘cane’—and Humphrey Obuobi—who created the haptic communication device—were the runners-up.

The winning teams: 1st Place — Guitar Pick (Carl Romines, Raina Wellman, Clarke Waskowitz, Jeremy Joachim, Katarzyna Matlak) Runners-up — Extended Touch (Ciaran Godfrey, Ethan Mok, Tommy Hosman, Carlos Vargas-Irwin) and Shindo (Humphrey Obuobi)

Read more



Anthony Peer


STEAM Week at the Jewish Community Day School (JCDS) of Rhode Island was a full week of lessons and activities that focused on developing creativity and exploration for both students and educators alike. JCDS welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with students from Brown/RISD STEAM alongside local Providence artists and educators. KinderSTEAM, a branch of STEAM which is invested in the educational collaboration of STEAM advocates and primary educational institutions, wanted to provide students an outlet for exploration within the often restrictive classroom environment. Continuing off of the success of the previous STEAM Week 2015, STEAM Week 2016 allowed for a further development of the collaboration with JCDS and Brown/RISD STEAM.

The students of JCDS were able to explore and engage in a range of topics including Electroplating, Paper Airplane Aerodynamics, and Magic Tricks Using Math with Marshall Jiang (Brown, Applied Mathematics) and Melissa McGuirl (Brown, Applied Mathematics MA ’16, Ph.D ’21); Circuit Based Brushbots with Sofya Zeylikman (RISD, Furniture Design ’16); and Biomimicry and Sensory Exploration with Anthony Peer (RISD, Industrial Design ’16). Lessons taught by Brown/ RISD STEAM students focused on creating an atmosphere for hands-on experience and development within the classroom environment. KinderSTEAM’s focus on creating a partnership with local schools also enables students to learn and collaborate with educators who are working tirelessly and consistently to engage with their students.

Brush Bots
Sofya Zeylikman

For this year’s STEAM week, I wanted to create a new challenge for myself. I wanted to teach the youngest students something that seemed to be the most complicated. The question I posed was “How can I teach robotics to the youngest students?”

From this question came the answer, Brush Bots! Each student was given a toothbrush head, double sided tape, a battery, copper tape, and a small vibration motor. I was amazed at how much the students already knew about motors, electricity, and robots. With the kindergarten students, we added decorations to our robots and gave each student some time to share with the rest of the class the special “powers” their robots had.

Assembling a brush bot.

Fabric and Fabric Behavior
Lukas WinklerPrins and Nathan Zack

If we look into biological systems around us, we can see many creative ways animals use their skins and coats, but as humans we often overlook how clothing functions as an extension of the skin. In this workshop for 4th and 5th graders, we were able to strike comparisons between contemporary fashion design and biological precedence. Students used diverse arrays of materials to construct their own garments, mimicking or extending the skins of animals that inspired them.

Lukas WinklerPrins demonstrating fabric behavior.

Exploring the Senses Through Biomimicry
Anthony Peer

When we look at how animals perceive their environment we are often astounded by their capabilities which far exceed our own natural senses. This lesson focused on observing and analyzing animal species that have extraordinary senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. The Mantis Shrimp has the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. While the human eye only has three photoreceptors, the Mantis Shrimp has twelve. This allows the Mantis Shrimp to perceive circular and linear polarized light as well as hyperspectral color. While the Mantis Shrimp has obtained its ocular capabilities through millions of years of evolution, human beings have developed a means to enhance our senses through the use of technology such as sonar, multispectral imagery, seismographs, etc.

How could future technology allow our species to explore through the use of technology and visualize our environment in the same way that animals with hypersensitive senses perceive theirs? In applying the knowledge gained from observing the extra sensory tools that a Star-nosed Mole has for touch or a Northern Long Eared bat has with echo location, we explored through model making how to enhance our own senses through technology. Some of the students developed extra long nostrils for picking up minute smells, or gloves that enabled them to explore through through the dark using echolocation. In opening up a conversation through making, the students were able to explore the endless possibilities to come for further technological advancements through biomimicry.


Rube Goldberg Machine

On top of all the activities, the students were in the process of developing a Rube Goldberg video for the Technion Jewish Day School Challenge. Each class participated in the making of an individual component which told the story of the Passover to reveal the Sedar Plate. Throughout the making of the Rube Goldberg the students collaborated with each other to find ways to link up from one section to another while trying to tell the story of the Passover. Bustling from one table to the next, the students were busy taping, tying, setting pieces, and cutting tubes to make their classes contribution to the story of the Passover.

The construction of the Rube Goldberg spanned the entire length of the main hallway where the students made everything from a zipline mechanism, to a plinko board with toads which represented some of the plagues on Egypt. The students ran through multiple test runs of the Rube Goldberg, each time running back and forth down the hallway testing their contraptions and rigging up new solutions for individual sections that ran amiss. The final mechanism of the Rube Goldberg sent a miniature car holding a candle down a ramp directly into a trap which burned the string holding a counter weight hung from the top of the ceiling, to swiftly lift the blanket from the plate. With the grand reveal of the Sedar plate came the end to STEAM Week with tremendous cheer from all of the students, teachers, educators and family members at JCDS.

