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Interactive + Digital Electronic Arts Lab

Rachel, C4K’s STEAM Coordinator, and her colleague and classmate, Matias created an Interactive and Digital Electronic Arts Lab designed to serve thirty Charlottesville high school students. Thanks to a UVA Jefferson Trust flash grant, our Members have been having a blast participating in the workshops.

Read on to learn how Rachel and Matias developed this workshop!

1. Can you provide an overview of the i+DEAL lab and the curriculum of the program?

The Interactive + Digital Electronic Arts Lab (i+DEAL) is a series of workshops in which C4K youth members have been taught circuit building, physical computing, and coding through hands-on experience with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) projects. Youth members have completed projects that combine arts and crafts with technology. We have experimented with screen-printing with conductive paint (paint that can conduct electricity) to make homemade electronic sensors, made circuits out of paper and fabric, and learned how we can bring the physical world of circuits into the digital world of Arduinos and coding. 

2. What motivated you to start this project?

Rachel (C4K STEAM Coordinator): When I first came to UVA last year, I knew I wanted community engagement to play a substantial role in my creative practice and research. Having worked on developing STEAM-related projects beforehand, I felt like I understood how the arts can not only help students become well-rounded individuals, but also have the potential to provide a pathway to technological literacy in the 21st century. Skills like circuit building and coding are extremely useful in an increasingly digital world, regardless of the career path one may choose. In addition, many of us in the Music Composition and Computer Technologies graduate program are conveniently sitting on the intersections of STEAM subjects. I definitely wanted to educate younger students and help them develop diverse skill sets through art and music. In return, the experiences of younger students in the workshops can also educate us on how to better develop our own pedagogical methods for teaching these skills as well. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us, and I love the idea of helping each other grow in unexpected and unconventional ways. 

Matias: During my time in middle and high school, I was lucky to encounter inspiring teachers that always encouraged me to learn more and pursue whatever path I was passionate about. In my case, it was music technology and later on music composition. Ultimately, they inspired me in wanting to teach as well. Through this project, I can give back to the community by teaching technological tools through art and music to younger creative students. I have the sense that electronics and coding are usually perceived as being strictly related to the hard sciences and mathematics, many times shying away individuals who are more engaged in arts and humanities. Through this workshop we can open a new world of possibilities for younger minds that might have engaged with technology only from an end-user perspective. My current view is that technological literacy is fundamental for the future generations, not only in terms of career paths and job market, but because it empowers individuals by allowing them to understand and manipulate the electronic and digital tools that we interact with on a daily basis.

3. What are your immediate and long-term goals for the i+DEAL lab and its impact?

In terms of immediate goals, it is important to us that students can continue to learn during the summer and that they have the tools, resources, and knowledge to do so. The grant will solely be used to provide participants with all the tools they need to complete the projects in the workshop. The best part is that they will be able to keep everything after the conclusion of the workshops, and we hope that this will allow them to continue to create their own STEAM projects outside of the classroom.

In the long term, we would like to make this a permanent summer initiative where graduate students in the Music Composition and Computer Technologies program will be able to create their own outreach workshops that are both relevant to their research and can serve the Charlottesville community in a positive way. We hope to prepare the next generation of music graduate students for creating and hosting STEAM- and music-related workshops.

4. Can you describe the musical element of the initiative?

All of the projects that the students have made focus on sound and music making — students made their own mini musical synthesizers.