May 3, 2014
The Design of Living Things happened today at the Nature Lab! It was an event full of fun workshops that introduced and engaged attendees in the multiple interpretations of biological design - organismal anatomic design, functional specialization (colonial organismal design), healthcare and medical device design, and biomimetic robotic design.
After a delicious lunch of Kabob and Curry, two production-based workshops - scientific illustration and rendering for industrial design - were held.

Many thanks to those who came out and shared in the workshops, and thank you to everyone who made this STEAM year an enormous success!

Photo credit: Jonelle Ahiligwo

Amazing event put on by BioSTEAM


Students in an EPSCoR studio taught by Digital + Media Critic Brian House and Foundation Studies Critic Bryan Quinn are grappling with how to develop an ecocentric approach to design and everyday life. Through readings, lectures by visiting artists and wildlife biologists, and hands-on field research of migrating marine ducks, students enrolled in The Art and Science of Ecocentric Practices are attempting to piece together their own view of our place in the natural world.

Last Friday they learned about the work of Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist Ellie Irons, who discussed her ongoing quest “to reframe nature as ecology, locating humans in an all-encompassing, inescapable network of melting ice, shifting populations and evolving technology.”

Click on the photos above for caption information and stay tuned for more details about student projects to be completed at the end of the semester. 


Visual Diary – Plankton Workshop Test Run

Lucia and Michelle facilitated a test run for the plankton workshop on Saturday evening with Raina and Meg (RISD Sculpture, MFA ‘16) and Jamie (Brown Public Humanities, MA ‘14), and Jamie’s friend John.

We experimented with different materials and designs (e.g. electrical tape works in water, yay), then walked to India Point Park. We found krill, copepods, and some beautiful transparent phytoplankton.

Michelle will facilitate the official run of this workshop on April 24 from 6-8 pm. Sign up by emailing Michelle at

On March 19th, 2014 20 RISD and Brown students convened in the Brown Design Workshop at Brown University for a day of rapid prototyping and making. The group was lucky to be joined by two visiting designers from IDEO for the daylong workshop, Prat Ganapathy and Bill Stewart. The event, titled ‘from the bottom of my fuel cell’, centered around developing ideas for wearable devices. 

The session started off with introductions and an inspiring talk from the visiting designers about their design process. Prat and Bill discussed how the design process isn’t very prescriptive, but something that often circles back on itself and repeats. They gave a number of examples of the multitude of different ways one can prototype, whether it be interactions, interfaces, or products. 
After that, the participants were challenged to take 15 minutes to make a prototype that addressed a specific question related to one of four “briefs”, which are fictional people that the participants were given descriptions of to design for. For example, one group chose to prototype a better way for a homeless teen in San Francisco to access information about shelters and her appointments. 

After these super-rapid prototypes, the group got together to share their progress, as a way to practice speaking about the work and to see where each others’ work was going. One group showed off a very rough prototype of a baby that could be monitored remotely by it’s mother. Their very early prototype allowed them to get a sense of the human factors they would have to design around for the rest of the day. 
Subsequent rounds of prototyping (there were two) lasted about an hour each and allowed participants to flesh out concepts in more depth, or in some cases completely change their direction. One group for example started out developing a communal space for the elderly and younger people, but ended up pitching an interface that would teach older people how to dance while simultaneously guiding them through the city.
Groups continued prototyping until about 3:00 p.m. when everyone gathered for a final “critique”. Groups presented really interesting ideas from a shoe for building confidence to a device that would create physical artifacts from digital communication. Prat remarked that all of these ideas could turn into something really valid if the participants started putting their ideas in front of users and took them further. The two visiting designers noted that they were really impressed with what everyone came up with in such a short period of time.
Later on that day, Bill and Prat, joined by a guest of theirs who happened to be local, talked about two of their projects in the Metcalf Auditorium in the Chace Center at RISD. This talk, which was open to everyone from Brown and RISD, covered two of IDEO’s classically user-centered projects. This allowed students to gain perspective on how IDEO incorporates the end user into their design process (from the very beginning) and a number of other insights into how they work. 
RISD + Brown STEAM are very thankful to have partnered with Prat and Bill on this fun project and are looking forward to the next bigger and better version of this in the future. Feel free to reach out to RISD + Brown STEAM if you are interested in hearing more information about the project at .
Photos Courtesy of Jeniffer Kwack and Eliot Basset-Cann



bioSTEAM, formerly the Making Visual Biology series, has been hard at work all semester. Many thanks to the spring 2014 bioSTEAM group - Jonelle Ahiligwo, Rebecca Baron, Insil Choi, Stella Huang, Anthony Peer, Elli Sawada, Beatrice Steinert, Ria Vaidya, and Tony Yang - for all of your hard work and creativity this semester! 

