The relationship between STEM and the arts

Both artists and scientists are driven to observe and create. This is shown through the historical coexistence of science and art. The successful integration of art and science was prominent during the Renaissance era. Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, engineer, botanist, and scientist. Before cameras, detailed sketches of plants, human anatomy, and stars were a method of communicating their observations with the world. 

When people of different specialties are able to work and learn from each other, collaboration succeeds. Whether it’s using scientific data to create art or using art as a tool to help make sense of STEM questions, the idea of integrating art and STEM is still just as relevant today. 

Examples of careers in STEAM

Architecture has a deep connection to art by connecting graphics and drawings to engineering.

Medical illustrators connect medicine, science, communication and media technology by creating detailed drawings for textbooks and other publications used by those in the medical field.

Sound Engineering includes using the technical side of recording by editing, mixing, and mastering a recording or live performance combined with the creativity of music.

Every career and discipline in art and STEM overlap with one another. This is why teaching through STEAM is essential.


Notes from Dr. Shawn Rowe’s seminar

On February 25th, I attended an HMSC Research Seminar led by Dr. Shawn Rowe. The seminar covered public science communication in a virtual world. Dr. Rowe did an excellent job explaining various tools that educators can use in their transition from face-to-face learning to a virtual classroom. Here’s what I learned:

In general, science communication and teaching have a trend of decontextualization. What makes it even more difficult is when the teaching isn’t being done face-to-face. This is dangerous because it makes science and technology difficult to use in the world, and seen as unrelatable and unachievable. 

What works in the traditional face-to-face classroom?

People orienting going from their own world to yours. For example, the setup of a science lab classroom gives students contextualization of real-life applications of what’s being taught. The arrangement of furniture in a traditional classroom serves as a resource for focusing and making sense of the content. It creates an artificial world for focusing and learning something which is heavily relied upon.

What isn’t working in virtual teaching?

Virtual teaching leaves room for much more decontextualization in education. It’s a challenge for students to remember only what they hear or see on a screen when compared to objects they can touch or feel in a lesson. Auditory stimulation does not lead to students remembering a topic as opposed to reading, touching, seeing, or writing something. 

What can we do to become successful presenters?

Use stories and storytelling, it is a very good human characteristic. It leads students to create meaning and make a connection. When you have a template ready for what you are going to teach, less is more. For example, use one big idea related to the moral of the story, two to three supporting ideas, and accessible visual evidence. Another resource that can be used is a concept map. A content map includes the main idea, what’s important about it, and helps students figure out how different ideas can relate to each other. A concept map prevents you from going down a rabbit hole.

It’s important to note that experts interact with and make sense from visualizations of data differently than non-experts. You need to learn how to teach without sounding like you are talking down to students. A way to support this is by incorporating activities that are hands-on, problem-solving, and open-ended. Along with data visualization, you need to use culturally relevant colors and images. Tables and graphs can’t stand on their own, they need to be recontextualized with images and guides. 

The public needs to have trust in you to be able to listen to you. You need to be talking for yourself and not from an organization. For example, when on Zoom you don’t want to have a company background. They need to know that you are a trustworthy storyteller. They need the perception that the story is being authentic to themselves, have integrity, and the perception that the data and tools presented in the story are authentic.

Overall, teaching is not only about giving information. It’s about interpretation. Interpretation gets the audience excited and curious about something they want to learn more about, which leads to provocation and inspiration.

You can find more information about Dr. Shawn Rowe at the link below:


An interview with Cyra Sadowl

Cyra Sadowl began her career in education as a school teacher, then later went on to become a school librarian. Realizing that there was a big challenge in the parameters of formal education, she was ready for a meaningful change. That mixed with her having a passion for guiding students toward the resources they need to find their paths in life led her to meet somebody who was developing a nonprofit based in aerospace education. They teamed up and formed the nonprofit VECTORS.

VECTORS was acquired by Airway Science for Kids in 2020. Sadowl currently works as the education director for Airway Science for Kids. There she works with multi-age education, integrated and differentiated learning, and project-based program development. Sadowl also goes into the classrooms at Airway Science for Kids and teaches some of their fifth-grade students. 

I really enjoyed having a conversation with her, learning more about what she does, and talking about the importance of STEAM education. A piece of advice she had for anybody going into the education field is to not forget your purpose. Teaching can be a hard thankless job, and it’s easy to get sidetracked in day-to-day activities. It’s always important to constantly remember that you are working to benefit the lives of children and do not work too hard about the wrong things. A way she recommended to combat this is to find your people and support network and develop a connection with them.

