Today, STEAM is a new initiative that incorporates the arts and design with the sciences; STEM and Art = STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics) (Angier, 2010). In the twenty-first century the public debate about innovation has focused increasingly on the role of art and design disciplines as important sources of creativity and a new term has been forged to designate the broadened definition of the foundational fields (Cantrell, 2015).To transition from STEM education to STEAM education, interdisciplinary collaboration began between the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the college of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at a large urban institution.
While creativity is most often associated with the arts, it is essential for innovative discoveries and applications in science and engineering (Costantinio, Kellam, Cramond and Crowder , 2010). In this article, a pilot study is presented about how art inquiry and engineering design can be used together to solve a wicked problem. Simply put, wicked problems are slippery to define, difficult to resolve, and involve complex webs of stakeholders and issues (Calmillus, 2008) . In this pilot undergraduate honors course, students representing multiple disciplines work together to explore bee colony collapse disorder. While humans are reliant on bees for pollinating essential food crops the worldwide emergence of colony collapse disorder threatens the vitality of the honeybee population. Students used multiple approaches to inquiry to research this particular “wicked problem” of our time. The course incorporates documentary film, fiction, arts based inquiry, scientific research, and multiple modes of reflection to design creative solutions to complex problems. Introducing students to hybrid works of art helps them to understand artistic/creative practices, utilize design thinking, and incorporate aesthetic inquiry. Examining how artists interweave art, science, technology, and math in imaginative artworks that blur boundaries between art, design, and STEM disciplines develops "thinking dispositions that are valued both within and beyond the arts" (Hetland, Winner, Veenema, & Sheridan, 2007).
In this paper we discuss how an art educator and engineering professor worked together to design and teach an undergraduate Honors course to students studying multiple majors at the University of Cincinnati. We discuss our planning process, present our course syllabus, discuss challenges encountered and reflect upon outcomes for our students. We explain how the course enhances interdisciplinary collaboration, fosters deep discussion, and investigates the links that connect artistic and scientific disciplines. We believe that with the intentional integration of engineering and art, students will gain experience in a variety of modes of inquiry that will develop creative research approaches, problem solving skills, and innovative habits of the mind that will serve them in their respective disciplines well beyond the scope of the class.
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