PRISM Magazine - Exploring the future of engineering education
On Campus

Art For Tomorrow

Tina Kinasz

The University of Missouri-Rolla's Millennium Arch, a sculpture by Edwina Sandys to be unveiled October 1, illustrates how art and engineering can unite to create a symbol of the future as well as the past.

Standing 15 feet tall, the arch comprises two vertical stones supporting a third laying horizontally across them. The design evokes Britain's ancient Stonehenge.

Through the use of a high-pressure waterjet cutter developed at a UMR laboratory, two stones in the form of a man and a woman were cut from the "legs" of the arch. "The human figure is more relevant now than ever before," says Sandys. "Humans have power over what happens in the future more than they ever did."

The waterjet, which generates pressures of up to 60,000 psi, cut each humanoid form from the 30-inch-thick red Missouri granite in a continuous line.

The polished figures stand apart from the arch itself, while the empty spaces left in the arch create shadows on the ground. Sandys says that this separation is a symbol that "people will be free of the constraints of the past."

The sculpture was funded by 1955 UMR graduate Scott Porter, and will be dedicated in honor of Porter's late wife, Barbara, and his parents, local minister G. Scott Porter and Helen L. Porter. Porter says that he is honored to be involved in the project. "I am thrilled to be a part of this effort that will marry art and technology, and to be able to dedicate it as a memorial to my parents and wife," he explains.

UMR Chancellor John Park called the arch, which will stand on the edge of campus and serve as a gateway between Rolla and the community, "an excellent example of art and science converging to create a thing of beauty. This work brings together Edwina Sandys' creative artistic talents and the creative technological talents of our engineers."

"UMR may not be known for its artistic endeavors, but this project promises to set a new standard for future artistic collaborations on our campus," Park added.

Tina Kinasz is a former Prism editorial intern.

Drawing Up a Future

Maryam Miller

Engineering and art will meet this fall when the University of Florida launches its Digital Arts and Sciences Program. Competition in today's high-tech world demands that computer engineers graduate with a working knowledge of shapes, forms, and sounds to go with the programming and technical lingo, while artists need to know how to computerize their images and sounds.

"Computer nerds are not usually artists, and artists tend to know very little about computers," says Paul Fishwick, a computer engineering professor who helped create the program. "But art and computers converge in movies, games and scientific pursuits today, and employers need people who cross traditional boundaries."

Future employers were exactly what UF had in mind when it designed the new program. Since many jobs in the growing digital effects industry increasingly require computer scientists and artists to work together on producing anything from a feature-length film to a computer game, the traditional computer geek has to know more about the arts and not just about data and algorithm structures. And instead of finding the time, space and resources to train employees, several companies have turned to UF with money and suggestions for the new program's curriculum. Corporate backers include Silicon Graphics Inc., which created the dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park, and Cinesite Visual Effects, which contributed high-tech special effects to The Mummy and Titanic.

"What UF is doing is producing candidates who are ready to work in a production environment in the company," says David Stamation, an account manager with SGI in Orlando. "In the past and currently, these people spend up to two years learning the same skills."

Just as computer scientists need to know more about drawing, music, and layout, artists often must learn how to apply their skills to the modern media. James Paul Sain, an associate professor in UF's school of music, says musicians who rely on computers for their work may require many of the same skills as computer scientists.

"The tools that are used in the creation of electroacoustic music are the same as those in computer science research," he says. "This program will allow students from across the disciplines to gain a much-needed breadth of knowledge utilized in today's music industry."

Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) students' courses will be two-thirds CISE and one-third arts (visual, musical, or both), while students in the College of Fine Arts will take two-thirds art courses and one-third CISE. Each department or school has its own degree track.

The program will also require students to work jointly on projects, such as designing a CD-ROM game or a computer model. "The real key to the program is the diversity of course work and the collaborative projects the students will create in teams," says Sain.

Maryam Miller is a Prism editorial intern.

Playing to Learn

Gavin Sinclair
and Jay Marks

Students at Purdue University are spending valuable class time playing gamesómuch to the delight of their instructors. A course at Purdue uses strategy and role-playing to teach students basic business principles while showing them how technical decisions figure into a company's success.

The course, "Food Processing Management Simulation," revolves around the operation of a fictional food processing plant. Competing student teams make decisions on pricing, production, capital expenditures, training, and so forth, that are entered into a computer simulation program. The programódeveloped by a Purdue graduate student using an actual company as a modelócalculates sales, profit, and production cost data, as well as market share reports for each team.

Each of the 15 class meetings in the course represents a fiscal quarter. Though students initially tend to struggle with issues such as proper pricing, resulting in low sales volumes or raw material shortages, by the company's second and third "year" of operations, most become proficient in managing according to market forces.

The game stresses fundamental knowledge of manufacturing, engineering, and business, and is popular with students from many disciplines.

The course, which is dual-listed under both food science and agricultural economics, also incorporates traditional lectures, and each team gives an "annual report" to the class after every four-class period.

Although grades are not based on the financial success of each company, most students are intent on winning by posting the highest profits.

The simulation game promotes interdisciplinary decision making and builds oral communication and teamwork skills. Which is more than you can say of most games, and some courses.

Gavin Sinclair is an assistant professor of agricultural economics,
and Jay Marks is an associate professor of food science at Purdue University.

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