Art Puts The “A” in STEM!



STEM, the educational buzz word, is getting a face lift!  Educators, over recent years, have been shaping curriculum to focus more on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).  Fallen by the wayside is the classic art class.  Many primary schools have even eliminated Art from their curriculum to save money…how unfortunate.

However, don’t fret, Art is making a new resurgence and the impact is changing STEM into STEAM!  STEAM is the new, new buzzword within educational circles.  Educators are starting to take notice of the importance of Art in their STEM curriculum.  A recent study from Michigan State University noted that Nobel Prize winning scientist were almost three times as likely to participate in an art hobby than the general scientific community.  Hence, the realization of Art class importance is driving a resurgence of art programs within education curriculums and makes for a nice new acronym!

Art is where the amalgamation of STEM can provide student motivation and synthesize the STEM curriculum.  I, as a 7th Grade kid, did not care much for Art class.  However, after suffering through the color wheel and butchering assignment after assignment, the one project in which I excelled and enjoyed the most was a string art project.  String art requires math calculations for nail placement.  The combination of the two curriculums captivated me and it was one of the few art projects in which I made an A.  I was motivated and eager to finish the project to see the fruition of my efforts.  I loved math and the combination of the two curriculums not only taught me art, but also taught me structured subject such as math, with all its disciplined rules, could also be used with a soft creative subject matter (not many rules) like art.

Hence, Art teachers within the STEM curriculum are uniquely positioned to capitalize on 3D printers.  Many patterns and geometric shapes used in art require math to create.  For example, to design a Icosaheadron (twenty sided polyhedron) requires the geometric knowledge to construct one.  The 3D printed object could easily be used within or as, an art project.  Also, this simple art project not only covers Math and Art, it would require a bit of engineering to understand how to draw the object so that the 3D printer could produce the best possible representation of it.

Another artistic yet extremely in-depth project can be seen on Thingiverse, the Gimbal Spinner Desk Toy.  Though named, a “Toy,” this project is a work of art requiring math and engineering skills to create.  Even though this project would be difficult even for high school students, it could be easily scaled down to a cube or tetrahedron.

Altogether, STEAM and 3D printers are a great fit.  3D printers bring ideas into being and provide motivation.  Imagine how bored I would have been had I only drawn the string art design on paper rather than taking home a board, nails, and string, which Mom and Dad hung on the wall?


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