Tech-forward Design


A silicone-cast brain that registers electromagnetic signals; a piece of clothing that appears to be lined with flying butterflies; and a foot-controlled joystick that moves an artificial limb are among the futuristic projects designed by students in Human + Computer, a workshop series taught by three grad students from the MIT Media Lab


Spearheaded by Ryan Mather 15 ID, a founding member of the RISD STEAM group, the Wintersession workshop series is the latest in the ongoing events the student org sponsors to illustrate the importance of STEAM, a national movement that encourages the integration of art and design into STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

For the last three weeks, 14 students from RISD, Brown and MIT have been working together to design and make innovative devices while learning cutting-edge technical skills in electronics, digital fabrication and programming. For instance, Melody Cao 16 ID and her teammates repurposed a mouth puppet (below) bought at a flea market to “speak” phonemes when it’s squeezed or blown into.image

Mather is constructing a “smart scarf” that senses the heart rate, location and temperature of a child so that a parent or guardian can monitor this information. Cynthia Liu MFA 15 DM (in top photo) and a team of engineers used an open-source electronics prototyping platform to rig a robotic arm and are now developing ways to connect the device to a wireless remote control. 

Joshua Bohar MArch 16 and his group built Thinking Cap, a wearable headpiece that registers brain waves through an EEG, which light up LEDs embedded in a rubber model of an (anatomically correct) brain. “Not only are we mapping neural activity, but we’re displaying it – in real time – to an audience,” explains Bohar.

Curious to find out more? A small exhibition featuring the students’ illuminating projects will open on February 15 at 7 pm at Exposé, RISD’s student-run gallery.

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