Asee peer logo

Turning STEM into STEAM

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Restructuring/Rethinking STEM

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1271.1 - 23.1271.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Chris Robinson University of South Carolina

visit author page

Chris Robinson is a University of South Carolina Professor of Art and member of the nanoCenter whose work mediates the complexity of contemporary science and technology and seeks cross-disciplinary relationships between art and science. He specializes in 3D imaging and installations with mediums ranging from laser light to experiential performance and was one if the early pioneers of the visual arts role in zero gravity and space exploration, training in the General Dynamics F-16 and NASA’s Zero Gravity aircraft, the Weightless Wonder. Robinson is a senior and co-principal investigator on over $3.5 Million of National Science Foundation funded research on the role of images in nanoscience/technology and has been active in exhibitions and scholarly activities throughout the North America, Europe and Asia.

visit author page


Sarah C. Baxter University of South Carolina

visit author page

Professor Baxter is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Carolina. She received her Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Turning STEM into STEAMMost Universities today recognize the importance of a comprehensive education that includesinterdisciplinary collaborations and study. However, true interdisciplinary collaborationsbetween Art and Engineering, turning the acronym for science technology, engineering and mathinto STEAM, with the A contributed by Art, are not very common. The motivation for suchcollaborations though, can be effectively justified by an increasing awareness of the powerfulrole that images play as a fundamental format for scientific communication; an awareness of howimages contribute to the development and popularization of science and engineering; and anawareness of how images help build scientific literacy.This paper will present the details of a proposed pilot class to be taught jointly by professorsfrom Mechanical Engineering and Studio Art. The overarching theme will be the similarities inthe creative thought processes that are common to both disciplines. The paper will includedescriptions of goal student outcomes and core topics and concepts from both disciplines. Inaddition, instructional strategies for two lectures will be outlined. The paper will also review thescholarly and popular literature concerning this type of collaboration. Further discussion willinclude identification of work that connects specific visual, or otherwise aesthetic examples, toengineering concepts and designs, and illustrates how much from the arts has significantlyinfluenced scientific thought and innovation.The development of the new course is informed by previous work. The most successfulclassroom collaborations between Art and Engineering have tended to come from engineering.Engineering classes have emphasized visual rotation skills and taught elementary drawingtechniques. Few engineering professors, however, have the background to include concepts thatare regularly presented in Foundation Courses in art; for example, learning to `see', learning howto make good and careful observations, understanding how the effect of composition, value andcolor enhance communication, and exploring the basis for intuitive insight, i.e., the gathering ofthe senses. Yet, these are all, manifestly, critical skills for design, invention and innovation andanalysis.In contrast, although there is a strong community of artists whose goals are the integration ofcontemporary science and technology into the arts, few art classes include overviews of scienceor engineering concepts. Although art students may not need specific formulas, learning howengineers think and understanding the iterative process of engineering design, test and re-design,could significantly enhance their educational experience.What is required is an interdisciplinary class where the objectives and outcomes are drawnequally and cooperatively from both engineering/math and the visual arts; and where the successof the class lies in how well it builds respect between the two groups and enhances theeducational experiences of both student groups. This paper will discuss such a course.

Robinson, C., & Baxter, S. C. (2013, June), Turning STEM into STEAM Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22656

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: © 2013 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