Engineering and arts students will see their collaborative works in the STEM building over the next few weeks. Photo: Via Instagram.
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The STEAM project will showcase art installations co-created by members from both faculties

At a glance, engineering and art don’t seem to have a lot in common. Yet, this summer, students from the two programs have worked together to create masterpieces that will adorn the University of Ottawa’s new STEM building.

Two teams, composed of two visual arts and two engineering students, have been simultaneously working on different pieces of artwork that will showcase unique designs through the use of mechanical components.

“The STEAM project is a part of a larger program that the (engineering) faculty is starting to run (which aims) to build relationships with the arts faculty,” explained Devansh Shah, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student at the U of O and member of one of the two teams.

The projects, which served as a summer job for the eight students, originally awarded the opportunity based on a Makerspace competition at the U of O. “(A friend and I) competed in the competition, then we won, and the prize of winning was to get a summer job to implement our design,” said Shah. “That’s how it began.”

Since the installation is meant to represent both engineering and art, the team looked to mechanical motions to showcase their engineering skills.

“Our project … is essentially a moving wall. So, we have different panels that are powered by actuators which are all programmable as well. So, they can make really cool motions like waves,” he explained. “It’s interactive as well, so, if you’re standing in front of the wall, the panels you’re standing in front of will start moving”

The wall, which is currently in its final stages of production before being moved to the STEM building, is the result of four months of hard work for the group. However, despite the workload, members of the team found it to be a rewarding summer job.

“Most (other) projects I’ve done, have been with other people who (I) report to and this time it’s solely myself,” confirmed Keshav Deeljur, another member of the team and a fourth-year electrical engineering student. “I’m kind of the sole one in charge of the electrical side … (So,) that pressure and the responsibility (have) been fun.”

However, for Shah, it wasn’t just the creative liberties that made the project unique. “Honestly, I think working with the arts students was a big shift, a big culture shock, because in our projects in classes, we only work with engineering students (and) everyone has a similar way of thinking, but they have a completely different way of thinking. It’s refreshing to see how they see the world.”

Accompanying their moving wall, which will be situated below one of the main staircases on the main floor of the building, will be a second project that has been worked on by the other team of engineering and arts students.

“Theirs is going to be a huge hanging sculpture,” explained Deeljur. “They have lights in this hanging sculpture. So, as people are walking up and down the stairs, the lights will be triggered,” added Shah.

With the installation scheduled for the next few weeks, both projects seem to have been a success. So, perhaps the two estranged faculties will continue to narrow the gap in the future.

“It’s been pretty fun working on this,” said Deeljur. “If there are more opportunities that present themselves in the future, (we) definitely want to go for it.”


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