Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition
The Mass and Energy Balances course at Smith College collaborated with the Women’s Studies course on Youth Culture and Gender and with the feminist art collective subRosa to examine the relationships between cultures of production and the production of culture. The product of this collaboration was the interactive art installation “Can You See us Now? ¿Ya Nos Pueden Ver?” part of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) exhibit “The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere.”
The museum site itself once housed the Sprague Electric capacitor factory, but globalization pressures resulted in exporting production to Juárez, Mexico. Thus, engineering students conducted a life cycle assessment to quantify the environmental impacts of capacitor production in a globalized economy, while the Youth Culture and Gender class examined how conditions of life shaped by global production cycles link the cultures of young women in North Adams and Ciudad Juárez.
Students in both courses met occasionally throughout the semester to plan their contribution to the installation, which included fabricating art objects (including a representative circuit and capacitor) and producing a GIS map of materials flows in capacitor production. Each class had its own set of conventional deliverables including term papers, ethnographic research projects, ethics essays, and formal project reports.
The collaboration process is discussed, including how such projects are generated, how two distinct cultures of students can be brought to work productively together, and how to work well with off-site collaborators, which include a Sprague engineer as well as the art collective. Finally, reflections are offered about the impact of this collaborative project on students, the academy, and society.
©2015 American Society for Engineering Education. ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings.
Riley, Donna and Armstrong, Elisabeth, "Common Ground: How a Course Collaboration Between Engineering and Women’s Studies Produced Fine Art" (2005). Study of Women and Gender: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.