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Engineering-Art Research Summer Camp 2010

PhotoFrom July 19-27th of 2010, twenty middle and high school students and one high school science teacher participated in the Engineering-Art Research Summer Camp hosted by the Ingram School of Engineering and the Department of Art and Design.  The camp, coordinated and run by Texas State University-San Marcos faculty, proposed to bring together the two fields of art and engineering through the study of bridge design using industry-level software.  Students were given hands-on training with software including Computer Automated Design (CAD), Ansys, Zedit, and Zcorp print software among a few others. 

This project incorporated all major aspects of engineering including analysis, modeling, prototyping, and team work.  Students observed a site next to the San Marcos River, measuring physical specifications such as water flow rate, depth, and width before deciding upon a particular bridge type.  Students were then taught how to use Inventor Autodesk software in order to design their bridge.  The bridges were then tested with simulated loads using built-in Finite Element Analysis software (Ansys) to determine the strength of the bridge.  After initial strength tests, the artistic design process was incorporated as students considered texture, color, light, time and movement of their projected bridges.  Their designs were then transferred to ZEdit software for the addition of color and texture.  The Zcorp 450 rapid prototyping machine then created a model of their designed bridge.  A presentation, including a poster, was then given by the students for each bridge. 

Art design remained integral throughout the bridge-making process.  “Student designs included inherent color and natural texture of the building materials to blend with the surroundings. In one pedestrian bridge, applied color to the underside resulted in a visual contrast to the stone that invites viewers to explore the underside as one would do on the river in a canoe or inner tube.  Students also found creative ways to use space, such as a bridge design that provided a pedestrian overpass on two levels, one at street level and another at the river bank level. Other designs engaged the viewer by integrating a central platform space on which pedestrians can stop to reflect on the surroundings.  As an engineered structure intended to promote pedestrian transportation, one bridge incorporated repetition with curvilinear shaped railings to enhance the overall form and visual movement thereby reinforcing its engineered purpose.

Because of the high quality of the projects and presentations, panel of experts unanimously decided to select all four teams as winners of this year research camp.”1

At the end of the camp, students were given the opportunity to express in writing what they thought they had learned about engineering and art design through the bridge project.  Here are a few of their responses:

“Engineering is a process, this process uses the scientific method throughout design.”

“I learned that the engineering process takes time and is best accomplished through trial and error. Engineering allows our society to advance technologically and socially.”

“I learned you really don't have to have a specialty with drawing to be good with art, you just need an image in your mind of what you want.”

 “I learned to listen to people's ideas and that compromises are the best way to resolve conflicts.”

“This program is for students who want to learn about engineering through hands on experience.”

“Art is what people will see (appeal and character) and engineering reinforces the design taking into account sturdiness, feasibility, and efficiency.”


  1Asiabanpour, Bahram; DesChamps-Benke, Nicole; Wilson, Thomas; Loerwald, Matthew; Gourgery, Hannah.   “Bridging” Engineering & Art: An Outreach Approach for Middle and High School Students. 2010.