Rube Goldberg machine in the hallways of JCDS.

The future of kinderSTEAM

The success of STEAM Week could not have been pulled off without the astounding effort of the all of the teachers and staff at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island in allowing students from Brown/RISD STEAM to come into the school and work with the curious, wonderful, polite, and intelligent students.

In looking forward and within the STEAM community that has been built over the past couple of years in Providence, STEAM Week provides an excellent example of providing an outlet for STEAM students to become active educators within their communities while allowing for exploration into solving problems within current educational approaches. The front line for inspiring the future generation of creators, makers, scientist, and artists is in the classroom, and for students that are interested in being apart of that change there is no greater time than the present.

Read more



Lukas WinklerPrins

Some of the earliest disciplinary boundaries were codified in the fifth century AD. There were four sciences, the Quadrivium, of overlapping music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, and the three humanities, the Trivium, with an ascending ladder of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In the late 19th century, under the German model, universities secularized and the sciences proliferated and splintered. In the 20th, the social sciences codified, and today we are seeing the growth of cultural, queer, media, and post-colonial theory—alongside their establishment as disciplines in the universities.

In the most basic sense, defining disciplines is an attempt at structure, a method of categorizing what might otherwise be ambiguous, interconnected clouds of human knowledge. The Trivium/Quadrivium had intent of pedagogy built-in, especially wherein grammar set the basis for logic, and logic the basis for rhetoric. These bodies of knowledge were expected to be learned in a specified order to build off each other effectively. Discipline is a structured categorization of ideas, processes, and viewpoints. David Staley writes:

Disciplines are types of ideas-spaces. An idea-space is “a domain or world viewed from the perspective of the intelligence embedded in it, intelligence that we can use… both to solve our everyday problems and to make the creative leaps that lead to breakthrough.” Academic disciplines are idea-spaces in that they “embed collective intelligence about the most effective way to carry out research, typically providing an overarching framework of established theory, principles, practices, heuristics, methodological assumptions, lab techniques, and so forth.”

(from The Future of the University)

By drawing edges between what is outside and what is inside the discipline—extradisciplinary and interdisciplinary, respectively—a discipline inculcates an internal logic and common language. These are the greatest benefits of disciplinary lines: shared bases of understanding and similar language facilitate easier communication between researchers, across campuses or continents. Shared logic allows those in a field to follow the work of another. We have made enormous advances in knowledge by this facilitation of collaboration and sharing within disciplines.

We know, though, that there is richness in the between. The STEAM movement is, in many ways, a reaction to the realization that groundbreaking ideas come from the boundaries of these idea-spaces, where they bump up against, or overlap with, other ones.

As Richard Ogle observed, “Creative leaps arise from the imaginative and insightful transfer of powerful, externally embedded intelligence from one idea-space to another.” He detailed the experiences of scientists, artists, and other creative people who developed new ideas or solved intractable problems because they could “leap from one-idea-space to another without getting trapped in a single one.”

(from The Future of the University)

Inside disciplines, practitioners can feel limited in practice. When disciplines rub together, however, we also find friction. C.P. Snow’s seminal 1959 lecture, titled “The Two Cultures” lamented the communication rift between scientific and literary intellectuals—clumping the whole spectrum of non-vocational disciplines into diverging camps. The potential richness at the middle ground between areas was being left unexplored, due to the difficulty in communicating across different approaches.

In response, people caught to build a bridge, asking “what is a third culture?” How can we bring intellectual worlds together again, and celebrate the interstitial space? How can we prevent these diverging disciplinary camps from holding us back from intellectual growth?

John Brockton began Edge, a publishing project, as a way to investigate The Third Culture. Some see Design as the Third culture in how it blends material observation and human experience. STEAM, especially growing out of RISD, has often taken a design-driven approach to a new discipinaryism.

Snow backpedaled after the “Two Cultures” lecture faced criticism. Edge was canonical in pushing for celebrating people working between disciplines, but it has yet to provide a rethinking of disciplines altogether.

Counter-productive disciplinaryism isn’t just a rift between two intellectual poles, it is a more fine-grained splintering. It comes coupled with institutional accretion, outdated models of academic publishing, and bubbles of prestige around the institutions that declare disciplines as they are.

The question thus remains, then—what comes after disciplines as we know them? What happens when we seek to move into classifications of knowledge that exist not in a Mode 1 or Mode 2 model, but a Mode 3—systems-based, contextual, temporal, and intertwined? Disciplines acknowledging of Historicism? We don’t need a bridge between two camps; we need a tapestry woven out of isolated threads.

As we know well in STEAM, this is hard to do. Difficult Questions of the 21st century are not easily boxed in, we now know enough to realize they cannot honestly be. Design Researcher (and friend) Nicholas Shulman said “Non-Disciplinarity is difficult because it requires creating a new context or constantly switching between existing ones.” It might even require creating contexts that do not yet exist.

In spite of what you majored in, or what the textbooks say, or what you think you’re an expert in, follow a system wherever it leads. It will be sure to lead across traditional disciplinary lines. To understand that system, you will have to be able to learn from–while not being limited by–economist and chemists and psychologists and theologians. You will have to penetrate their jargons, integrate what they tell you, recognize what they can honestly see through their particular lenses, and discard the distortions that come from the narrowness and incompleteness of their lenses. They won’t make it easy for you.

