Asee peer logo

Work in Progress: Multidisciplinary Learning between Engineering, Communication, and Fine Arts Majors through the Creation of Movie Special Effects

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Endeavors: Engineering and Liberal Arts

Tagged Divisions

Multidisciplinary Engineering and Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jason R. Harron University of Texas, Austin Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Jason Harron is a Ph.D. Candidate at The University of Texas at Austin. His research interests that focus on the intersection of creativity, technology, and learning. Jason's dissertation research explores how collaborative design-based tasks can facilitate the emergence of collective creativity. By fostering curiosity, play, and tinkering, his work seeks to develop a better understanding of how to support people as they develop agency, identity, and ownership throughout their life-long learning.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Over the past two decades, there has been an increased interest in using multidisciplinary learning as a means of addressing twenty-first century skills to remain globally competitive in the knowledge economy. These twenty-first century skills can be fostered through design-based learning (DBL), a pedagogical approach where knowledge and skills are developed through the construction of a design-based task. Recent movements towards multidisciplinary learning in higher education have called for the design process found science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to be blended with the artistic and creative process of the arts. Often referred to as STEAM or STEM + Art, this approach aims to pique student interest through opportunities to engage in creative thinking and artistic techniques while simultaneously exploring mathematics and scientific concepts. Due to the wide variety of disciplines that engage in design, DBL has a great deal of untapped potential as a pedagogical approach to address the calls for multidisciplinary learning between the arts and engineering. This study followed 23 undergraduate fine arts, communication, and engineering majors who worked in multidisciplinary teams to design, create, film, and edit practical movie special effects (i.e., a special effect produced physically without the use of computer-generated imagery.) Pedagogically framed as DBL, participants engaged in traditional fabrication, such as sculpting clay, casting/molding, metal working, vacuum forming plastics, and woodworking, as well as digital fabrication, including 3-D printing and laser-cutting, to bring their special effect to life. Participants were followed over a period of 14-weeks in multiple fabrication environments, including a theater design studio, fine arts makerspace, and engineering makerspace. Preliminary findings from this work-in-progress qualitative study found that this multidisciplinary project provided an outlet where both engineering and fine art majors could put theory into practice in a safe environment where the outcome did not have to be perfect. Working in multidisciplinary teams provided an opportunity for both engineers and fine art majors to gain an appreciation that both majors work hard but in different ways. The artists described how the experience humanized engineering, but gatekeeping did emerge when it came to engineers painting and making creative choices on the project. While the project did provide opportunities to exchange skills and knowledge between the majors, it also lead to some resentment from the artists about the abundance of resources provided to engineering majors by the campus. Based on these findings, instructors teaching a multidisciplinary courses should be aware of the existing stigmas, possibility for resentment from artists towards the resources available to engineering, and potential gatekeeping that may take place between the disciplines.

Harron, J. R. (2019, June), Work in Progress: Multidisciplinary Learning between Engineering, Communication, and Fine Arts Majors through the Creation of Movie Special Effects Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33640

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: © 2019 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