Bridging STEM to STEAM in the Academic Library


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A presentation at the science librarians orientation, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting 2013, Boston, MA:
the DeLaMare Science & Energy Library is actively working to dissolve traditional institutional boundaries in the library between the sciences, art, and engineering; transitioning from traditional STEM support, we’re building up STEAM in the library. This presentation offers rationale, along with a brief presentation of work being done to leverage the "unreasonable effectiveness" of recently introduced 3D printing and scanning services to meet needs of students and faculty across the sciences, engineering, and art.

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  • Bridging STEM to STEAM in the Academic Library –a presentation by TodColegrove, Ph.D., MSLIS/Head of DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library, University of Nevada, RenoScience Librarians Orientation, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, February 16, 2013-----------------------So…STEM == Science, Technology, Engineering, MathematicsA == ArtSTEAM == awesome.Image credit: remix of banner graphic retrieved from website, February 2012.
  • Rather than adhering to strictly STEM disciplines, possibilities open up when members from disparate fields overlap.“Half a mind is a terrible thing to waste” – reference to the two hemispheres of the brain: left, logical, analytical,… vs right, creative, design, imagination…
  • Is there _really_ a conflict between the creative and analytical aspects? Or is it merely an organizational convenience?
  • Indeed, the practice of isolating support and communities of STEAM disciplines in their respective “ivory towers” may be counterproductive.The cited references on this slide refer to studies of recipients of the Nobel prize; collectively, they were:25 X as likely as the average scientist to sing, dance, or act17 X as likely to be an artist12 X more likely to write poetry and literature…In a word, “polymath”. From Albert Einstein (accomplished violinist) and Steve Jobs, through Michelangelo (as much mathematician as he was artist), Leonardo da Vinci (painter, sculptor, artist + scientist, inventor, engineer…)and as far back as Aristotle or Pythagoras.
  • “The problem with scientists is…” xkcd comic underlines the dirty secret: far from being dispassionate and analytical, scientists and engineers are just as driven by passion and things like beauty and wonder – perhaps too much so. ;)
  • In the academic environment, the library has a unique opportunity on campus: as neutral ground, members from the sciences, engineering, and art can all overlap in its spaces. The intersection of those fields is where we need to be working – leveraging the common thread of beauty and wonder.
  • Working at that intersection, the library can become the ticket – a love story between “ART & SCIENCE”;Note that the story of this independent film caught my attention as the author wanted to see how far he could push the CCD camera he was working with – reference my background, using one of the earliest CCD cameras to do Astronomy. We even use the same tools!
  • Rather than reinforcing departmental silos/barriers, we can bridge the STEAM disciplines in the neutral ground of the library!To paraphrase, If not us, who? If not in the library, where?
  • The DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, has been actively re-imagining its spaces to enable such cross-disciplinary support.We started by creating ad-hoc collaboration areas throughout the library by painting entire walls with whiteboard paint.
  • A safe bet in the science & engineering library, as when working many of the problems encountered in those disciplines you can run out, but never have enough of, whiteboard space…On the up-side, the cost of whiteboards implemented this way was on the order of 1/4th the cost of purchasing whiteboards as standalone rolling whiteboards.
  • Plus: “there’s something just plain fun about an entire wall you can write on.”Leveraging the availability of promotional Ideapaint Home kits our supplier graciously made available, we held a whiteboard wall competition in the library.Tell me that exquisitely detailed depiction of a strand of DNA isn’t art…
  • The library also recently introduced 3D printing and scanning as a library service
  • Along with two printer “flavors”. Note the student on the rhs of the right image is an Art student – the depiction of the model on the screen at left is of the model “octocat”, a hybrid of an octopus and a cat, and is what the student was in the process of printing –they were just as interested as the science & engineering students!
  • But this presentation is _not_ about the 3D printers, or the services.
  • Introducing a few of the members of the library: Chris Bennet, a student of Computer Science & Engineering. Our first “3D Print & Image Wrangler”; on the left is pictured the pieces of a 3D printer that he is in the process of building – by printing the pieces out on the library’s printer. On the right he is pictured taking part in a library outreach event, the “Bill Nye Science Fair” – essentially a maker faire sponsored by the library and featuring at least twelve separate student organizations; including the engineering fraternity Theta Tau. Yes, that is a trebuchet that the group built for the event, about to launch a water bottle across the lawn…
  • Ben King, faculty member from the Chemistry department: “one of the very hard things about teaching chemistry is explaining that molecules have shape. This basically removes that obstacle ... so it will change how we teach chemistry and how we look at molecules on a daily basis. It's also just plain fun.”One is struck by the beauty of the chemical models – indeed, the model he’s holding in his hand is of a “Buckyball”, named after Buckminster Fuller who won the Nobel prize in 1996 for its conception.The ability to print extended objects out and handle them is enabling new levels of research and creative effort possible; story about the molecule on left: researcher who had been working in the lab and on the 2-D screen for years with the molecule, a subject of his research. On printing/handling he realized within 30 seconds the route he had been going down couldn’t work – but had a completely different angle of approach that had been inspired by his handling of the model.
  • Fun? Inspired? Introducing one of the best and brightest of the library membership: a student dual-majoring not only in Mechanical Engineering, but in sculpture. Pictured: his FaceBook profile picture, inset on top of one of many jobs he’s printed.
  • PavelSolin, faculty member of applied mathematics, has created an online STEM resource available for free to educators around the globe: include the 3D modeling software PyPlasm; shown in the inset creating the model of the Tower of Pisa.Note: the model created stands up straight. A student decided to make it lean by adding a glob of modeler’s clay underneath the model. ;)
  • Nick Crowl, recent graduate of the school of social work at UNR. His art form is photography: a passion actively nourished and supported in the library.For fun he created a 3D model of the iconic Mackay statue by Gutson Borglum, featured prominently in front of the DeLaMare Library; created using 123D Catch, then cleaned up using the open source software Blender.
  • These are some of Nick’s photographs. From top clockwise: a “witch” prop hand, created by a student using the free modelling software SketchUp/printed on the Stratasys 3D printer/assembled & attached to a cotton archivist glove with duct tape/dipped the whole assembly multiple times in latex; case for a Raspberry Pi microcontroller, printed by a student to hold the microcontroller he’s playing with; sample holders that fit various test tubes and erlenmeyer flasks, custom work in support of environmental engineering; an “organic” cube of math artwork – the structure is defined completely by mathematical formalism.Keep your eve on the goal: creative abrasion. Actively look for opportunities to create it in your library.
  • Intuition, design, emotion, art – all integral parts of the practice of STEM disciplines. They go together!
  • Some of the tools in use by the library to encourage creative abrasion between disciplines include programmable wirelessquadricopters, LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits, button makers… even a lockpicking toolkit.
  • “The School of Athens” by renaissance artist Raphael. Note the absence of books in what may be a depiction of the Great Library at Alexandria (scrolls were housed in the Mouseion at the Great Library) – with a representation of Hypatia, keeper of the Great Library of Alexandria, in the foreground, lower left.(Hypatia was also mathematician, astronomer, physicist, head of the Neoplatonic school of philosophy, …)Also depicted are Socrates, Plato, Pythagorus, … an accumulation of the best and brightest across centuries.Then and now, the library can and should be “a delivery room for the birth of ideas” (Norman Cousins); renaissance!
  • Bridging STEM to STEAM in the Academic Library

