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Promoting An Interest In Engineering Through Art

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Exemplary Outreach Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1001.1 - 15.1001.11

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Paper Authors

author page

Craig Gunn Michigan State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Promoting an Interest in Engineering Through Art


The project presented in this paper is designed to draw connections between engineering and the creative arts, especially for high school students in 9th through 12th grades. The idea is supported by the literature of the time that states that the current generation of students both in high school and college are no longer looking simply for a technical education. They are looking to pursue engineering with an ever increasing focus on creativity and the liberal arts. A number of years ago an abstract for a paper espousing the use of liberal experiences to further engineering studies began with “Variety's the spice of life that gives it its flavor." These lines in "The Task, I" by William Cowper (English poet 1731-1800) reflect an attitude that must he fostered in the minds of engineers. No man is an island, and no field of study can divorce itself from the activities, interests. and positive reinforcement of divergent areas of instruction. Many activities in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University have been pursued to foster liberal activities within engineering from poetry writing to novel production. It was thought and has been shown to have a positive effect upon the students and their studies from freshmen through graduate students. When carrying on casual conversations with these engineering students, especially when their guard is down, one can discover a wealth of information about their technical interests and abilities; but one can also learn about their interests in wider ranging fields such as art, music, and literature. In these more comfortable times, the ties to acting in plays, writing poetry, and creating works of art is evidenced. With these conversations, an idea was born in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University to utilize these interests to help engineering students move through their education. A variety of activities involving poetry and novel writing, musical composition, and art projects were investigated. These projects were highly successful with the undergraduates, providing many with both relaxation and actual valuable interest in better text production. While these were good activities, there was a concern that we were only making contact with the students already in the College of Engineering and not addressing their counterparts in high school, students good in math and science, possibly aiming toward engineering, but possibly more interested in the arts. The immediate thought involved capturing the attention of the high school students through art and not directly through math and science.

This paper describes a novel approach that involves students in two local high schools being introduced to engineering, especially automotive engines and energy, through their own efforts to create personal impressions of technical areas. The students worked through a semester art class, producing a wide range of paintings depicting their impressions. Their reactions to the experience, a survey given to undergraduate and graduate students on their assessment of pursuing humanities oriented areas in engineering will be presented, along with educational literature aimed at the furtherance of engineering and arts and letters collaboration.

Gunn, C. (2010, June), Promoting An Interest In Engineering Through Art Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky.

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