Sept. 23, 2019
Reproduced from https://www.si.umich.edu/about-umsi/news/professor-ron-eglash-present-national-tribal-energy-summit
University of Michigan professor Ron Eglash is a pioneer in the field of ethnocomputing. His research recognizes the complex algorithms at the heart of many cultural traditions, and translates those into educational technologies that can reorient STEM teaching and content towards more sustainable and egalitarian futures.
On September 24, Eglash will focus specifically on traditional Native American practices, such as weaving, architecture and ecosystems engineering in a talk at the National Tribal Energy Summit in Washington, D.C.
In his talk on Ethnocomputing and Indigenous Knowledge, Eglash, a professor in the School of Information and Penny Stamps School of Art and Design, will outline his work with students using culturally situated design tools to create designs that show the sophisticated math and computing ideas at the center of native cultural traditions.
The summit, organized by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of Indian Energy, will bring together more than 300 tribal government leaders, plus state and federal representatives to build networks and exchange ideas.
“It’s rare to have such a high level opportunity to show how Indigenous knowledge can help us rethink STEM education specifically, and our whole sociotechnical system more generally,” says Eglash.
Professor Eglash can often be found putting his work into practice with students across the globe. In June, he co-led a workshop for students at the American Indian Health and Family Services in Detroit. Students in the workshop combined computational models of traditional algorithms – such as polar coordinates in medicine wheel quilting and 3D models of wigwam architecture – with physical handcrafting.
“One highlight was when they cut poles from tree limbs and mounted sensors on them for charting temperature differences in the Detroit River,” Eglash says. “We had a bit of a ceremony thanking the tree for its wood in Anishinaabemowin.”