Campus News

UGA Faculty receive NSF grant to fuse art, engineering

UGA faculty receive NSF grant to fuse art, engineering

Athens, Ga. – Leonardo Da Vinci’s two-wheeled hoist encapsulates the fusion of form and function. Presented in cutaway and exploded views from many directions, this master of perspective created drawings whose elegant combination of science and art promoted the credibility of his designs. His blending of skill and knowledge remains at the apex of human design perfection, as elusive today as it was in the 15th century.

This elegant blending, or synthesis, is at the heart of new engineering curricula at the University of Georgia. The National Science Foundation has awarded a $150,000 grant to three UGA faculty members from engineering, art and education, to develop and implement a synthesis studio sequence for undergraduate environmental engineering. The studio setting, beginning winter 2009, will allow students from different levels to interact and integrate individual courses into the more complex educational experience.

“We hope to encourage first-year engineering students by introducing design elements into the curriculum earlier and utilizing third and fourth year students as mentors,” said Nadia Kellam, assistant professor of engineering and principal investigator on the grant. “The purpose of the grant is to develop these first year courses that will allow students to map the courses onto the greater landscape of their learning experience.”

Tracie Costantino, an assistant professor of art education in the Lamar Dodd School of Art and Bonnie Cramond of the College of Education are co-P.I.s on the grant.

For many years, engineering educators along with the national academies have sought methods for engaging students in the creative aspects of technical design while integrating the humanistic elements of successful implementation. UGA engineering has developed a model in which technical excellence, innovation and humanism are given equal standing, a way to inspire cross-disciplinary collaboration for faculty and opportunities for engineering and art students. Tangibly integrating these goals into the curriculum is dependent upon faculty willing to develop new directions, like the studio courses.

“There is a synergy between art and engineering that has not been fully explored, and a real need for interdisciplinary studies in undergraduate education,” said Costantino who met Kellam when both were Lilly Teaching Fellows at UGA, a program that nurtures collaboration among innovative young faculty. The two teamed with Cramond, former director of the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development, to bring expertise to the research facet of the grant investigating creativity as a component of the new classroom setting.

“The NSF award supports faculty collaboration in the arts and in engineering that brings together diverse disciplinary expertise in search of innovative insights into dynamic learning appropriate for the 21st century,” said Georgia Strange, director of the Lamar Dodd School of Art in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Leadership in the Franklin College and the Faculty of Engineering has been instrumental in creating opportunities for faculty from different parts of campus to work together.

“We all need to admit that art and science commingle to create great engineering,” said Dale Threadgill, director of the Faculty of Engineering. “As our faculty members integrate this reality into our academic programs, we open doors for students to become the people who will create innovative solutions to improve our world.”

The UGA Faculty of Engineering was established in 2001 to advance comprehensive engineering at the University of Georgia. With more than 100 members from twenty-four departments in nine schools and colleges across campus, the Faculty of Engineering provides an entrepreneurial setting for engineering academic programs in the unique environment of UGA. For more information, see