There are many underrepresented students who aren’t aware of what all of their options are for a career. Sadowl brought up how one of the biggest missions in her career is to help kids figure out what they’re interested in by letting them explore all of the options that are out there. She is successful in this. and it is shown by all of the work she has done in the classroom and beyond.


Airway Science for Kids

Bob Strickland, a retired Air Force veteran, founded Airway Science for Kids in 1992 to teach at-risk boys and girls to fly airplanes via computer simulator in his garage. By teaching them how to fly and develop airplanes, Strickland was able to have the students learning math and science, reading, and study skills. Airway Science for Kids is currently a nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon. The areas of focus of Airway Science for Kids are Space, Science/Aerospace/Rocketry, Robotics, Invention Education, General Science, and Technology. They are able to teach these through their four levels of programs offered. 

All of the programs at Airway Science for Kids involve teaching critical thinking, problem solving, and creative and collaborative skills. Their main mission is to serve those who have been historically and systemically excluded in STEM fields of aviation. By engaging youth of color and youth who are living on low-incomes through their programs, they are working on closing the opportunity gap for under-served children.

Take Flight is their elementary school level program. Currently, instructors are meeting virtually with fifth-grade classes and teaching science curriculum through 6 project-based modules.

InFlight is their middle school level program. This involves an afterschool program that teaches STEAM topics through flight simulators, the Kerbal space program, robotics, drones, and model plane flying.

TeenFlight is their high school level program. In this program, they collaborate to build a VANS RV-12 airplane. Afterward, they get to fly it. TeenFlight teaches students base knowledge that gets them ready for a career, such as learning how to read diagrams and learning the electronics side of aviation.

Lastly, there is a program made for anybody aged 14-21 who is behind in credits or struggling with school formats. 

You can find more information regarding Airway Science for Kids at their website.


Troubleshooting an audio error with the Optron Mini

Upon receiving my Optron Mini, I went to the My Optron YouTube channel. There, I was able to find videos of the Optron Mini in use to follow along with. The “Optron Mini App, Getting Started” video helped me set up the instrument, and following along with the “Optron Mini DPAK Session #1” video helped me realize what to do to begin making sounds.

Next, I clicked the “Make Sounds” button under the “Optron Basic Tutorials” menu. In this window, I was able to make my first sound.

I encountered a challenge when I tried to make sounds under any other of the tutorials. Every time I went to click the volume button under one of the tutorials, I would get this error:

I was able to solve this by going into the audio status window under the options tab. There were no input or output locations present, so I selected the ones on my computer.

Afterward, I was able to go on to explore and make sounds with the other tutorials.


Dr. Chet Udell and The Optron

Dr. Chet Udell is an assistant professor at Oregon State University. Udell involves himself in the college of Biological and Ecological engineering. After getting his Ph.D. in musical composition and electrical engineering at the University of Florida, he went on to teach at the University of Oregon and then Oregon State University. Currently, he directs the Openly Published Environmental Sensing Lab (OPEnS) at Oregon State University. The purpose of the lab is to develop environmental sensing projects and conduct research.

Dr. Chet Udell was also involved with the SpiderHarp, an experimental instrument designed to replicate an orb spider’s web on a large scale. More recently Udell created the Optron, a light-based electronic music controller and visualizer. The Optron lies between art and science, and between a lightsaber and a guitar. By being able to be controlled by light, position, and color, it can be a great tool for use in STEAM education. A tool like this allows users to think creatively while gaining an interest in science and technology. The Optron won Udell an award for best performance at the 2017 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition.

So far, I have received an Optron Mini and downloaded the Max software required to use it. I had a few issues with connecting the Optron mini to my computer when updating the Max software. I’m really looking forward to learning how to use the Optron and using the tool for STEAM education.


An introduction to the Tello drone

According to Ryze Robotics, the Tello drone is an easy-to-use lightweight drone that can perform eight different flips, fly up and down, and record short videos. You can control the Tello drone using the Tello app or with a supported Bluetooth device. I found it interesting how you can even use a virtual reality headset with the drone while flying it. 

Tello drones are also a great tool for education. There is an ability to practice programming the drone and its accessories through Scratch. Scratch is a block-based programming language developed by MIT. Its main purpose is to serve as an educational tool to teach users how to build fundamental logic skills that are essential for coding. This is done by teaching users how to think creatively and work collaboratively. However, the Tello drone is not only for beginner coders. There is also an option for advanced users to develop software applications for the Tello. You can buy the Tello drone on the DJI store website.

I think that the Tello drone is a great tool for STEAM education. It adds a real-life addition to practicing programming. By having a physical object that you can affect by coding, the experience is much more memorable and impactful.