By Ralph Tillinghast
As you canvas the country to identify STEM programs, one of the prevalent activities is robotics teams at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Although the primary focus of these is STEM, many also incorporate STEAM into their programs. As these programs expand schools find that they need to work with all of the school departments, including visual art, graphic design, and business. Some of the teams even form subcommittees related to graphic design, t-shirts, marketing, for fundraising, team spirit, and promotional materials. A good example of this is a Flanders, New Jersey team known as MORT. Team Mort has had a long history in robotics competitions, fielding robots since 1996. Over the years, they've added a junior varsity team, MORT Beta. Combined, the teams have 130 students. The MORT teams have adopted the sub-committee model, having groups for programming, electrical, mechanical, business, marketing, and travel. Each year, the marketing team develops multiple t-shirts, stickers, and other marketing to use for fundraising and for lifting the team spirit during competitions at both their JV and Varsity levels. A quick scan of the Internet will lead you to a wide range of creative logo and t-shirt designs from other robotics teams from throughout the country. This creative application of marketing and graphics demonstrates how the arts can easily be integrated into STEM to build a more holistic systems approach to solving problems in multiple subject areas and broaden student learning at the same time.
Ralph Tillinghast is a Collaborative member and is Lab Director, Collaboration Innovation Lab, US Army.