The A in STEAM

Alexandra Kliche, Mines Industrial Engineering Graduate, shares her pursuit of STEAM subjects (Science, Technology Engineering, ARTS, and Math)

At the edge of human knowledge, where the work of previous scholars offers little help, science and engineering pioneers must take a leap into the unknown. Innovators are a wide range of individuals with diverse backgrounds: from the physicist who makes a discovery that expands our understanding of the universe to the everyday engineer who finds an elegant solution to an immensely difficult problem. One thing these forerunners have in common: almost all cite the critical importance of creativity in the discovery process.

A team of Mines students including, Alexandra Kliche (IE 20), Alex Kringen (IE 20), Kate Knott (IE 20), and Hans Leonhardt (IE 20) are exploring the boundaries of engineering, art, and music. Their senior design project, called “Gateway,” is an interactive engineered art project planned for installation on the ceiling near the front door of the university Music Center (Old Gym).  The project includes aspects of mechanical and electrical engineering. Its designed to sense the location of an individual below it and play various notes based on the person’s movement.  Black Hills Energy saw promise in the team’s design and offered a $4500 grant for its installation.

“I see engineering as part of art,” says Kliche, who is the visionary for the collaborative project.  “The same creative process is required in engineering, art and music. All these pursuits are about bettering human life.”  

Like many South Dakota Mines students, Kliche excels at both music and art. Both have been an important part of her college career.   

“I was always in the advanced classes, back in high school, but I was still working on art and music projects,” she says. “I was worried coming to an engineering school that I would have to give up on the creative side.  But this was not the case.  I really want to convey to people in my shoes that a degree in engineering does not exclude you from pursuing art and music,” says Kliche.

In fact, Kliche says her study of engineering and math has improved her art and music.  

“The math classes helped me see the patterns in the music and how the chords stack on top of each other, after all music theory is all math,” says Kliche. “Engineering gave me a more methodical approach to my art,” she adds. “If you plan your materials and plan your project you come out with a more impactful and well thought out piece in the end.”

COVID-19 brought an abrupt end to the plans for installation of Gateway, but a future team may be able to take up where this team left off. Kliche is also planning a similar piece that could go into the Dahl Fine Arts Center in Downtown Rapid City at some point in the future.  She is now pursuing her masters in engineering management at South Dakota Mines with plans for a PhD in design.

In the last century, scientists and engineers have led the planet to new technological heights, from cars, to computers, to medicine, to space travel; the work of pioneering scientists and engineers has created previously unimaginable advancements. The next generation of engineers, who can cross disciplines provide new creative energy and thinking, will no doubt again break previous molds and yield new mind-bending innovation and invention.

Last edited 12/8/2020 3:19:27 PM

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