(Donella Meadows in “Thinking in Systems”)

There is anxiety in fighting disciplinaryism, this constant pushing against well-defined boundaries that permeate many corners of knowledge culture. New contexts are unexplored terrain. It’s even psychologically documented.

At the personal level, where interdisciplinary research is enmeshed with career progress, disciplinary anxieties and tensions at the interface between sometimes incommensurate kinds of thinking, there can be frictions and difficulties. These, however, are part of what makes such research so valuable, in that they enable individuals and groups within subjects on both sides to uncover those things that need to be better understood.

“Things that need to be better understood”—the intersections, connections, and in-between spaces of our current dictionary of disciplines. There are many words for these spaces.

We talk about multidisciplinaryism—the coexistence of multiple disciplinary aspects on the same project—,crossdisciplinaryism—which seeks to understand one discipline from the viewpoint of another—, interdisciplinaryism—finding and working in the meeting points and similarities of disciplinary entities—and, hottest of all, transdisciplinaryism—which seeks to deeply intertwine these disciplinary entities and explore what norms might emerge beyond simplistic combinations of discipline.

A famous institutional example of a “Mode 2” working style is the MIT Media Lab, broken down into working groups that are project-based rather than rooted in any disciplinary tradition. They are smaller in size than typical academic departments and are unafraid to borrow information and processes from wherever they find necessary in the intellectual landscape. The media lab calls itself a more nebulous term, “antidisciplinary”. Perhaps too we can appropriate thinking from David Batchelor’s 2000 Chromophobia, that “The interdisciplinary is often the antidisciplinary made safe.” Antidisciplinaryism has native to it a pushing-against, a reaction to the limitations of disciplinary boundary and mindsets. The Media Lab was founded in the 1980s and Antidiscplinaryism’s punk outlook reflects that.

Antidisciplinarity starts from the posit that disciplinaryism can be escaped at all. I am interested instead in something I believe STEAM has been indicative of—a criticality of disciplines, but recognizing the benefits they carry, too: shared language/logic, cohesive knowledge base, and community. Acknowledging that the categorization of knowledge is difficult to escape, near-impossible in academic settings. That the context of history, place, and peoples within disciplines cannot be ignored. Something that makes use of increasingly networked modes of knowledge sharing and knowledge sharing. Antidiscplinaryism in the age of Historicism.

In a conversation with my friend, category and cultural theorist Dmitry Vagner, we recognized that simplistic metaphors of disciplinary boundaries are not high-dimensional enough to effectively explain the topology of the new knowledge landscape. Not only do we have idea-spaces, but we have, in and around a discipline, layers of evolution, colonialism, false starts, and blurred edges. Disciplines are no longer regions to be drawn in the 2D plane: they are fully-dimensioned objects. Our next steps in breaking them down come through meaningful interweaving. In the tradition of Intersectionality with regards to intermeshed systems of identity and oppression, we seek a term that acknowledges that new knowledge can no longer internally justify itself and its separation from other modes of thought.

In this vein, I seek to propose the use of the term hyphdisciplinary. (Alternatives include “disciplinary queer” and “disciplinary-fluid”.) “Hyph-,“ a prefix meaning “web,” makes literal the metaphor of a multi-dimensional inescapability of intertwined systems of knowledge.

Slow-moving as they may be, our universities are increasingly cognizant of the Historicism-minded fields. It is time the language we use to explain the topology of disciplinaryism catches up. With further inclusion of modes of thought from the Humanities, Cultural Studies, and Media Theory, STEAM will continue to charge towards our hyphdisciplinary future.

By Lukas WinklerPrins, April 2016. Ongoing research collected here.

Read more


Worlds From Cardboard

Miranda Chao / Kenji Endo / Brian Oakes / Zak Ziebell

Worldbuilding in Maya, Unity, and Three.js

In April 2016, Brown and RISD STEAM hosted Worlds from Cardboard, a workshop on worldbuilding for Google Cardboard in Maya, Unity, and Three.js. Hosted at the new Digital Scholarship Lab at Brown’s Rockefeller Library, participants spent an afternoon learning software, experimenting with their new STEAM Google Cardboards, and developing projects of their own.

The workshop was organized by Brown and RISD C+STEAM, a new subgroup that focuses on the intersections of technology and computer science with art, design, and the humanities. This event was organized by members of C+STEAM—Miranda Chao (Brown ’18), Kenji Endo (Brown ’18), Matt Kohn (Brown ’19), Angel Lam (RISD ’18), Brian Oakes (RISD ’18), Cherry Yang (RISD ’20), Stephanie Zhou (RISD ’19), and Zak Ziebell (Brown/RISD Dual Degree ’19).

After discussing some principles of virtual reality and how Google Cardboards work, participants assembled their Cardboards and broke into smaller workshop sessions based on people’s interests.

Assembling Cardboards.


