Tech’s new institute fosters creativity among local youth
BLACKSBURG – Scheduled to open in 2013, the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech will house one of the school’s newest research institutes, the Institute for Creativity, Arts & Technology, or ICAT.
Created last year, ICAT specializes in research at the boundary between science and art, ICAT Director Dr. Ben Knapp said.
That boundary allows both artisans and engineers to work together to create a functional product that not only works correctly, but one that works with its user.
Take the iPhone, for instance. Knapp believes Apple’s success can be attributed to this idea. No one would buy Apple products if they weren’t functional and looked “cool,” Knapp said.
“When you design something, you need the artisans who decide what that something is going to look like and how you interact with it and you need the engineers and scientists to figure out how it functions,” Knapp said. “That’s the only way a product goes out the door.”
Recently, ICAT held a workshop for students interested in combining both the arts and sciences. There are several types of these workshops, sometimes called fairs, around the United States.
The MAKEr Workshop was free and open to the first 30 seventh- through 12th-graders who signed up. Within 72 hours of opening sign-ups, the workshop was full, Knapp said.
At the workshop, students worked alongside five ICAT faculty members, three graduate students and an undergraduate student to create musical instruments. Using computer software, students turned cardboard, trash can lids, buckets and other household items into working musical instruments.
In addition to the creation of musical instruments, Knapp hopes the workshop encouraged a creative environment where students could learn how to better brainstorm their ideas from beginning to end.
“The idea of making is to make stuff with your hands, to create,” Knapp said. “The great thing we’ve done is emphasize science, technology, engineering and math, but in that we also have to make sure to mention the arts and integrate all of these things together.”
Perhaps two of the most recognizable “makers” are Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. Savage and Hyneman star on Discovery Channel’s show “Mythbusters,” designed around the concept of making experiments to prove, or disprove, popular urban legends.
Knapp said Savage began making as a child when he built a spaceship out of cardboard beneath the stairs in his home. It’s that same type of ingenuity and creative that Knapp hoped to instill in students at the workshop.
Tiger Sun, an eighth grader at Blacksburg Middle School attended the workshop and said it was unlike any other he’s been to before.
“This is the first camp I’ve been to like this,” Sun said. “This camp uses both technology and music together and most camps do one or the other.”
“A lot of time is spent talking about brainstorming and how to come up with an idea,” Knapp said.
“We’re just trying to get everyone really comfortable with brainstorming.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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