Stellar Projects is an ambitious five-year widening participation programme delivered by ArtLab and Reading University to enable co-research with Maiden Erlegh School in East Reading.
We kicked off by reaching for the stars, as we developed an exciting Art / Science workshop which celebrated the achievements of the British space explorer Tim Peake and his amazing work on the ISS. We created the first 3D printed art exhibition to be shown in space, with 3D files that could be printed out by the space station 3D printer. The project also highlights the importance of art for health and wellbeing as astronauts spend increasing amounts of time in space.
The Stellar Project enables Maiden Erlegh School children, our co-researchers, to explore the ideas and physical materials often used in making art such as clay, plastics and found objects etc and combine them with thinking and discovering about technology, electronics, building circuits etc to create artworks which have, sensory, interactive and/or kinetic elements. We are exploring the potential of 3D-scanning and 3D-printing, using 3D modeling programmes, combining new technology with traditional art making approaches. We also use video and performance elements for our co-researchers to present their ideas and artworks.
Each workshop is designed to encourage the children to take creative decisions as part of an interdisciplinary team. We hope to address gaps in the current curriculum that overlook teaching art and electronics. Working collaboratively, learning how to negotiate and share ideas our co-researchers this year will be well placed to share their knowledge and experience to the next cohort of Year 7 pupils in 2017 when they will be asked to develop and lead the project posing questions such as ‘Where is Tim Peake now?’ ‘Who is in the ISS?’ ‘How near are we to going to Mars?’
We will track and continue to engage with our first group of co-researchers at school with further Stellar Project activities over the year. These will include workshops with typography students, art students and science students from across the University. These students will work alongside the children to develop the project which could include designing a poster, exploring the potential of 3D printing, creating an artwork based on Mars or in response to scientific idea or problem. The co-research, interdisciplinary teams of staff, students and pupils mentoring younger pupils, will provide the structure for the Stellar Project to continue to develop new ideas and techniques and evolve over the coming years. We are preparing for next years workshop already by designing a Martian landscape made out of orange sand in a giant shed!
Stellar Workshops 2016
Documentation from our workshop below or read about it from Abinaya one of our co-researcher pupils reporting from Maiden Erlegh School.
Tim in Space 8th June 2016
As part of ArtLab’s Stellar Project children from Maiden Erlegh School visited the Art Dept at the University of Reading. The children have become co-researchers in the ArtLab and will work alongside students and staff during their five years at the school.
The aim of the project is to make artworks based on the astronaut Tim Peake. Once made the artworks were 3D scanned and could potentially be printed by 3D-printer to create an exhibition for the International Space Station.
We began the day by dividing into two groups of ‘Tims Team’ one blue and one red. Our UoR students had customized some paint suits for the event. The children had prepared information boards about Tim and his life.
We were then introduced to an astrophysicist Msc student James and Kathie Bowden the UK National Space Skills and Career Development Manager from the Institute for Environmental Analytics and UK Space Agency for a very informative talk about space and life as an astronaut.
After the talk Tim’s Blue Team created work from clay and Tims Red Team created artwork using easy to use electronics kit littlebits and recycled materials the teams switched activities after lunch.
During the practical sessions the teams were also given a guided tour of some of this years student final exhibition Dusk
The children were also interviewed about their thoughts about the workshop experience, their ambitions for the future and what makes them happy.
The idea of the clay workshop was to first explore and create artworks working blindfold thinking about the sensory experience with the clay then later to create a work as a group developing ideas in response to thoughts about Tim and his experiences in Space. The clay model was then scanned using the 3D scanner.
The idea of this workshop took inspiration from the environment of the International Space Station. We used the littlebits kits to discover how a circuit works, we thought about all the switches, dials and the way objects move in space. How would an art object exist in microgravity? The children first experimented with the electronics kit making simple circuits to turn on lights, buzzers and to make things move. Then in groups they designed an artwork that would include some kind of circuit in an interactive artwork.
The groups were given a demonstration of the 3D-printer and scanner.
We discussed what would happen to objects that had a moving element when we attempted to scan them.
We discussed how scanning an object that moved would show time passing, creating blips, glitches, judders creating unexpected outcomes.
We were excited to see what the forms would look like.
The groups had to negotiate which part of each other’s idea they would use to construct the artwork.
You can see some screen shots of the final scanned artworks here
We found it interesting that 3D scanning the littlebits constructions turned them into transporters. The object exists on Earth – becomes data – travels through the ether – and potentially is printed out and made physical in space.
We discussed the idea that if people spend along time living in space, for example on the journey to Mars, art would be needed for the health and wellbeing of the crew.