Workshop Overview

2017 - Reimagining STEM @ Northern Michigan University

Anishinaabe arcs began with students learning about why parabolic arcs were so common in wigwams, canoes, snowshoes, bows, etc.

This includes Indigenous knowledge--botany, math, and physics of stress--as well as the spiritual basis for sustainable wood harvests.

Wigwaam Frame
Lenape Longhouse
Algonquian Canoe
Snowshoe building

Students then created simulations of these traditional structures, learning the “heritage algorithm” embedded in its patterns:

3D Wigwaam
3D Wigwaam

Next step was to extend the heritage algorithm in new ways, creating their own design:

Student Design 1
Student Design 2
Student Design 3
Student Design 4

Student Design 5
Student Design 6
Student Design 7
Student Design 8

Then they rendered the virtual designs using one of 3 methods corresponding to 3 STEM career paths they researched:

  1. Design sciences using wood
  2. Environmental sciences using a biodegradable foam
  3. Engineering using electroluminescent wire
Student design using wood
Student design using wood
Student design using wood
Student design using wood

Student design using myco foam
Student design using myco foam
Student design using myco foam
Student design using myco foam

Electrolumeniscent Wire Renderings
Electroluminescent Wire Renderings

Pre-post contrasts showed statistically significant results:

Pre Post Results

Finally, the students reflected on what they learned in relation to their own lives:

Student 1

I believe my design represents the two worlds I come from. One being of my Native heritage and the other of the technology era. With the completion of my structure I was able to combine two worlds and accumulate an interest in engineering. My community relies on electricity to keep schools running, businesses afloat and also to conduct heat during harsh winters. On and off reservation, the world needs electricity to maintain a efficient lifestyle. This project has taught me that I can provide and give back for my people while incorporating important traditions and teachings to create a productive environment

Student 2

My design can relate to my career path by the inspiration I gave myself that I can create creative structures. My design had informed me about the Anishinaabe Arcs and how they are created. Due to this project, I feel that this hands on experience got me thinking about my engineering career in the future. This helped me to think about my career into engineering. I did want to become an [engineer] but this design had brought engineering to my eyes. This also can inspire my family and my community that anyone can do what they want.

Student 3

My design relates to the idea of being hands-on and creative on the spot, as I want to become a sign language interpreter. I found that my family could be represented in this as we are close knit, and also have the backbone of my parents who support us, like the largest arc of my design that helps keep the other parts in place. This project reflects my personal interests of sculpting using a softer material. I liked using the mushroom base as I am a very touchy/feely person, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed the project as much if I had used wood or the lights.

Student 4

My design is a series of arcs in two different sides of the my foam block. I am pursuing a degree in the nursing field and I think it could relate as if it’s a path in life. There isn’t a straight road you can take and consists of many ups and downs. Being a nurse, you’re usually seeing them in a time of need. One side has bigger arcs and the other side has smaller ones. Sometimes there are bigger emergencies and other times it’s minor things. But no matter how low someone gets, they always go up afterwards and I think being able to be apart of that is really awesome. I can’t wait to help others and provide them with the care they need. This can also represent my life with my friends and family. We all struggle with our own things, but it always gets better. I’m thankful I always have others there for me and I can’t wait to do that for someone else whether they have friends/family with them or not.