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Murray State University Incorporates 3D Printing into Their Annual Summer Art Workshop

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3dp_saw_steam_msu_logoAs the education system starts to catch up to our evolving labor force, there has been an increased focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education all over the world. Modern technology has become more intimately entangled in our lives than ever before, and that is highly unlikely to change. Teaching children how to work with the technology in our lives is as important as teaching them how to spell or how to read. But it seems that as STEM education continues to grow in importance, many educators are reducing the role that art plays in modern education. In fact, there is often an air of hostility directed at the arts from many in the various STEM fields of study, something that I have never really understood.

The idea that art is something wholly alien or antithetical to science is actually a rather modern notion. During the Renaissance, perhaps the greatest period of the advancement of society in history, the arts and the sciences were intimately intertwined. The father of the Renaissance, and perhaps the smartest person to ever live, Leonardo da Vinci treated both as if they were simply different sides of the same coin. It is very likely that da Vinci’s greatest scientific advancements would never have happened were it not for his art, and vice versa. Art makes us to think bigger, and it teaches us to draw outside of the lines. It opens our minds to new ideas, new paths, shows us what impossible looks like and then encourages us to do it anyway. Art is a vital part of our world, and I’d even put forward that it is actually impossible to advance science without embracing the basics of artistic expression.

SAW 2016 was held from June 12th to the 17th.

SAW 2016 was held from June 12th to the 17th.

Thankfully I am not alone in my estimation of the importance of art. Many educational institutions and educators are starting to understand how connected the arts and the sciences are, and there has been a small but growing movement to incorporate Art into the principles of STEM education. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) education is a more well-rounded and richer experience for everyone involved. And it isn’t just scientists who are pulling art into their world, but modern technology is leading artists to science in ways that have never been possible before.

Art major Chase helps keep the 3D printers running during SAW 2016.

Art major Chase helps keep the 3D printers running during SAW 2016.

Every summer, Murray State University holds a five-day Summer Art Workshop (SAW) that connects the school’s art educators and students with a group of eager high school students. For the 2016 workshop they made an effort to insert STEM into art and included several classes that require artistic thinking as well as technological know-how. For the first time students were given lessons on the basics of digital animation and design as well on using a 3D printer. The organizers of SAW included 3D printing in the workshop because they believe that incorporating technology into the way art is made has become necessary.

“…so of course we’re incorporating that more in the workshops. Whenever I was doing the workshop it was very simple, traditional, drawing and painting, and things of that sort. But now animation and web design and graphic design those things are becoming more prominent so we like to teach more of that now,” explained Murray State alumnus Jacob Melvin.

This year’s workshop was held from June 12th to the 17th and the 56 students who attended 2016’s workshop worked with educator Chris Lavery to learn how to digitally sculpt 3D models and then print them out on a 3D printer. It was the first time SAW incorporated STEM education with other traditional art education, and given the growing number of STEM students enrolling in the university it’s unlikely to be the last. The 3D printing and digital sculpting classes joined a diverse set of subjects, including stop motion animations, drawing and animation, mixed media painting and art history. Lavery walked the students through designing their own custom 3D model and then each student helped 3D print their own creation to take home with them.

“[The workshop] shows definitely that our generation is changing and that we’re [delving] into all different forms of artwork that have yet to have been tried. It gives everyone a very good experience too,” high school graduate and incoming Murray State University freshman Eugene Lopez told Murray States NPR station WKMS.

Educator Chris Lavery teaches a group of high school students how to use a 3D printer at SAW 2016.

Educator Chris Lavery teaches a group of high school students how to use a 3D printer at SAW 2016.

At the end of the week, the students who participated would have gained a diverse set of skills that will be instrumental in helping them choose their future careers. Being able to experience how art and science are connected is going to give them a much greater appreciation of both, and one hopes encourage them to think of the impossible and them make it possible. You can learn more about Murray State’s Summer Art Workshop here, and you can see what the students learned by visiting SAW’s Facebook page. Discuss further in the Murray State University Workshop 3D Printing forum over at

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