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Workshopping Art/Science Activities for a Guerrilla Astro-Animation STEM Exhibition

Presentation #103.04 in the session Missions and Instruments.

Published onJul 01, 2023
Workshopping Art/Science Activities for a Guerrilla Astro-Animation STEM Exhibition

For several years our students at the Maryland Institute College of Art have worked with NASA astronomers, initially with the Fermi satellite team and subsequently other groups, to produce animations inspired by cutting-edge research. The results can be whimsical or poetic, but are nevertheless constrained by scientific rigor. The animations have been used for scientific outreach and educational purposes in a wide variety of ways and can be seen on A few years ago we received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to conduct research to evaluate our program and received positive responses. Building on our program’s success, we are now developing a traveling pop-up astro-animation exhibition to be used for informal STEM learning in unusual locations such as train stations, marketplaces, or music festivals. We aim to meet and attract teenagers from underrepresented communities who may not have been exposed to astronomy or consider STEM as a potential option for study. “Science anxiety” has been reported to be a significant barrier to learning. By mixing animation with astronomy, our project has the capability to reach out and stimulate interest in STEM, making science engaging in an unconventional way. An important component of the exhibition will be hands-on activities where participants will be invited to create their own artistic responses to the science with the help of a facilitator. To perform an initial test of these and evaluate their effectiveness we carried out a workshop at the Baltimore School for the Arts, a top performing arts high school, in coordination with animation teachers and students. We spent a few days brainstorming the art/science activities for students aged fourteen to seventeen. During two classes, we gave short presentations on black holes, asteroids and comets, and supernovae that led to three types of art activities: a giant coloring wall with projected celestial phenomena, a stop-motion station, and an augmented animation film of comet 67P. For the comet animation, students colored in images obtained with Rosetta and turned it into an animation. We surveyed the students before and after the sessions and found that the activities and presentations were effective in engaging the students’ interest. Our results will be used to inform our next steps in developing the exhibition.

This work is supported by the Maryland Space Business Roundtable, the MICA Animation Department, and NASA under award number 80GSFC21M0002.

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