GoSTEAM at Georgia Tech Hosts First STEAM Innovation Workshop

Middle and High School Students Participated in Arts-Integrated Technology and Engineering Activities on Campus

At the Margaret Guthman New Musical Instrument Competition held on March 9, 2019, innovators in music technology showcased their original musical instruments in front of a captivated audience. The audience included a group of students who were inspired by the opportunity to see what the future of musical instruments may look like.

Earlier in the day, those students were among a group of 80 middle and high school students who participated in the STEAM Innovation Workshop. The workshop was aimed at inspiring students to expand their creativity and integrate their science, technology, and engineering skills with the arts.

Students from Gwinnett County, Clayton County, and Atlanta Public Schools came to the Georgia Tech campus to participate in the workshop. The event, hosted by the Georgia Tech GoSTEAM* program, provided students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) activities — and to learn about the innovative work that community professionals and Georgia Tech faculty are conducting in the fields of STEAM.

GoSTEAM works to create curricular and extracurricular programs that focus on the fields of computer science, engineering, invention, and entrepreneurship while integrating the arts in authentic and compelling ways that promote positive STEAM identity. The STEAM Innovation Workshop was designed with these goals in mind.

Based on their expressed interest, students were assigned to one of the three sessions focused on specific subjects: computer science and music technology, paper mechatronics, or engineering and robotics. Students worked in small groups and were asked to use design and creative thinking to address particular challenges.

Students learned to code through an online music mixing platform called EarSketch in a computer science session led by Doug Edwards and Sabrina Grossman, Research Associate and Program Director at the Georgia Tech Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics & Computing (CEISMC), respectively. Students were challenged to use EarSketch to compose their own “signature songs” that included special transitions and effects.

In a paper mechatronics session led by Dr. HyunJoo Oh, assistant professor in the College of Design at Georgia Tech, students combined mechanical movement with art. They were asked to interpret and create something with a circular motion constructed with cardboard, paper, and circuits. This challenge yielded creative results, such as one group’s artistic interpretation of fish bobbing through ocean waves.

Students were tasked with designing robots using Hummingbird Kits in an engineering and robotics session led by CEISMC Associate Director Dr. Tamara Pearson and certified robotics trainer Gail Tate from AVez Select. Students coded and designed robots such as unique characters with blinking eyes and rotating bodies.

In addition, two guest speakers spoke to the workshop attendees over the course of the day. The first was Terrence Graham, an undergraduate student from the School of Music at Georgia Tech. Graham spoke to students about opportunities and careers in music technology.

Later on, students were treated to a visit from Pamela Z, a musician who also served as a judge at the Guthman Competition. Z showed students some of her music techniques. She also taught them about sound waves, frequency, and amplitude and conducted a “human synthesizer” exercise with the group to demonstrate those concepts.

At the end of the workshop, students presented their designs to the entire group.

“It was very rewarding to see the students’ level of engagement and enjoyment in the hands-on activities, as well as their pride when presenting their own designs. And having the opportunity to do so at the Georgia Tech campus was definitely an experience they will always remember,” said GoSTEAM Program Director Analia Rao.

After the workshop, students who attended the Guthman Competition made valuable connections between their work in the STEAM sessions and the work created by innovative musicians and artists whom they saw on stage. Many of the instruments at the competition required knowledge of coding and robotics to produce music.

Lizanne DeStefano, CEISMC Executive Director and GoSTEAM Principal Investigator, spoke at the Guthman Competition about the importance of STEAM education.

“STEAM is … a way of integrating arts into design, and inquiry, and innovation — it’s something that we’re very passionate about here at Georgia Tech,” DeStefano said. “For the next five years, we are going to be thinking about ways to integrate arts into middle and high school students’ experiences and get them to think about how design and creativity can be a part of their everyday life.”

The students were captivated by the talent and creativity displayed at the competition, which certainly was a fitting conclusion to a full day of exciting STEAM learning for these young scholars.

*The GoSTEAM Program is a 5-year partnership between the Georgia Institute of Technology and schools in the metro-Atlanta area to create model STEAM preK-12 programs that focus on Computer Science and Engineering and that incorporate the arts (including Fine Arts, Media Arts, Theater Arts, and Music) in authentic and compelling ways that promote positive STEAM identity.

By Rosemary Pitrone – CEISMC Communications 

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