Running the bioSTEAM interest group with Lucia Monge (RISD Sculpture MFA ‘16) has been incredibly fun. I am so thrilled to share the official calendar for this spring!

Poster design: Michelle Site
Logo design: Lucia Monge

RISD STEAM is hosting a workshop on wearable technology alongside two visiting designers from IDEO.

RISD STEAM is hosting a workshop on wearable technology alongside two visiting designers from IDEO.

RISD STEAM happily co-hosted our friends from Firehose Weekend with Student Alliance to come teach 25 RISD and Brown students how to do back-end and front-end web development! 

Everyone learned the basics of HTML, CSS, Ruby on Rails, and some fundamental wed development logic (what is a controller?). We hope to see them again soon! 

We had a great time at the “snowpening” of Human + Computer down in Exposé. Looking forward to getting another crowd out at Exposé’s official opening of the show on Thursday. 

Hope to see you there!




Making Visual Biology, an interest group within STEAM focusing on the intersection of biology with the arts, design, and visual culture, met for its first official meeting today. Throughout spring semester, we will meet once a week to develop workshops, events, speaker series, and social…


Thanks for the love, Abigail Crocker!

Always lovely to be on :)

We were all blown away by the final critique of Human + Computer last Saturday which was hosted at RISD E’ship’s space at 204 Westminster st. This was the culmination of three weeks of hard work done by students from MIT, RISD, and Brown. We were fortunate to have Kelly Dobson, Department head of Digital + Media at RISD, Lisa Z. Morgan, author, designer, and founder of Strumpet & Pink, and Kimberly Young, a local dance artist. 

The first group to present their work showed us a wearable device that can wirelessly transmit one’s heart rate to a special someone from across the world away. Evan Brooks (RISD ‘14) and his partner Alex Czulak (Brown ‘15) showed us a parody TSA video that explained how the devices could be used to identify irregular activity in the security areas, to better find perpetrators. They also screened a facebook-esque advertisement that together with the prototypes immersed us in a world where these devices would be commonplace.
The next work, presented by Celine Chappert (RISD ‘14) and Bevin Kelley (Brown ‘14), was an equally immersive installation piece. Chappert remarked that technology interfaces with us visually, but rarely interacts with our bodies. Their piece is a space wherein aural, visual, and tactile senses are all in touch with each other and responsive to technology. Upon entering the enclosure, the viewer enters an “infinity cube” that expands infinitely and reacts to human motion, connecting the body to technology. 
The following work connected technology to the body in a slightly more literal sense. To start their presentation, Alice Huang (MIT ‘15) strapped on a robotic arm, which can be controlled by one’s feet, an incredibly impressive feat for a three-week project. The other group members are Daniel Goodman (MIT ‘15) and Cynthia Liu (RISD ‘15) and together they are working on a new version of the housing of the arm that is more united with the aesthetics of the arm itself to hone in on an artistic voice and embedded story. 
The work that Melody Cao (RISD/Brown ‘16) and Ben Moreno Ortiz (Brown ‘14) presented was quite provocative in it’s voice. The duo presented a machine, which when squeezed and blown into speaks phonemes. Although some of the critics were offput by the repurposing of a mouth puppet purchased from a flea market, others were enchanted by its personality and boldness.
The next group showed us their work “Dream of Akinosuke”, a jewelry piece based on a Japanese fable of the same name. The group was inspired by the fable’s imaginings of how butterflies could control humans. The piece is strikingly beautiful and subtle in the way it tricks one’s eye to believe the butterflies adorning it are alive. Upon closer inspection, one realizes that the illusion is caused by masterful use of flexinol, a shape memory alloy that shortens when a current passes through it. This produces an effect that blends beauty with the elegantly grotesque.
The last group, consisting of Josh Bohar (RISD ‘15), Abubakar Abid (MIT ‘15) and James Hobin (MIT ‘16) also addressed the grotesque. “I’m going to need a volunteer” Bohar said “and if the electrodes feel like they are going to heat up and burn your head, don’t worry, it’s totally normal.” Of course, Bohar was only joking and the setup was completely safe. Once the cap (pictured above) was on and functioning, Abid took out an anatomically correct silicone cast brain. A flick of a switch later and the cast brain was alive blinking LED patterns that matched the activity of whoever wore the cap. “That’s your brain” explained Abid. It was peculiar how much ownership of the remote brain the user felt upon placing on the cap. One critic noted how the brain fit perfectly in one’s hands, which made the interaction all the more intimate. “I really want to see you in a rocking chair stroking the brain during the opening” said Sophia Brueckner, one of the workshop facilitators. 
After the critique the group discussed plans for the show which will open at 7 p.m. on February 15 at Exposé, located on 204 Westminster Street in Providence, RI. It will include music, refreshments, interactive works, and limited-edition prints will be distributed to attendees. The show will remain up after the opening for at least one week. 
We hope you can join us and thanks so much for following us!
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Kwack and Ryan Flomerfelt Mather

