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Mechatronic Art 2 – A Collaborative Installation at the Challenger Learning Center

Published May 15, 2016
MABanner

Fabrication by Daniel Rodriguez

The Florida State University’s Department of Art was recently ranked #1 in Florida no doubt due to the number of unique, groundbreaking tools and opportunities offered to its students. One of these opportunities is the Spring 2015 Mechatronic Art 2 class which connects art and engineering, two disciplines that regularly merge throughout history yet, just as often, yield great thinkers with contrasting ways of thinking.

The course is instructed by Assistant Professor Rob Duarte, whose work uses a combination of electromechanical systems and computer control to discuss the social and political aspects of technology, and Dr. Jonathan Clark, whose research in the STRIDE lab in the College of Engineering focuses on developing robots whose movements are influenced by the ways in which animals move.

A long time in the planning, the idea for the collaborative course came about when Carolyn Henne, Chair of the Department of Art, noticed that the two faculty members were each teaching courses that incorporated “mechatronics.”

Mechatronics is an engineering field that brings together multiple disciplines to design objects that involve mechanical parts, electronics, and software.

FSU Art students Daniel Rodriguez, Holly Weinrauch, Kathryn-kay Johnson and FSU Engineering students, Brian Roberts, Charlie Carbiener, Jason Brown, Robert Cook, Tyler Jonas, and Wei Gao, have come together to create a large mechatronic installation at the Tallahassee Challenger Learning Center.

The class began by acquainting the students from each area of study with the other discipline. This was done through weekly student presentations on key terms from their subject, short labs exploring basic concepts from either subject, and a small collaborative project pairing engineer with artist to get them used to working with one another.


Project one, “The Eggsecutioner”;
Robert Cook & Wei Gao (Engineering) and Kathryn-kay Johnson (Art)

After project one, the class took a trip to the Challenger Learning Center to speak to a representative and to get a feel for the space, then formed a think tank and begin the planning for the installation. In just three short months, the project has gone from several ideas, to a few disjointed ideas, to one cohesive concept that was then sketched out, modeled to-scale from cardboard, designed in CAD software, and pitched to the Challenger Learning Center. The team is now working on physical assembly, electronic development and aesthetic production.

The completed installation will be installed and will open at the Challenger Learning Center in May.