Adding art to the realms of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can take as many shapes – and serve as many purposes – as you can think of. It can be a way to welcome uncertain audiences into technical realms, provide a new perspective on a confusing concept, or just be a chance for some unapologetic fun. Here are six examples to inspire a project of your own.
Sometimes art can serve as a powerful visual for a hard-to-imagine concept. Emily Lakdawala, Senior Editor for the Planetary Society, used plastic canvas and needlepoint to illustrate the scale of the MARSIS instrument booms on the Mars Express. The needlepoint orbiter provides a more compelling perspective on just how big the booms are than simply listing their dimensions. The properly scaled orbiter, Opportunity, and Curiosity make the case for art that is both informative and adorable.
A well-designed STEAM project can also engage the effort of the audience instead of just the artist. The Climate Change Coloring Book uses the act of coloring as a means to learn. Are you able to color a page of 20 football fields in under a minute? That’s the rate of loss of global forests over the last quarter century. Coloring can let audiences create their own visual of regional carbon emissions or temperature records over time as they draw.
Instead of adding some art to your STEM, maybe add some STEM to your art. Engineering and other tech can bring cosplay to new levels. Maybe a drone can give life to Dr. Strange’s Cloak of Levitation. Maybe Storm is able to light up her hands at will. And maybe some paint, cardboard, and planning means your tiny Transformers can actually transform on Halloween.
When we are limited by one of our senses, art can let us take advantage of another. Trying to visualize what a color spectrum with even more colors would be like is a tall order for anyone, but the team at Radiolab turned to a completely different medium to convey the idea: sound. Rather than using graphs or numbers, they enlisted a choir to try to share what access to a new visual spectrum might be like.
Sometimes beauty comes directly from the science itself. For more than 40 years, Nikon has been recognizing the work involved with photographing through light microscopes. The Small World Competition provides a showcase for photomicrographers from across the world of science. The images aren’t just beautiful and compelling “for being taken through a microscope” – they are worth admiring in their own right.
And sometimes combining art and engineering is just fun. Rather than asking why a girl with a limb difference would want to design a prosthetic that shoots glitter out of a purple unicorn horn, Jordan Reeves wants to know why you wouldn’t want to design one. Glitter is awesome. Building what amounts to your own arm-mounted cannon is awesome. So why not?