Carnegie Mellon University

Professor Susan Finger and UG Morgan Reed in front of IDEaTe sign

July 13, 2017

Learning at the Creative Intersection of Art and Technology

Sophomore Morgan Reed is an aspiring structural engineer who plans to make an impact in urban development, and she has a unique and unexpected minor: Animation & Special Effects.

No, she doesn’t want to animate Pixar’s next Toy Story movie. She knows that learning creative and artistic animation skills will help her create 3D models for engineering.

“I think it’s very important to be able to bring in different perspectives to your field of study,” says Reed. “Being able to look at projects not only from an engineer’s perspective, but also as an artist, allows me to think of the visual aspects more than I would have.”

Animation & Special Effects is one of Carnegie Mellon’s IDeATe minors (Integrative Design, Arts & Technology), a network of interdisciplinary courses that encourage learning at the creative intersection of art and technology. IDeATe’s minors and courses bring together students and faculty from creative and technical majors to learn subjects in game design, sound design, Physical Computing, Intelligent Environments, and more.

So far, Reed has taken one IDeAte course, Responsive Mobile Environments, often called Mars Habitats. She worked with other students in engineering, physics, architecture, and art majors to create a self-sufficient plant biome model that could survive on Mars.

“Being able to work one-on-one with these different groups of people definitely made this class a worthwhile experience that made me all the more excited to be a part of IDeATe,” Reed says.

Susan Finger, a CEE professor and the associate dean of IDeATe, encourages students from all disciplines to pursue courses or minors in IDeATe, because collaborating with students with other perspectives allows them see their own field differently.

Her Rapid Design class, for example, focuses on learning through experimentation. “Basically you’re thinking about how you learn, how you learn by experimenting, and you make something that engages a child—not book learning, but the kind of experimental learning you get by playing with stuff.”

Even if students don’t want to commit to the five IDeAte courses it takes to earn an IDeAte minor, they can still benefit from one or two of the interdisciplinary courses. They are designed without prerequisites, so students from all areas of the university can pursue interests outside their majors.

CEE student Sara Guo took a Reality Computing course, which centered around a project to create a smart home for low income housing, catering to the needs of veterans or disabled people.

“I realized how difficult it is to work with people who are not engineers,” says Guo. “But you can use that frustration to your advantage and coordinate with people who don’t necessarily think the same way as you. That was really helpful will be helpful later on as well.”