This past Saturday, participants in the Human + Computer workshop series reconvened at the MIT Media Lab for its third installment. The morning was filled with an impassioned critique of the students projects. 

The groups presented impressive progress, and suggested plans for their implementation and presentation for the show that the work will be featured in. Evan Brooks (RISD ‘13) and Alex Czulak (Brown ‘15) showed off a slew of 3D printed prototypes for a wearable device that allows the user to communicate their heart rate to a special someone. The prototype was compelling, but the proposal for how the team might tell the embedded story of the work was equally as thought provoking. How might advertisements for this look in the future? Would the TSA require you to take off your heart rate monitors so as not to interfere with wireless communications - or much worse - distract the pilot?
How the work will be presented in a gallery setting was a commonality that spanned the critique. Alex Ju (RISD ‘16) and Kate O’Connor (MIT ‘13) presented promising progress on a nitinol activated smart-textile composed of laser-cut butterflies, based on an a Japanese Fable. Sophia Brueckner pointed out that this work would benefit from a dramatic video that explained theoretical use cases and the sense of wonder that the piece could ignite. 
We were delighted to have some guests visit us during the morning and lend their critical eye. Ian Gonsher, a Professor at Brown University came along with Prat Ganapathy, a designer from IDEO with whom he collaborates. Ian said that he was really impressed with the outcomes of just two weeks of work, and offered some very helpful feedback. Prat also offered some great input, advising the “third arm” group to consider how their work might offer either a totally serious benefit (amputees) or an incredibly goofy one (scratching one’s back). We were also joined by Xiao Xiao, a PhD student at the Media Lab who contributed to the critique. 
In the afternoon, we broke out into workshops clustered around specific needs of the groups. Sophia Brueckner’s workshop focused on coding in processing, and David Mellis’ was centered around the building of robust electronics pre-empting the abuse that the projects will no-doubt endure during the opening. Tiffany Tseng’s workshop showed participants the basics of using a laser cutter, and Ryan Mather taught students how to sew and incorporate electronic components into different seam constructions. These workshops put some practical skills in the hands of the participants to help them implement their work in the final week of construction.
The day finished off with some quality team time and “desk crits” as the facilitators walked around offering their advice. Ryan helped Alex and Evan trouble shoot a heart-rate sensor, while David advised on some of the communications issues that were going on with the Arduino. 
This Saturday, the group will get together for the last time before the opening at 204 Westminster st. Providence, RI on February 15th at 7p.m. We hope you will be able to come down and see what promises to be a very compelling body of work! Check back this time next week to see how the work turned out and hear more details about the upcoming show. 

Firehose Weekend February 7-9 - 3 day-long intense coding workshop - HTML, CSS, Ruby on Rails, GitHub, Twitter Bootstrap - Skills for your resume, a web app for your portfolio. The class is taught by Marco and Ken two web developers and UX experts, who have ran this same Firehose Weekend in Boston, New York City, Pittsburgh, Harvard Business School. Both mentor young entrepreneurs in their free time and have years of experience building products people want for some of the most successful startups in Boston.
This event normally costs $400 but we have done fundraising to heavily reduce the price by at least 50% Sales will open up this Sunday, but if you fill out this google form, to gain access on Saturday. Spots are going on a first-come first-serve basis, so be sure to act quickly!  Hope to see you there!
Growing list of supporters includes Brown/RISD STEAM, RISD Student Alliance, CSI, RISD E’Ship, Career Services, and Brown EP.

Last Saturday, the 18th, students from Brown, RISD, and MIT convened at RISD’s Edna Lawrence Nature Lab for the second meeting of Human + Computer | Wintersession and IAP Workshop Series. 

