Steps to a Sustainable World

As we’re working on bringing together our Environmental Crochet art installation, we’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to showcase our work. And I’m happy to announce that we will be hosting the Steps to a Sustainable World event on April 19th in collaboration with many other exciting sustainability-focused groups and projects at Boston University and in the greater Boston area.


Participating groups include: Marine Science Association, Bring Your Own Plastics, Sustainable Ocean Alliance, BU Gardening Committee, DivestBU and Tidal-Shift. Our goal for this event is to bring a wide range of student-driven and community-driven initiatives involving sustainability and environmental issues together in one space and provide a platform for them to share their projects and work. We will tackle issues such as the impact of climate change on corals and coral bleaching, reducing plastic waste, and repurposing waste materials for artistic purposes. We also have students who are doing incredible work in organizing a cooperative garden on the top of the CAS building on campus, and pushing for Boston University’s divestment from fossil fuels.

We hope you will be able to join us for this exciting event! Please register here (this event is free and open to the public!).

This event is part of Innovation Week at BU! April 17-20, 2018 is an entire week dedicated to recognizing and celebrating novel ideas and endeavors across Boston University and the community! Celebrate with us and check for the full schedule here:


Environmental Crochet

Hello STEAM team!

BU STEAM has had a busy year thus far — over the past two semesters, we’ve been working on a project called Environmental Crochet led by our President, Alyssa Arnheim (BME, 2018). Starting in Fall 2017, Alyssa has taught members how to crochet, starting with simple linear patterns and building up to hyperbolic planes. As we learn, we are discussing the mathematical concepts behind these structures, the environmental impact on corals, and how we can integrate concepts of sustainability into our project. We will soon be using plastic bags as “yarn” to create bleached corals to show ways in which materials can be repurposed for art.

Below are some samples of what we have constructed thus far:


Above: a colorful collection of brain coral (crocheted pseudo-spheres) residing the corner of Julia’s desk.

Below: Pallavi (who recently learned how to crochet a couple months ago) shows off her products, wearing a hat she crocheted herself!


STEAM Updates

Whelp, we haven’t blogged in a long time! It’s good to be back and talking about all things STEAM! As it’s been over a year, I thought we’d begin by catching you up on what we’ve been working on.

In Spring 2017, we hosted a Cardboard Transformers workshop (yes, like the movie franchise) in which members created cardboard structures that transform from one construction to another. Check out the GIF below of Madhuri transforming from a unicorn to a boat; we had a lot of fun!

CardboardTransformerSocial (5)

In Fall 2017, I led a workshop Baking + Math and am hoping to expand upon that this semester to encapsulate the intersection of math with other topics such as music, nature, design, and more. We met on a Saturday and discussed how cutting bagels along a Möbius strip would lead to an optimal amount of cream cheese applied to the bagel. Ack, math is so cool! Afterwards, we talked about the Poisson distribution in relation to the number of chocolate chips in a chocolate chip cookie and wrapped up the day with Countdown Cupcakes, inspired by the numbers portion of the UK game show Countdown! Some pictures from the workshop are below:



Earlier this semester, we were invited by the new BUild Lab to participate in their Innovation Club Fair on February 7, 2018. It’s a new shiny space on campus for start-ups, designers, innovators, etc and we’re looking forward to working with them more over the course of the semester. STEAM was featured in the article below about the Club Fair:

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!)