Back to all news stories

Boundlessly creative

By Kate West

From November 4-6, ArtsEngine — a North Campus initiative promoting interdisciplinary creative work — posed a student design challenge worthy of the next generation of 21st century innovators. The challenge: Create teams that include students from at least 3 different University schools and colleges (2 from North Campus), limit them to working with reused materials, give them a budget of $50 and then start the clock for a 42-hour competition.

The brainchild of Art & Design faculty Osman Khan and Engineering faculty Satinder Singh, “42 Hours of Re_Creativity” (the “re” stands for “reuse”) inspired ten teams from areas as diverse as neuroscience, philosophy, physics, music, dance, architecture, engineering, and art and design to meet the challenge and compete for the top three prizes of $1,500, $750 and $500.

Designs were judged on creativity, innovation, concept depth, and aesthetics by a 3-person team of judges drawn from outside the University: Richard Sheridan, CEO Menlo innovations; Bill Milam, Technical Expert, Ford innovation team; and Gina Van Tine, Principal of InFORM Studio in Detroit.

The resulting projects ran the gamut from a story-telling installation created from discarded tape recorders, audiocassettes, and torn books; to a coffee table and lamp made from scrap acrylic and discarded magazines; to a prosthetic arm made from plastic, rubber, lamp parts, copper wiring and scrap metal.

Top prize went to a team composed of engineering graduate students Suenghun Baek, Stephanie Huang and Roberto Minguez; neuroscience graduate student Ramses Alcaid; and Art & Design graduate student Jessica Goldberg.  Their project combined scrap pieces of acrylic and non-toxic medical waste to create a pair of transparent end tables.  To emphasize the biological sources for their materials, the team added LED lights to make the tables appear to be breathing through the medical material.

Second Place honors went to a portable, featherweight one-person tent made from mylar snack bags, discarded plastic sheeting, and PVC tubing, created by Architecture undergraduates Simon Anton and Helena Kang; School of Music Theater and Dance undergraduate Emily Graber; and LSA undergraduate Abraham Morrison.  The tent is designed to be reversible to promote heat retention or cooling.

Third Place winners Benjamin Mason and Daniel Connors, Engineering undergraduates; Courtney Duffy, Architecture undergraduate; and Teshia Treuhaft, School of Art & Design undergraduate, designed a new system of cardboard packaging to reduce paper waste and fuel for transport. Their foldable cardboard material can be scored in various ways so that it can efficiently, and safely, wrap objects of varying sizes.

Judge and CEO of Menlo Innovations Richard Sheridan commented,“I saw great creativity, imagination and wonderful cross-discipline teamwork. Ultimately our judging was based on how well the teams cut across the different disciplines and used their teamwork to produce an imaginative result! In business today, the highest performing organizations know they have to cut across disciplines.  The students in 42 hours of re-creativity are getting a chance to practice this, and as a result, they will be more valuable once they graduate.”

Top Award winner Jessica Goldberg, agreed that the competition gave her new insights into different ways of working.  “We all learned so much from each other.  We learned to trust, to listen, and to respect different problem solving strategies.  Science minds often look for the most efficient way to solve a problem. Artists and designers can bring an understanding of the impact of good design, both aesthetically and functionally.”

But more than that, the project gave Jessica something she’d long been searching for —a community of collaborators.  “I loved working with my team members.  I felt so appreciated. From the beginning I considered them all geniuses that I got to work with.  I have always had huge ideas, but, until now, I had to set them aside.  I came here wanting to meet a group of people who could help me figure out how to make my ideas come to life.  And I met these people and felt that, together, we could make our creative dreams come true.  I learned so much from them. I finally feel like I have a community of people to work with.”

Competition organizer and ArtsEngine Executive Director, Theresa Reid, confirms that this first Re-Creativity challenge was a success. “42 Hours of Re_Creativity accomplished everything we hoped it would.  We wanted to introduce students across units to each other and to give them a fun and interesting project focused on creative reuse of consumer waste. And they outdid themselves. We are hoping to make it an annual ArtsEngine event.”

Photos courtesy of ArtsEngine

LEAD PHOTO: University of Michigan students Courtney Duffey, Benjamin Mason, Daniel Connors and Teshia Treuhaft. The team earned a third-place award.
ArtsEngine is a collaboration among U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, School of Art & Design, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and College of Engineering, that stimulates and supports integrative, project-based creative work and sustained research among faculty and students from its founding schools and other U-M units.