The day started off with a critique of the work that the participants had prepared in the first week. Participants showed off videos of the proposed interaction, prototypes of the electronic functionality, a fabrication strategy, and a other process work. 

Cynthia Liu (RISD ‘15), Daniel Goodman (MIT ‘15) and Alice Huang’s (MIT ‘15) group showed off a three axis robotic arm that can move along a cartesian coordinate system that is controlled by sensors in one’s shoe. The team was challenged by the facilitators to focus on the depth of story telling that the piece could invoke by either honing in on a specific scenario, or completely decontextualizing it and allowing the gallery visitor to feel for them self the awkwardness of wearing a new limb, and the eeriness of its absence afterwards. 

A focus on storytelling was a common thread throughout the feedback that groups got back. Joshua Bohar (RISD ‘15), Abubakar Abid (MIT ‘15) and James Hobin’s (MIT ‘16) group is developing a system that tracks brainwave activity and communicates that data to the person wearing a cap. The group was inspired by the Matrix-esque vision of the project, and suggested that the group focus on communicating the implications of a hypothetical world in which this technology was commonplace, or go the other direction completely and focus on the haptic communication of sensory data. More information about the projects and their process can be found at the Build in Progress Collection featuring all of the work from Human + Computer.

During lunchtime, the group took a walk over to Exposé, RISD’s student run gallery. This is where the show of the same name will be held, featuring work from the workshop series and work from the RISD, Brown, and MIT communities at large. Students measured the lengths of walls and jotted down notes about how they might display their work in the final show. 

In the afternoon, the facilitators ran through an overview of construction methods and design tools to help the participants identify the best workflow to realize their project. 

After that, everyone walked up to the nature lab to inspect objects from nature and identify qualities of nature lab objects that could lend inspiration to their projects. Alex Czulak (Brown ‘15) discovered that the shape of a shell fit snugly in his ear, where his partner Evan Brooks (RISD ‘13) and him plan to place a device that subtly shares heart rate information socially.

The participants ended the day with some food for thought on where to take their projects and excitement for the weeks to come. Check back again next week to see what we’ve been up to. 

Submissions for the Human + Computer show are now open! Submit work that relates to transhumanism, human computer interaction, or technology’s effect on human relationships. E-mail 3-5 images of the work with a short description of the work and of your process to by January 5th.

Images Courtesy of Jennifer Kwack

Last Saturday, 14 students from RISD, Brown, and MIT descended on MIT’s Media lab to participate in the first of four workshops in a series called Human + Computer. The workshop series is facilitated by three media lab graduate students, David Mellis, Sophia Brueckner, and Tiffany Tseng, as well as our own Ryan Flomerfelt Mather, who conceived of the workshop as a case study on art-science collaboration, and interdisciplinary learning.

We started the day off by talking about precedent work and the theme of the workshop - transhumanism. For those who aren’t familiar, transhumanism is the belief that humans can use tech to surpass their biological selves physically, emotionally, etc. This is a complex issue for the day we are in as issues of privacy and ethical use of data are brought up. 

After this discussion, Sophia led an exercise wherein students wrote miniature science fiction stories that talked about transhumanist technologies. Melody Cao (RISD/Brown ‘16) and Kate O’Connor (MIT ‘14) wrote a humorous story about a patient who had just been implanted with a language acquisition implant which, although unpleasantly metallic tasting at first, allowed the wearer to acquire new languages rapidly.

A common thread through the other stories was love. One story addressed the issue of how romantic relationships are complicated when one of the people involved is more heavily android than the other. How much would it take to let your significant other read your every thought? or control your body remotely?

After this conceptual exercise, we ate lunch and moved on to something more making-intensive. David led us on a journey of how to install and run his new cell phone module that is compatible with Arduino. This unique access to David’s tool will allow students to make communication devices and works of art that can communicate in real time, with real phones. 

After making a few calls and texts with the cell phone modules, Ryan told the students about the resources available to them, including TA hours throughout the week and their own budgets to purchase materials with. Tiffany walked the students through the project documentation system that they are asked to use that she designed herself called Build In Progress.

Next, the students nucleated into groups and swapped phone numbers. Can’t wait to see what they are able to come up with for next week. Make sure to check back next week to see what the participants cook up. Keep on your radar that the show featuring all of the work and others from the RISD, Brown, and MIT communities, will open on February 15th at Exposé, RISD’s student run gallery. Hope to see you there!

Photos courtesy of Jen Kwack