Media Art Group:
Daria Tsoupikova and Brenda López Silva
University of Illinois at Chicago
Helen-Nicole Kostis and Tina Shah
The gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is well documented and growing. Women today hold only 27% of jobs in the field of computer science and less than 20% of women receive a bachelor’s degree in this field. However, there are many solutions to breach this gap proposed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other government organizations, including informal science education initiatives, organizations like the National Girls Collaborative Project, and Women in Technology. The development of interactive learning environments created by new media artists and designers can help to get more females interested in technology and science.
The use of technology-mediated interactive environments makes learning science more accessible to younger girls. These environments – that can be presented in iPad apps, museum installations, iBooks, robots, and many other technological toys – provide hands-on experiences and opportunities for engagement in authentic science practice, which can help girls to make the connection between STEM and their future careers.
Currently, there is a shortage of role models for girls in science and technology, but there are many well-known female media artists collaborating with scientists from various advanced projects that can fit in this role model gap. There is more freedom in media arts to present information in more accessible ways to help girls learn and incorporate analytical skills for implementation into their academic paths.
Our all-female media art group has been working together for the past ten years and focuses on the integration of art in the development of interactive learning environments for STEM. Our experience is derived from our participation in art-science collaborations at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory in the fields of virtual and augmented reality, scientific and space visualization, computer games, learning technologies, and interactive art installations for museums and galleries. Currently, members of our group lead the artistic development of innovative learning applications for informal and formal science education in museums, labs, and schools for diverse audiences. We have experience with technologies and tools that can help get girls interested in STEM and keep them engaged with it in starting with elementary levels.
During our presentation at the New Media Caucus Lightening Talks during CAA2014 in Chicago we discussed how artists could collaborate with scientists in the development of engaging educational STEM learning applications for girls beyond the school walls. We illustrated two cases, LunAR Park and Cryptoclub, and examined the role of art and design in the development of these projects.
Museum spaces are ideal settings for interactive experiences combining entertainment, education, and innovative technologies.  LunAR Park is an augmented reality application designed for a planetarium setting that utilizes existing lunar exhibits to immerse the visitor in an enhanced world of interactive lunar exploration referencing amusement park experiences. The application was originally presented as part of Moon Lust, an exhibition at the Adler Planetarium and Astronomical Museum in Chicago that explored global interests in lunar exploration and habitation through interactive technologies. The content of LunAR Park was inspired by pre-Space Age depictions of the lunar landscape at the original Luna Park in Coney Island, the advancement of lunar expeditions of the past century, and the romantic notions of future colonization of the moon.
The Cryptoclub: Cryptography and Mathematics Afterschool and Online is an NSF funded interdisciplinary research project introducing cryptography and mathematics to middle school students across the country through the encryption and decryption of codes. Project objectives include increased awareness of cryptography as a STEM topic with connections to mathematics. The project team includes two mathematicians, one artist, one cognitive psychologist, and various expert teachers who pilot the project materials. Project materials include a Cryptoclub website (http://cryptoclub.org) with challenges, a treasure hunt clue generator, cryptography adventure games (2D single-user games and 3D multi-user games), activities that involve active participation, as well as training workshops for teachers. One important part of the Cryptoclub website is a historic crypto comics series of stories in graphic-novel format that are based on historical events related to cryptography. The objective of this project is to use art as a motivation for students to learn complex subjects in informal settings.
We would like to thank University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Design;
Collaborators: Janet Beissinger, Bonnie Sanders, at the Math. Dept., UIC,
Panos Economou at Columbia University, Alexander Betts at NCSA;
Museums and Clubs: Adler Planetarium for Science, Cryptoclub.org.
The discussion of the CryptoClub is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 0840313.
1. Janet Beissinger et al., “The Cryptoclub: Cryptography and Mathematics Afterschool and Online”, DRL, NSF, Web. 2009. http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=0840313&version=noscript.
2. F. Mata et al., “An experimental virtual museum based on augmented reality and navigation,” GIS ’11, Proc. 19th ACM SIGSPATIAL Int. Conf. on Advances in Geographic Information Systems, (2011): 497-500.
3. The STEM to STEAM Briefing, Rhode Island School of Design, Web. September 2011. http://stemtosteam.org/.
The Media Art Group has been working together for 10 years and focuses on the integration of art with the development of interactive learning environments for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Our experience is derived from our participation in art-science collaborations at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (UIC) in the fields of virtual and augmented reality, scientific and space visualization, computer games, learning technologies, and interactive art installations for museums and galleries. The current members of our group lead the artistic development of innovative learning applications in the following places and organizations:
Daria Tsoupikova and Brenda López Silva (University of Illinois at Chicago);
Helen-Nicole Kostis and Tina Shah (independent artists).