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Integration of Art and Engineering: Creating Connections between Engineering Curricula and an Art Museum's Collection

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Integration of Engineering and Other Disciplines (Including Liberal Arts)

Tagged Divisions

Multidisciplinary Engineering and Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.784.1 - 24.784.24



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Paper Authors


Katherine Hennessey Wikoff Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Katherine Wikoff is a Professor in the General Studies Department at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where she teaches a variety of humanities and social science courses including literature, film studies, political science, and communications. In addition to her teaching at MSOE, she consults and teaches technical communication courses on-site for industry professionals at companies like Harley-Davidson and Milwaukee Electric Tool. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1986, 1992) and her B.A. in political science from Wright State University (1981).

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Cynthia Wise Barnicki Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Cindy Barnicki is a professor in Mechanical Engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the Ohio State University. Cindy teaches courses in materials, manufacturing processes, and engineering design and is currently the program director for the Bachelor of Science in Engineering program. In addition to her teaching experience, she has industrial experience in quality management and production problem solving at Martin Marietta Energy Systems, and later GE Superabrasives. Cindy is active in assessment and accreditation activities at MSOE and has been exploring ways to include on-line education in her classes.

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James R. Kieselburg II Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Director and Curator, Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
Adjunct Professor, Visual Design, Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Integration of Art and Engineering: Creating Connections between Engineering Curricula and an Art Museum’s Collection ABSTRACTWithin STEM education, a movement called STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art,and Mathematics) has been gathering momentum over the past few years. At present, thepublished material in this area shows that most of the classroom practice and ongoing researchseems to focus on K-12 learning environments—and much of that, even, primarily on preschooland kindergarten children.This paper reviews the literature on STEAM education at the university level and describes aunique relationship that has developed between one university’s engineering curricula and thecollection of an art museum on its campus.The Museum and its collection have been utilized in a range of academic coursework. Allengineering students are required to take a freshman humanities seminar which includes aresearch paper on the Museum collection. Some students have gone on to participate in theMuseum’s docent training program. The collection has proven useful in courses dealing withergonomics studies, aesthetic interpretation, OSHA studies and manufacturing processes. Aspecial exhibit of bridge photographs was used as the starting point for research papers bygraduate students in civil engineering. Currently, the Museum Director is adjunct professor inthe Technical Communication program, teaching a course that engages engineering students invisual design and interpretation and culminates in a Museum exhibition of the student designwork created over the previous quarter.This paper also presents a case study in which a cohort of students engaged with the Museum’scollection during their freshman and junior years. In their freshman-level honors humanitiesseminar, students considered the concept of “The City” from a variety of perspectives (literary,philosophical, historical, and aesthetic). Art was a key component of this course. After learningbasic art concepts and terminology, students spent multiple class sessions in the Museumanalyzing the collection’s sculpture and paintings. Each student then produced an original workof art for inclusion in an exhibit focusing on “The City” that opened with a reception organizedby the class and ran for three weeks.In the junior-level manufacturing course for mechanical engineering students, the art collectionwas used as a starting point to investigate manufacturing processes or practices. The students,working in groups, or individually, selected a piece of artwork after going on a tour of thecollection and researched a particular process depicted in the artwork. The students presentedtheir work to the class on the history, and present day practices of their selected process. Datawas collected on the student response to the assignment.The authors of this paper—a mechanical engineering professor, a liberal arts professor, and anart museum director—bring truly multidisciplinary perspectives to the STEAM challenge ofcoherently integrating art and engineering education.

Wikoff, K. H., & Barnicki, C. W., & Kieselburg, J. R. (2014, June), Integration of Art and Engineering: Creating Connections between Engineering Curricula and an Art Museum's Collection Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20676

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015