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Enhancing Innovation in STEM by Exploring Aesthetics

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This presentation was presented at the 2nd Annual Bridging the Gap STEM Conference in Raleigh, NC. Discover how K-16 STEM curricula should readily embrace aesthetics as a core component of their pedagogy. By doing so, it opens a new world of creativity and innovation for STEM inquiry. We present a compelling argument for pulling aesthetics out of art education curricula to be placed right at the center of STEM education. This session was hands-on, allowing attendees to participate in learning concepts through an interactive educational game called SHAPE.

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Enhancing Innovation in STEM by Exploring Aesthetics

  1. 1. 2nd Annual Bridging the Gap STEM Conference Enhancing Innovation in STEM by Exploring Aesthetics Derek A. Ham PhD. Candidate Design Computation Group MIT School of Architecture & Planning Dissertation Committee: George Stiny (advisor), Edith Ackerman, Eric Klopfer
  2. 2. aes·thet·ics
  3. 3. There is a historic divide between STEM and the Arts: Between Engineering and Architecture • Engineers and STEM professionals believe aesthetic decisions are subjective and have no rational footing. • Architects, Artist and those dealing with aesthetics often believe methods that involve calculation are rigid and conforming
  4. 4. Why Aesthetics Rolfe Faste, Stanford professor in mechanical engineering, points out two distinct reasons for engineers to consider aesthetics: • It is vital for the creation of successful products • It is a key component to being creative Vitruvius might suggest aesthetics are the missing part of the STEM puzzle.
  5. 5. Delight Firmness Commodity
  6. 6. Materiality Utility
  7. 7. Aesthetics Materiality Utility
  8. 8. We recognize that there are many ways to be creative but… What do we mean by “aesthetic creativity?”
  9. 9. There are several myths around aesthetics • Aesthetic ideas originate in the head of the individual. • The creative process can not be quantified • Copying is a form of cheating in truly creative endeavors • Aesthetically creative people get it “right” the first time Beauty is Copied not “Created”
  10. 10. “It has often been said that a person doesn’t really understand something until he teaches it to someone else. Actually a person doesn’t really understand something until he can teach it to a computer, i.e., express it as an algorithm…The attempt to formalize things as algorithms leads to a much deeper understanding than if we simply try to understand things in the traditional way.” D. Knuth, “Computer Science and Mathematics,” American Scientist, 61,6 (1972), 709.
  11. 11. How do we approach aesthetics? Calculating With SHAPES
  12. 12. Shapes
  13. 13. There are several myths around “calculation.” • Calculation methods only deal with numerical variable systems • Calculation methods only work in fixed variable systems • Calculation methods are only suitable to find quantitative information and single “right” answers • Calculation methods are slow and cumbersome • Calculation methods are counterintuitive to what comes naturally
  14. 14. Calculating with Shapes Identify Variables > Perform a Function > Note Results > Repeat 1 Rules Process Numbers Functions Computation Example [1,2,3…] [ +,-,x, ] [ 1+2=3] Shapes SHAPES 3 Variables MATH 2 Rules Computation Example
  15. 15. Shape Grammars x t(x) x t(x) x x t(x) t(x) x t(x)
  16. 16. X
  17. 17. Starting point: base shape x
  18. 18. Introduce shape copy
  19. 19. x x
  20. 20. Embed shape copy x x
  21. 21. x x + t(x)
  22. 22. Design Move: Translation x x + t(x)
  23. 23. Introduce shape copy
  24. 24. x x
  25. 25. Embed shape copy x x
  26. 26. x x + t(x)
  27. 27. Design Move: Rotation x x + t(x)
  28. 28. Design Move: Rotation x x + t(x)
  29. 29. Design Move: Rotation x x + t(x)
  30. 30. Introduce shape copy
  31. 31. x x
  32. 32. Embed shape copy x x
  33. 33. x x + t(x)
  34. 34. Design Move: Reflection x x + t(x)
  35. 35. Design Move: Reflection x x + t(x)
  36. 36. Design Observation: Seeing
  37. 37. x prt(x)
  38. 38. Emergence: Identifying Embedded Shape x prt(x)
  39. 39. Emergence: Identifying Embedded Shape x prt(x)
  40. 40. Emergence: Identifying Embedded Shape x prt(x)
  41. 41. prt(x) x
  42. 42. Emergence: Identifying Embedded Shape x prt(x) y
  43. 43. Design Move: Translation y y + t(y)
  44. 44. x x + t(x)
  45. 45. Design Move: Translation y y + t(y)
  46. 46. George Stiny, 2001
  47. 47. combinatorial embedding
  48. 48. Abstract systems of notation are helpful but are not necessary to calculate.. This broadens our understanding.
  49. 49. Going Beyond Combinatorial
  50. 50. Calculation and Play Relationship play calculation play calculation
  51. 51. composition = calculation
  52. 52. We calculate all the time often without formal documentation; in fact there are.. Multiple Forms of Calculation
  53. 53. “One might go so far as to define a human intelligence as a neural mechanism or computational system which is genetically programmed to be activated or “triggered” by certain kinds of internally or externally presented information.” Howard Gardner
  54. 54. “It’s all a form of play.” Composition Creation Process Perform Action Sensory Feedback Cognitive Decision Visual Calculation involves: • Flexible Vision(identifying constant changing variables or units) • Rule Processing (creating and following algorithmic rules) • Emergence (discovering and generating embedded variables) • Recursion (parametric rule application) • Copying
  55. 55. Science Technology Engineering and Math can be accompanied by the Aesthetics to… Innovate STEM Education
  56. 56. How do we teach aesthetics through calculation? • Teach students to analyze aesthetics through revers engineering. Students must learn to create algorithms that are descriptive of things that already exist. • Students must learn to play with the creation of 2D and 3D compositions through the method of following steps and rules described by an algorithmic process. • Students must build a physical and mental library of “aesthetic design moves.”
  57. 57. How do develop aesthetic sensibility? • Aesthetic sensibility comes from our experiences. • A formal description and method of documentation of these experiences helps us learn from them. • The more clear and legible our analysis of our experiences the more we can see connections and develop new ideas. • In developing visual aesthetics, shape grammars provide the most systematic and specific method for defining visual ideas. • Visual ideas can lead to ideas for improving materiality and utility
  58. 58. STEM COMPUTATION ARTS
  59. 59. Final Takeaways • Look for aesthetic components in your STEM inquiry • Use a computational process to work through the aesthetic components of your STEM inquiry • Encourage both analysis and synthesis in STEM education
  60. 60. “There is something awfully computational about play and something very playful about computation.” Derek A. Ham
  61. 61. 2nd Annual Bridging the Gap STEM Conference Thank You Derek A. Ham PhD. Candidate Design Computation Group MIT School of Architecture & Planning www.derekham.com

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