The Unity section of the workshop focused on interaction in virtual reality. Unity is a powerful game engine, and with the Google Cardboard development kit, users can walk around in virtual reality and interact with their environment, allowing them to bring their creations to life. We first set up a simple scene with Unity primitives that would serve as our environment and “player”. We then began to work with Unity’s customization interfaces, allowing us to add new materials and textures to the objects in our scene.

In order to really customize interaction in Unity, users must use C# scripts as components to add functionality to game objects. We took a look at C# scripting in Unity to allow for both movement in the environment we created and for camera movement with the player. Lastly, we took a look at the terrain sculpting options Unity offers, and also looked at importing existing models into our scenes to make them really shine.

Unity subgroup tests their projects.

Importing to our phones then allowed us to effectively walk around and interact with the environments we had made. It was rewarding and exciting to put ourselves in the worlds we had just created. Users could make extensive scenes with tunnels, valleys, and niches, and then explore their virtual reality world with their cardboards.


In this workshop, interested participants learned the fundamentals of modeling and shading in Maya, a 3D computer graphics software used for animation and game design, and how to use Maya modeling and sculpting tools to create an outdoor scene that could be used as an asset for a Unity-built Google Cardboard app. Participants learned about Maya polygon primitives through creating a ruins scene. After learning about different shaders and shading the ruins scene, people then used the sculpting toolset to create a hilly or mountainous surrounding landscape.

Ruins scene in Unity stereoscopic view.

After exploring principles of modeling and shading, we also took a look at scripting in Maya, a powerful way to create large scenes efficiently. In Maya, all actions (creating geometry, moving, scaling, and rotating geometry) can be replicated with Python or MEL (Maya’s programming language) function calls. After learning how to create and translate a cube using a few lines of Python code, we then experimented with storing instances of this geometry in an array, allowing us to quickly create many copies of the primitives. Using Python’s random module, we created random variation in geometry position, scale, and rotation—creating an abstract world.

After developing these projects or working on new scenes during the second half of the workshop, participants took their scenes into Unity to integrate with Google Cardboard’s virtual reality camera—allowing them to look around the landscape in stereoscopic vision.


In the Three.js workshop, participants captured models with photogrammetry, a technique that allows for the creation of 3d models through photography from multiple angles. The resulting models—many of which were self-portraits of the participants—were used to create virtual reality “sculpture gardens.” This process involved learning a complex workflow with tools including Agisoft Photoscan, Blender, and Three.js, a Javascript library that allows for 3D graphics within a web browser. Because Three.js is a web-based platform, participants were able to access their sculpture gardens simply through visiting a URL on their smartphone.

Brian and Zak test out a sculpture garden.

Build Session

After an hour and a half of guided workshops in Unity, Maya, and Three.js, the group transitioned into a more informal project development “build session.” Participants could continue to develop the projects they started in the smaller workshops, start a new project based on the skills they learned, or experiment with one of the other software and methods. With C+STEAM members acting as TA support, participants were able to prepare projects for deployment with Google Cardboard—for Three.js, this meant uploading their visuals to a web server, for the Maya and Unity groups, this required learning how to work with the CardboardSDK (Software Development Kit) for Unity to build apps for Android or iOS.

iOS app ready to try out.

And then, the moment of truth. Participants pulled up the projects they made that afternoon on their phones to test it out, taking their first look and walk through their new worlds.

Read more

In May 2016, RISD and Brown BioSTEAM hosted a workshop revolving around ideas of the 21st-century coined “selfie” and contemporary modes of self representation through directed yeast growth. The “Yeast Selfies” workshop was the main spring 2016 event for BioSTEAM, a branch of STEAM founded in Fall 2014 focusing on the intersection of biology, sciences and design/fine arts. During the workshop, agar plates were either inoculated with yeast in drawn visuals and patterns or cultured with yeast, covered with printed halftone images and exposed to UV light thus directing the shape of the yeast growth. This event’s planning was a collaborative effort between Brown and RISD bioSTEAM project leaders - Karine Liu (Brown ‘18), Stephanie Muscat (RISD ‘17), Raina Wellman (RISD ‘19) and Callie Clayton (RISD ‘17).

A group of about fifteen Brown and RISD graduate and undergraduate students met in RISD’s Nature Lab Microscopy Lab the morning of the workshop. The day began with a variety of edibles baked with the help of yeast; bread, scones and jam. While enjoying aromatic and savory sensations of yeast, a presentation on various historical to contemporary interpretations of self representation introduced the discussion topic of “selfies.” Factors such as medium, accessibility, time and purpose were all discussion points in how the humans’ depiction of the self has and continues to evolve. We asked participants to consider alternate, modern uses of living mediums to create imagery.

Following the completion of the presentation, we led the group through a photoshop tutorial on turning a photographic image or selfie into a halftone image, a series of dots simulating continuous tone imagery. These selfie photographs turned into halftone images were then printed in the computer lab on clear acetate sheets in 9 centimeter circles. Printing the images with a nine centimeter diameter allowed the image to fill the entire surface of a petri dish lid.

