Notre Dame welcomes over 300 fifth graders to STEAMnd

Author: Stephanie Healey

STEAMnd
Fifth graders play the instruments created for them by
undergraduates in the ND Design Deck.

On Monday, May 12, over 300 fifth graders from the Michiana area came to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center for STEAMnd, an initiative to teach students how the arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields can be integrated together. The goal of this event was to teach the students about the math and science behind musical instruments.

In preparation for STEAMnd, several undergraduates took a course last fall called, “Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math.” The participants in the one-credit course designed and fabricated instrument kits using laser cutters, 3D printers, and other equipment in the ND Design Deck in Stinson-Remick Hall.  Some of the instrument kits created included a penny whistle, log drum, and chime.

“I have always been passionate about the both science and the arts,” said senior biological sciences major Elena Brindley. “The STEAM project was a unique opportunity to explore new technology for the great cause of integrating science and the arts in education.”

The theme of Monday’s event was “WAVES: Wonder-Arts-Vibration-Energy-Science.” The students completed hands-on activities with undergraduates to learn about the properties of sound waves.  Students were tasked with making their own sound waves by making different types of sounds with their lips and had to evaluate the whether the waves were large/small or fast/slow.  The students also learned about an oscilloscope, a tool used to visualize sound waves, and illustrated the different types of sounds they observed with the tool.  

In addition to the sound wave exercises, the students assembled the musical instruments the undergraduates produced and took a tour of the ND Design Deck to see where and how their new instruments were made. The day concluded with a performance by Third Coast Percussion, the ensemble-in-residence at the University. The fifth graders were also able to participate in the performance with their new instruments.

This was the first community engagement program for STEAMnd. STEAMnd is a multidisciplinary program sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns, College of Engineering, College of Science, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, and the Office of Public Affairs.