Blending Art with Engineering

December 11, 2020 9:03AM

LUAG & Fundamentals of Engineering (MECH003)

Stacie Brennan, Curator of Education


In the early Spring of 2020, Professor of Practice Christina Viau Haden visited the Lehigh University Art Galleries to explore opportunities to integrate creativity and art into her curriculum for the sophomore level class “Fundamentals of Engineering” (MECH003). She was inspired by the work of Leonardo Da Vinci and how he used drawing as a tool for problem-solving and defining engineering concepts. Da Vinci was a master engineer who produced thousands of mechanical drawings that investigated and addressed the challenges of flight, manufacturing, mechanics, and even war.

The collection of artworks in the Lehigh University Art Galleries provide a myriad of opportunities to investigate how artists use a universal language for creative problem-solving. Working with Christina and LUAG Curator of Education Stacie Brennan, they identified the outdoor sculpture collection as an interesting opportunity for students to learn about and explore the structural elements utilized with the sculptures on campus. They honed in on the Menashe Kadishman sculpture, Three Discs located on the Mountaintop campus since LUAG is fortunate to have the mechanical drawings for the sculpture within the collection files. This giant abstract sculpture symbolizes strength and instability, toppling to the side but remaining upright, seemingly defying gravity. Menashe Kadishman was a renowned Israeli sculptor who created similar iconic sculptures that are located all over the world, including Tel Aviv, Israel, and Toronto, Canada.

The pandemic created challenges for in-person learning experiences, so Professor Haden pivoted quickly to incorporate the investigation of the piece into a test problem on the final exam. The test problem presented the sculpture through blueprints and asked them to investigate the structural elements and ratios of the sculpture below the surface and above it. The results of the problem and equation provide real-life examples for students and opportunities for LUAG to build out our database for future maintenance and care of the sculpture.

“I really enjoyed the creative infusion into my class that resulted from our out-of-the-ordinary collaboration. The students also appreciated it, mentioning that it was a compelling application of their newfound knowledge at the culmination of their Statics and Strength of Materials course. My hope is to instill in our students a broader perspective of the ways in which an engineering education can bring value to their lives and society - and our collaboration did just that. Thank you so much for the opportunity, and I look forward to more collaborations with the Art Galleries!” - Christina Viau Haden

Special thanks to Lehigh’s Humanities Lab for support of this course moment and collaboration.

Mech003 Final Test Question about Kadishman Three Discs Sculpture


Detail of Mech003 Test Question

Original Blue Print of Three Discs by Manashe Kadishman