The group migrated from the RISD Nature Lab to the Brown Multidisciplinary Teaching Laboratories (MDL), a Brown University support facility of the Division of Biology and Medicine that provides necessary media, supplies, technical assistance and guidance for student experiments and investigations. Technical Assistants introduced the lab space and familiarized participants with the appropriate use of gloves, pipettes and cell spreaders for the sterile transfer and application of the prepared yeast growth medium onto the prepared agar plates. Participants measured out about 10 microliters of the yeast growth medium in the pipettes, transferred and spread the medium on the agar plates. After cutting out the nine centimeter diameter halftone image, participants placed the image on top of the petri dish lid and placed the petri dish in the UV box to be exposed to long and short-wavelength UV light. After exposure to UV light, yeast cells in all areas of the petri dish not covered by the dark tone of the image would not grow while yeast in the area covered by the image and protected from the UV light would grow. Through this process, the growth of yeast is directed to form an image or in our case, a selfie. Participants also experimented using the yeast growth medium as a drawing tool, where the yeast acted as the “pen” and the agar as “paper.”

While there were varying levels of success in the interpretation of the original image or drawing by yeast culture, the workshop allowed participants to experiment with the unpredictable, imperfections of a living media. Similar to all modes of representation, depiction and self-imagery, directing yeast growth led to inconsistencies, individual connotations, differing perceptions and understandings of images of the self and others. By using a living medium to depict the “self,” the resulting image is not so important as is the act of translation. When a group of students come together to explore how a single-celled fungi can translate visual perceptions, we are humbly reminded how the effort of understanding, of translating defines not what the self is but the process of discovering the “image” of the self.

Read more


Looking Forward and Ahead

Kenji Endo

STEAM Summit — Community and Structure

It has been a tremendous year for STEAM. Four years ago, STEAM existed on only one campus, last year was present on four, and now has expanded to include student-led STEAM initiatives on eight campuses across the United States, recently welcoming The New School, Boston University, Rutgers, and Harvard STEAM this past year.

Our partner schools continue to be strong collaborators. Brown STEAM and RISD STEAM work closely to advocate STEAM projects and discussion on College Hill in Providence. Joint, yearly events such as the RISD, Brown, and MIT Wintersession/Independent Activities Period workshop series, in its third iteration this past winter with Citizen + Virtual, bring together new and old friends—and this year we were excited to join Boston University STEAM on their campus for a session of the series. RISD STEAM leaders visited leaders from Rutgers STEAM on their campus over winter break. We keep in touch through Facebook, Skype, and, importantly, these catalogues, but we would love to engage in these acts of exchange, cross-pollination, and collaboration between our partner schools even more.

Along with being a huge year for the STEAM network, it has been an exciting year for STEAM thinking and discussion nationwide. In December 2015, President Obama signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into law, which notably recognized the importance of including the arts in STEM curricula. The groundwork for this amendment to the bill was the result of advocacy by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), co-chair of the 2013 Congressional STEAM Caucus, which was kicked off by John Maeda with RISD’s STEM to STEAM initiative.

This is where the idea of a STEAM Summit comes in—a conference for all STEAM partner schools, as well as members of the STEAM community, including STEAM alumni, professors, advocates, K-12 educators, and members of the local and university communities at our partner schools. Brown and RISD STEAM would plan the 2016–2017 inaugural event, with the idea that future iterations could be hosted by a different partner school each year. The summit would include presentations, workshops, and informal discussions about the importance and growth of STEAM, and would also provide a means for groups to connect and share the work they have done within their campuses and communities.

Our vision for the STEAM Summit encapsulates these discussions as well—how to bring STEAM thinking and the importance of arts, design, and the humanities in a STEM curriculum into a larger dialogue. We hope to invite and engage educators who are bringing STEAM into the classrooms of students of all ages.

Along with encouraging this cross-pollination of ideas between members of the STEAM network, our partners, and friends, we recognize the importance of cultivating a strong community for STEAM, and see the Summit as a step forward. STEAM, as an organization, as well as an idea, is still very young. STEAM does not just exist within our student groups, contained to the lectures, workshops, and events project leaders at partner schools plan—STEAM and interdisciplinary thinking permeates each of our campuses and communities, and is interpreted uniquely by each individual. With the STEAM Summit, we hope to engage with as many people as possible, to learn about each person’s interpretation of STEAM.

We hope to see you there.

The STEAM Summit idea is still developing, and we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to email

Read more


F2015 / S2016

We are RISD, Brown, MIT, Yale, Rutgers, BU, Harvard, and The New School STEAM.


Minsoo Thigpen / President
Brown | RISD Dual Degree
Painting and Engineering ’18

Anthony Peer / KinderSTEAM Leader
Industrial Design ’16

Brian Oakes / Vice-President, C+STEAM Leader
Sculpture ’18

Zach Deocadiz / STEAM Press
Graphic Design ’17

Eliza Chen / STEAM Press
Brown | RISD Dual Degree
Graphic Design and Comparative Literature ’19

Arnon Karnkaeng / STEAM Press
Graphic Design '17

Callie Clayton / bioSTEAM Leader
Textiles '17

Stephanie Muscat / bioSTEAM Leader
Digital + Media MFA '17

Zak Ziebell / C+STEAM Leader
Brown | RISD Dual Degree
Painting and Science & Society '19


RISD STEAM is a student-run organization at RISD founded in 2011 by Sarah Pease. The organization is part of a national movement to include Art & Design in STEM Education. Through our programs and events, we aim to inspire a generation of creative problem solvers. We strongly believe multidisciplinary working & learning will empower teams in an increasingly connected world.

We investigate these ideas through workshops, lectures, and our publishing arm - STEAM Press. Through our events we engage with other college students, k-12, and the larger Providence community.

Funding and Special Thanks

We are jointly funded through the RISD Center for Student Involvement and the RISD Programming Board. Special thanks to Babette Allina, Kim Almeida, John Maeda, Rachel Holcomb, Sarah Pease, Pneuhaus, Pradeep Sharma, Rosanne Somerson, Adam Tilove, Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island, and Carol Strohecker, and the many others without whom these projects would not be possible.

Get in Touch

Find us on Twitter and Facebook. Sign up for the RISD/Brown STEAM newsletter. Say hello at!


Jonelle Ahiligwo / Co-President
Biology and Public Health '16

Kenji Endo / Co-President, Project Leader, C+STEAM
Computer Science ’18

Maggie Mathieu / Project Leader, ENGN STEAM
Engineering '17

Leanne Block / Project Leader, ENGN STEAM
Mechanical Engineering '17

Miranda Chao / Project Leader, C+STEAM
Computer Science and Visual Art '18

Karine Liu / Project Leader, bioSTEAM
Neuroscience '18

Jeremy Joachim / Project Leader, ENGN STEAM
Mechanical Engineering '17

Taylor Alarcon / Project Leader, ENGN STEAM
Applied Mathematics and Philosophy '17

Ethan Mok / Project Leader, ENGN STEAM
Brown | RISD Dual Degree
Neuroscience '19


Brown STEAM is a student group at Brown University. The mentality of STEAM hinges upon the ability to draw astute connections between disciplines and fearlessly explore potential for collaboration at the interface. We strive to integrate the creativity and aesthetics of the arts; the problem solving tools and rigor of the STEM fields; and the critical thinking and ethical considerations of the humanities. We believe that this unification powerfully drives progress toward the future.

As a student group we hold regular meetings, usually made up of STEAM-related discussions, speakers, or events. We also host on-campus workshops, do outreach within Brown and the local community, and take occasional field trips. We seek to provide a platform, resource base, and discussion group for interdisciplinary thinking and projects.

We are close partners with RISD STEAM, our neighbors in Providence, RI.

Funding and Special Thanks

We are jointly funded through the Brown Science Center and the Brown University School of Engineering. Special thanks to Lynsey Ford, Gelonia Dent, Jennifer Casasanto, Chris Bull, Patricia Capece, Ian Gonsher, and Pneuhaus, and the many members of the Brown/RISD community without whom these projects would not have been possible.

Get in Touch

Find us on Twitter and Facebook. Sign up for the RISD/Brown STEAM newsletter. Say hello at!


Grace Li / President
Mechanical Engineering '17

Kiran Wattamwar / Project Lead
Computer Science and Electrical Engineering '17

Aya Suzuki / Project Lead
Mechanical Engineering '18

Lucia Liu / Project Lead
Mechanical Engineering '18

Melanie Abrams / Project Lead
Biology '17


MIT STEAM is a student-led effort to ignite communications between disparate fields in academia, business, and thought. Our focus is broad but our starting point is uniting the Arts with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

Funding and Special Thanks

We are jointly funded though the MIT Association of Student Activities and the Council for the Arts at MIT (CAMIT). Special thanks to Sam Magee, Carmen Castanos, Susan Cohen, and V. Michael Bove.

Get in Touch

Say hello at!


Chanthia Ma / President and Founder
Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology (MCDB) '16

Alejandro Nodarse / Treasurer
Art History & Architecture '19

Amy Nichols / Project Leader
Environmental Engineering '19

Peter Wang / Project Leader
Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology (MCDB) '18

Sarah Ludwin-Peery / Project Leader
Chemistry '18

Eunice Cho / Project Leader
2nd Year Graduate Student in Pharmacology

Anna Chase / Graduate Liaison
4th Year Graduate Student in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (MB&B)


Yale STEAM is a chapter of STEAM, a larger academic ideology that sees all disciplines of the arts (fine arts, digital arts, performance arts, and liberal arts) as an inseparable facet of the STEM fields. As one of the STEAM chapters, we hope to foster a campus wide interest and appreciation of the intersection between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and the arts through a series of STEAM workshops, forums, discussions, tours, and talks utilizing spaces around Yale where the arts and sciences intersect. Such events exist to provide a platform, resource base, and discussion group for interdisciplinary thinking and project events related to the arts and sciences. We encourage students from all disciplines across the STEM and arts spectrum as well as those in humanities to join us!

Funding and Special Thanks

We are jointly funded by the Yale Undergraduate Organizations Committee and the Yale Chapter of Sigma Xi. Special thanks to Larry Wilen, Konrad Eric Kaczmarek, and Thibault Bertrand with the CEID; Gideon Shapiro, Peter Leonard, Catherine Derose, and Monica Ong from the Digital Humanities Lab; David Heiser, Armand Morgan, and Michael Anderson from the Peabody Museum; David Odo from the Harvard Art Museums; Edward Werner Cook from Sigma Xi; Aniko Bezur from the IPCH and Ian McClure from the art gallery for their guidance and collaborations this year.