    1. 1. Bridgingtoin the Academic Library. Presentation by Tod Colegrove, Ph.D., MSLIS Head of DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library, University of Nevada, Reno Science Librarians Orientation American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting, Boston, MA February 16, 2013
    2. 2. It’s Image credit: retrieved 2/2013 from; remix of artwork on previous slide
    3. 3. Is there a disconnect? Image credit: retrieved 2/2013 from
    4. 4. A Recent Study of Nobel Laureates1,2Found They Are:• twenty-five times as likely as average scientist to sing, dance, or act;• seventeen times as likely to be an artist;• twelve times more likely to write poetry and literature;• eight times more likely to do woodworking or some other craft;• four times as likely to be a musician;• and twice as likely to be a photographer.Many connect their art with their scientific creativity. 1The Art of Scientific and Technological Innovations, retrieved 2/15/2013 from 2Arts Foster Scientific Success – Psychology Today, retrieved 2/15/2013 from
    5. 5. As seen through the xkcd lens: Retrieved 2/2013 from
    6. 6. work at the intersection. Image credit: retrieved 2/2013 from
    7. 7. the library can become Image credit: retrieved 2/2013 from
    8. 8. Bridge!Silos Image credit: retrieved 2/2013 from
    9. 9. We started by painting the walls: whiteboard paint: Photo by Tod Colegrove:
    10. 10. Photo by Tod Colegrove:
    11. 11. Even a whiteboard wall contest:
    12. 12. Added 3D printing/scanning supports rapid prototyping extrusion method ABS plastic + PLA support materials Lye bath to remove support material once completePhoto by Nick Crowl: Right 2 Photos by Will Kurt
    13. 13. with two printer “flavors”:Stratasys uPrint SE plus: July 2012 arrival3DTouch: May 2012 arrival Photos by Nick Crowl:
    14. 14. but it’s not about the 3D printer.introducing a few of our members…
    15. 15. Chris, computer science + engineering“I like the networking portion and getting people from other backgroundstogether. You get your average engineering types, but it’s also nice to see thebiologists and the artists coming in here. It allows us to break out of the boxand cross-pollinate in ways we normally can’t.”
    16. 16. Ben King, faculty: chemistry “one of the very hard things about teaching chemistry is explaining that molecules have shape. This basically removes that obstacle ... so it will change how we teach chemistry and how we look at molecules on a daily basis. Its also just plain fun."Photo by Tod Colegrove: Photo of King by Jason Hildago from Engadget:
    17. 17. Doug, engineering + art major
    18. 18. Pavel Solin, faculty: applied mathematics Online STEM lab: from: PLaSM
    19. 19. Nick, social work + photographerPhoto by Nick Crowl:
    20. 20. Creative abrasion. STEAM. Photos by Nick Crowl:
    21. 21. What’s happening in the library: Image credit: retrieved 2/2013 from
    22. 22. Added Lego mindstorm kits, arduino kits, AR drones, button maker, Makey makey kits, etc.Photos by Nick Crowl:
    23. 23. a hotbed of knowledge creation. Depiction of the Great Library of Alexandria by Raphael. Retrieved from: