STEAM/EWB Partnership and the Northeast Regional Conference

Over the summer, BU STEAM partnered with the Boston University chapter of Engineers Without Borders to help them develop educational materials for their travels to their community in Naluja, Zambia to implement new technologies. We ended up creating a flyer about fly contamination which communicated the importance of good sanitation practices: flycontaminationflyer

Heading into the Fall semester, EWB created an Education Team, a subgroup solely dedicated to creating educational materials that would help ensure the sustainability of their new technologies in Naluja. Julia is co-leading this team with Carolyn from EWB, which strengthens our partnership with EWB and makes for an exciting collaboration of thinking about the creative design process in relation to engineering. Katie found a great quote by Ellis P. Torrance that I’ll include here – the connection between the creative and engineering processes is made quite clear, which is exactly the motivation behind STEAM!

“Creativity is the process of sensing difficulties, problems, gaps in information, missing elements, something askew; making guesses and formulating hypothesis; possibly revising and retesting them; and finally communicating the results.”

This semester, we’ve been working on creating a construction manual for biosand filters, as well as designing operations and maintenance (O+M) manuals for VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit) latrines. More to come on this front!

This past weekend, the Boston University chapter of EWB (Engineers Without Borders) hosted the annual Northeast Regional Conference and were kind enough to allow us  to host a workshop! This morning, we held an interactive session in which we discussed effective strategies for creating sustainable educational materials. Participants learned about the importance of cultural relevance as it relates specifically to educational materials and the effective communication of information, and were provided with some concrete design tips. They worked in groups to draft educational flyers and posters about the importance of good sanitation practices, and presented them at the conclusion of the workshop with some feedback from other participants.

Our hand-out is attached here: nerc-presentation-hand-out

Many thanks to EWB-BU for their support – we look forward to seeing this partnership grow in the coming years!


Hard at work creating educational materials!


One of the lovely inter-chapter groups presenting their poster


The poster Katie, Alyssa, and I pulled together in <30 min during the workshop – not too shabby! (Have to give most of the credit to Katie for her insane artistic abilities)



Katie’s Reflection on the BWxD Conference

Similar to my freshman year experience at the BWxD conference, this year’s conference pretty much blew my mind. The speakers were inspiring and strange, the food was yummy, and the swag was awesome. There were also huge blow-up structures, which was fun. The conference inspired me to think about how we can use design to prepare for climate change, interact with the physical and human environment, address social problems, and create friendlier spaces. I came away with the sense that there are an infinite amount of creative ideas waiting to be formed and that there is a creative solution to everything, as long as we have the brain power to design it.

One of my favorite speakers was an artist, Sarah Ross, whose work highlighted how segregation and divisiveness of people manifests itself in the design of public spaces. It was a concept I had never thought about before, let alone heard of. Her art focused on pushing back against designed barriers of humans or creating a small resistance, or pushing back against design elements that shape public spaces in a negative/unwelcoming way for certain groups of people made to feel erased from society, such as homeless people. She said that many public spaces are designed for exclusion of certain people, and to quell the anxieties of the privileged, such as making a space uncomfortable for the homeless or minority populations. To expose this, she created bodysuits with cushions embedded in them and took photos of people lying on benches, rails, or sloped walls that were obviously made so that people would not lie down or loiter there. She then analyzed the similarities between different exclusive communities, such as prisons and gated communities, and how people define themselves in these communities. Fittingly, Sarah called her project “Inaccessible Design.” I liked this talk because it related design to the social problem of exclusion, and to the sociology of group thinking.

On a lighter note, I also enjoyed a talk by an architect who designed buildings that interacted with nature, rather than displacing it. One of his buildings had small pockets embedded in the outer wall for birds or other creatures to nest in. The pockets were visible from the inner wall, so that people could see the animals that were inhabiting the wall.

Overall, BWxD was a great experience for STEAM, and I think we all had a lot of fun.

Better World x Design Conference – 9/24/2016

On Saturday, Sept 24, 2016 BU STEAM traveled to Providence, RI to participate in the Better World by Design Conference. This is an annual, 3-day event hosted by Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, with the purpose of celebrating “interdisciplinary collaboration between designers, educators, innovators, and thinkers.” For more information about the conference, please click here.

The morning Keynote speaker on Saturday was Craig Dykers, a founding partner of the architecture and design company Snøhetta. He talked about a number of projects that he has worked on, ranging from university libraries to the 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion to the redesigned pedestrian-only Times Square to the Norwegian National Opera House, blowing our minds with each project. A quote from his presentation by Marshall McLuhan really stuck with me – “The environment humans create becomes their medium for defining their role in it.” As a math student, it was really interesting to be exposed to the how designers and architects create habitats, since their work is so instrumental in shaping the environments in which people live.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of inspiring speakers, beautiful weather and great conversations — some pictures from the day are below!


Group selfie!


Craig Dykers, Snøhetta


We saw this inflatable spikey, rainbow-colored arch walkway and collectively lost our minds









Cool visual from Ingrid Burrington‘s Digital Literacy session

Thank you to Brown and RISD for hosting such a wondrous conference, and we look forward to returning next year!

Sustainability Festival

On April 21st, 2016, STEAM at BU participated in BU’s annual Sustainability Festival to celebrate Earth Day, an event featuring student groups and vendors that set up on the plaza of the George Sherman Union to provoke discussion and raise awareness about what individuals and groups can do to contribute to a more sustainable world.

We set up a table at the festival, upon which we displayed a 3-dimensional tree, shown below, that served as our conversation piece (laser-cut out of two 12×24 inch planks of birch plywood). We posed the open-ended question: How can STEM and the arts collaborate to contribute to a more sustainable world? Leaves cut out from newspapers were provided so that participants could write their thoughts and suggestions and attach them to the tree. Additionally, we showed participants how to make bow-ties out of comic strips from old newspapers (image below), demonstrating that there is art and beauty to be found in materials that are re-used and re-purposed.


Our Sustainability tree of inspiration!


Comic strip bow-tie. . .kudos to Alyssa and Hayley for the great idea!


Alyssa and Julia manning the table (thanks to Ty from the BU Arts Initiative for the pic)

The entire experience of being involved with the festival – chatting with passerby who are passionate about sustainability and the environment, introducing them to the idea of STEAM, and listening to their thoughts and suggestions (for behavioral change, policy changes, project ideas, etc) – was incredible. A mother and her two children walked by our table, and the mother told me how her daughter had done a similar project around Thanksgiving last year, except with a turkey and feathers rather than a tree and leaves. This girl was clearly passionate about the environment, intelligent and confident while we chatted briefly about STEAM and its contribution to sustainability. It was so cool to have that moment and interact with a young mind that’s undoubtedly going to make a big impact in the future.

What a great afternoon!

Membrane: Biology and Art Exhibition

In late March, STEAM traveled to see the Membrane: Biology and Art Exhibition opening. This exhibition was hosted by Boston Cyberarts, an organization that helps to exhibit and promote media and digital arts in Boston. The Cyberarts gallery is located in the Green Street T-station on the Orange Line in Jamaica Plain (the only gallery in the country, I believe, in such a location), and the backdrop of the rumbling trains passing through the station complemented the experience of the exhibit.

The pieces themselves were incredible; shown below are a couple of pictures we took at the event:


Unsent Unburdened Subconscious Subterranean, David Kim



Slime molds, Natalie Andrew



Can you tell Alyssa loved this part of the exhibit? Crochet and biology, what a combo!



Scorpion under a fluorescent light.

Physics+Art Workshop Pics!


STEAM e-board members Hayley Walker (left) and Katie Walker (right) showing off their pieces of anamorphic typography.



Participants hard at work creating their 3-D structures.



Fun geometric shapes!



STEAM e-board member Alyssa Arnheim taking a novel approach. . .inspired by the question: what makes one a worthy person? considered in the context of the Argentinian coup d’etat in the late 1900s.

Physics + Art: Playing with Dimensions Workshop

STEAM at BU will be hosting an exciting workshop this Sunday, December 6th from 1-3pm in the EPIC Design Studio 1.

Co-President Hayley Walker will be leading this workshop, discussing the overlap between art and physics in the context of dimension. We will study the work of Alexa Meade, an artist who has created installations that encourage viewers to re-examine their perception of dimensions and the way in which art can be portrayed in either a two-dimensional or three-dimensional manner.

In the second portion of this workshop, participating members will have the opportunity to create their own piece of anamorphic typography, a form of art that represents 3-dimensional typography using 2-dimensional methods.

As this is our first official workshop (ever), it’s a very exciting time for us and we look forward to sharing our ideas with you!

(P.S. We will provide free hot chocolate at this event!)

Winter Workshop Series: January 2016

There’s a network of STEAM groups at universities that has been flourishing along the East coast that STEAM at BU has recently become a part of, a collection of impressive universities such as RISD, Brown, Yale, MIT, and many more. Click here for more information about the universities involved in the STEAM network.

Each year, these universities host a Winter session workshop series, a 5-week exploration of the year’s theme. This year, the theme is Citizen + Virtual and participating members of the workshop will examine what it means to be a citizen of the internet. The workshop will run from January 8th to January 30th, with team members meeting every Saturday for a workshop session and lecture. The last session (January 30th) involves an exhibition held at RISD where students showcase their works inspired by the theme of the workshop. For more information and to sign up to participate in this workshop series, please click here.

BU has been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to host one of the workshop sessions here on campus — on January 23rd, we will be holding a workshop from 10am to 5pm in EPIC (750 Commonwealth Avenue) for those who have signed up for the workshop series. If you are unable to commit to the entire workshop series, there will be a lecture given by BU Professor Sharon Goldberg from 11am-12:30pm on cyber security that is open to the public; her research in network security is extensive, and should make for a fascinating talk.

On a broader scale: it’s an exciting time for the STEM to STEAM movement! This university-driven initiative seems to be making a true impact on the way that people are approaching education. RISD has been actively working towards introducing legislation to Congress that aims to integrate arts into STEM education nation-wide. This STEAM initiative is gathering momentum consistently, and encouraging a national discussion about the importance of interdisciplinary education. We’ll keep you updated with more information as this progresses!



Hello, and welcome to STEAM at BU’s blog! We are an undergraduate student group at Boston University committed to bridging the gap between STEM and the arts to encourage a more interdisciplinary mentality in the BU community and beyond. We believe in the power of problem-solving with an artistic perspective and using STEM as a tool to innovate.

Our STEAM group is founded on three pillars: inspiration, innovation, and integration. We strive to inspire our peers and community members to think in a more interdisciplinary manner, to innovate as a team to create fun yet relevant works, and to integrate our ideals into the greater Boston community.

We created STEAM at BU after noticing a disconnect between the sciences and the arts in the stigmas between students in these fields, in the student groups on campus, in the structure of the curriculum in each college, and even in the BU administration. We set out to close the gap between the STEM fields and the arts because we believe that this interdisciplinary mentality is the key to the future, allowing us to approach problems with greater depth and perspective. There is a need, within our BU community and beyond, for a space in which open-minded, intellectually curious individuals are able to come together, desegregate the arts and sciences by reevaluating misconceptions of other disciplines, collaborate as a team to create innovatively, and inspire others to embrace this way of thinking.

Follow us as we document our journey on this STEAM-powered train to a brighter future!

Please click here to join our e-mail list, and check out our Facebook group here.