Get in Touch

Find us on Facebook. Say hello at!


Danica Sapit / President
Electrical & Computer Engineering '17

Ciera Jones / Internal Vice President
Visual Arts and Computer Science ’16

Samvitha Cherravuru / Secretary
Biotechnology ’17

Nicole Guevara / Internal Vice President
Psychology, Biology Minor ’17

Brian Ronan / Treasurer
Chemical Engineering ’18

Becca Mulvihill / Media Chair
Mathematics, Statistics Minor ’16


Rutgers STEAM, in New Brunswick, is a growing student-led movement to integrate traditionally-disparate fields and mindsets, broadly in the areas of the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and the Arts and Humanities. We aim to develop STEAM as a tool that enables, whether it be enabling learning, open discussions, product improvements, or new ideas and inventions. In the real world, each of us will have to work alongside those with different skillsets and thought processes, and STEAM emulates both this understanding and teamwork as well as encourages it. It seeks to open those in the STEM fields to more creative branches of thought, and those in the arts to more methodical implementations. These intersecting areas will be the hub that will drive forward innovation, manifested through discussions, workshops, projects, trips, and other events, all of which will showcase how these integrations can work alongside one another to solve problems, explore ideas, evaluate beauty in its different abstractions, and above all, make a difference.

We at Rutgers lie on a breeding ground for STEAM-centric innovation. As a research university, we are dedicated to seeking answers to “what if” questions. An open supporter of diversity, Rutgers is home to different schools in the arts, the sciences, and engineering. Each houses a specialized “small-school” environment in a large-school setting that enables many students to focus on a specific discipline but to still be able to converse and interact with others of radically different backgrounds in a shared space. Through current research thrusts, such as Polynomiography and Musical Technology, as well as other creative spaces, such as the Makerspace and Hackerspace, we are already on our way to democratizing STEM, the Arts, and the new area of STEAM. Based close to NYC, we can also easily access various art and Science-Art hubs that are developing in the city to fuel our projects. We at Rutgers STEAM have access to tools and are creating means that not only enable answers but prompt further questions for exploration.

Funding and Special Thanks

We are funded through the Rutgers Student Involvement Office and Student Activities Business Office. Special thanks to faculty advisor Bahman Kalantari, Rick Anderson and Rutgers Makerspace, Suparna Singh of Center for Math and Computer Science Education (CMCSE), Babak Saleh, Tony DeRose and Brit Cruise from Pixar in a Box, to all of our dedicated general members!

Get in Touch

Find us on Facebook. Say hello at!


Alyssa Arnheim / Director of Internal Communications and Arts Outreach
Biomedical Engineering ’18

Julia Pan / Director of Finance and Event Organization
Applied Mathematics ’18

Hayley Walker / Director of External Communications, Projects Coordinator
Mechanical Engineering ’17

Katie Walker / Director of Publicity
Environmental Science ’17

Allison Dennis, Ph.D. / Faculty Advisor
Biomedical Engineering


BU STEAM is a student group at Boston University that strives to illuminate and make accessible the technical aspects of the STEM fields through the arts so that these fields can be more easily understood and appreciated by all. We aim to more fully integrate creative problem-solving in order to invite a unique approach to real world STEM problems that cannot simply be solved with current by-the-book methods. Additionally, BU STEAM endeavors to create works around the BU Community that use STEM as a tool to reflect artistic or philosophical questions about the world.

We inspire discussion about the inherent overlap of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics fields and empower all generations to embrace the interconnectivity of these fields. In addition to the exchange of ideas, we conduct interdisciplinary projects that contribute both technically and aesthetically to our community, and integrate our STEAM ideals through after school programs at public schools in the greater Boston area.

Funding and Special Thanks

Special thanks to the BU Kilachand Honors College, Josiah Epps, and Lauren Extrom.

Get in Touch

Check out the BU STEAM blog at Say hello at!


Jessica Paik / Founder and Co-Chair
RISD ’13 BA in Painting and History of Visual Culture, Harvard ’16, M.Ed, Arts in Education

Jasmine Chin / Co-Chair
Oxford University, B.A. in Music, Harvard ’16, M.Ed. Arts in Education

Allison Wigen / Project Leader
Brown University, B.A. in Literary Arts ’10; HGSE, M.Ed. Arts in Education '17

Ana Novak / Project Leader
Grinnell College, B.A. in Biology, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ed.M. Arts in Education

Iliana Gutierrez / Project Leader
Harvard Graduate School of Education, Arts in Education

Laura Peters / Project Leader
Arts in Education, Dance ’16

Isabel Diez / Project Leader
B.A. in Education, M.Ed. Arts in Education '16

Allie Smith / Project Leader
Arts in Education, Museum Studies ’16


Harvard STEAM is a student-led initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Our team aims to explore innovative resources and learning experiences in order to foster an evolvement of education culture at large. For now, our initiative remains broad in order to mold into the relevant themes, skills and needs present within the university and education communities.

At Harvard Graduate School of Education, STEAM aims to foster trans-disciplinary dialogue to generate creative collaborations and connections. In this way, our team would like to focus on equalizing relevance in both Arts and STEM; improving the accessibility and inclusivity of STEAM initiatives; and establishing a model of adaptability within STEAM education. The Harvard STEAM with US plans to conduct research or workshops to explore the stated focuses. Each founding team member will choose which area of focus to tackle according to his or her set of skills, ideals and experiences to lead an idea with the Harvard community and neighboring universities.

Funding and Special Thanks

We are funded through the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Student Organization and HGSE Arts in Education program. Special thanks to the Harvard STEAM team and our first-year advisers, David Odo, Steve Seidel, Karen Brennan, Janice Chong, and Edward Peter Clapp.

Get in Touch

Say hello at!


Neha Bhatia / Co-President
MS Strategic Design and Management ’16

Isata Yansaneh / Co-President
MS Strategic Design and Management ’16

Gonzalo Rovegno Rocha / Vice-President
MS Strategic Design and Management ’17

Carolina de Urquijo / Vice-President
MS Strategic Design and Management ’17

Jasmine Hong / Branding Lead
BFA Communication Design ’16

Joonas Virtanen / Branding Advisor
MS Strategic Design and Management ’16

Jenny Liu / Branding Assistant
MS Strategic Design and Management ’16

Khushboo Lalwani / Communications Lead
BFA Design and Technology ’16

Sucharita Jyothula / Events Lead
MS Strategic Design and Management ’17

Brian Swift / Events and Planning Assistant
BFA Fashion Design ’18


STEAM at The New School for Design will leverage its internal design and art expertise to further foster collaborative relationships within the NYC community in an effort to advocate for the value of the arts in education. Our mission is to elevate the work of our student body, provide exposure to innovative career paths, and foster a spirit of collaboration across the arts, and technological fields of study.

As our world becomes more complex, the methods with which we solve problems must also evolve to better address the rapid shifts across global industries. By employing methods that are human centered, art and design education facilitates an empathetic and synthesized approach to conveying complex information. STEAM at The New School will engage its multidisciplinary communities through workshops, student led projects/events, and by strengthening external partnerships.

Funding and Special Thanks

STEAM at The New School is funded by The New School office of Student Organizations. We want to give special thanks to our dean Joel Towers and Jeongki Lim for all their support during the past year.

Get in Touch

Find us on Facebook. Say hello at!

Select a school for club information.

Tools to Start a STEAM Chapter

Minsoo Thigpen

Three years ago, STEAM only existed on one college campus, and has now grown with studios on four—RISD, Brown, MIT, and Yale. We have enjoyed ongoing collaboration and discussion between these partner schools, and we couldn't be more excited for what the future will bring for STEAM.

As our network continues to grow, we will find more successful interactions across disciplines, and publish even larger catalogues! Interested in bringing STEAM to your school or organization? Please email us at, or read the next few pages for our STEAM-builder’s checklist.

This guide will help you start a ‘studio’ at your institution. Partnering with the STEAM Club network will get you access to our modules for events, collaborative funding opportunities, and most importantly, notes from all of our successes and failures.

1. Reading

The first thing that we recommend you do is take a look through our catalogues. Reading the catalogues will give you a sense for the kinds of things we like to do. You’ll notice that a lot of our events fall into one of two categories: workshops and lectures.

2. Make Friends

We strongly recommend that you locate two faculty or administrative advisers for your organization. This could be a Dean, Professor, or anyone else who is knowledgeable about the way your school works. We also recommend that you find 2-3 other passionate students that you want to work with in leading STEAM at your organization.

Lastly, find an initial membership of at least ten people that are interested in STEAM events (probably your friends).

3. Fit

How will a STEAM group at your school be special? Does your school have the world’s biggest collection of taxidermied mammals? Is your adviser the foremost authority on the musical qualities of the number pi?

Think about how your school’s unique culture will influence how you move forward with STEAM. Then, you can draft your first mission statement! Take a look at the existing mission statements on our websites if you get stuck.

4. Money

In order to do things, you’re going to need some money. This money might pay for luminaries to come to your snazziest auditorium to share their wisdom or pizza to fuel weekend-long hackathons. We recommend that you raise about $1,000 for your first year, but you can probably get by with less if you’re smart about it.

5. Send!

– Read through catalogues and blogs
– Locate advisers (2), leaders (2-3), & members (10+)
– Locate funding (~$1,000)
– Draft a mission statement

When you are ready, send this info in any format (creativity recommended) to and one of our leaders will follow up with you. Have fun with it!

Read more


Made in 2016 with Montserrat by Julieta Ulanovsky, Open Sans by Steve Matteson, Hypertext Markup Language, Cascading Style Sheets, JQuery, Bootstrap, and p5.js for Processing.

Designed by Minsoo Thigpen and Kenji Endo, with Skye Ray and Matthew Lim

Built by Kenji Endo

Curated by Minsoo Thigpen

Hosted on with GitHub Pages

Say hello at!