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RISD to Host Design Science Symposium January 31-February 2


The fourth biennial Design Science symposium, STEM to STEAM thru Synergy: Bridging Morphology, Biomimicry, Sustainability and Synergetics, will convene from January 31 – February 2, 2014 on the RISD campus. Programming will take place in the Metcalf Auditorium at the Chace Center (20 N. Main Street) and at the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab (13 Waterman Street).

At the highly interactive symposium, makers, thinkers, practitioners and educators gather to explore the multidisciplinary field of design science through presentations, panel discussions, workshops, a film screening, tours and an exhibition. Schedule details for the three-day event can be found at

Keynote speakers include RISD's Interim President Rosanne Somerson; biomimic and Co-founder of Biomimicry 3.8 Dayna Baumeister; Executive Director of the San Francisco Exploratorium Dennis M. Bartels; and master ceramicist and artist in residence at St. Johns University Richard Bresnahan.

STEAM is a movement championed by and widely adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals over the last several years. An acronym for adding the Arts to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), STEAM represents an integrative and multidisciplinary approach to education that is central to the symposium.

Notable speakers who will present at the symposium include Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Rhode Island Department of Education; Kavita Ramanan, a mathematician and professor at Brown University; Lefteris Pavlides, an architect and professor at Roger Williams University; Thomas T. K. Zung, principal and architect of the firm Buckminster Fuller, Sadao & Zung; and Eric Goetz, owner of Bristol-based racing boat builders Goetz Composites, among others. Goetz will speak about the recent commission to restore of one of Buckminster Fuller's most iconic structures, the 24-ft/7.3m Fly's Eye Dome.

Participants will have the opportunity to attend hands-on design science workshops facilitated by engineers, inventors, designers and mathematicians. Facilitators include George Hart, Bob Sanderson, Leftheris Pavlides, Chris Kitrick, Joe Clinton, Ed Popko, Dick Esterle and Gary Doskas. Panel discussions with RISD faculty members Peter Dean, Carl Fasano and Amy Leidtke will address the question "What is Design Science?" and a student panel will discuss their science-focused work and studio practice.

The documentary A Visit with Magnus, featuring monk, mathematician and builder of polyhedron models Father Magnus Wenniger, will be screened for the first time, followed by a discussion with filmmaker Christopher Zelov, who, with Phil Cousineau and Brian Danitz, also co-edited the book Design Outlaws on the Ecological Frontier and co-created the award-winning documentary Ecological Design: Inventing the Future.

Participants will enjoy tours of both the Arthur Loeb Design Science Teaching Collection and RISD's Edna Lawrence Nature Lab, where the collection is housed. The Loeb Collection features hundreds of three-dimensional polyhedra and two-dimensional patterns that inspire students and faculty to examine nature's fundamental responses to design problems. The Nature Lab, with its collection of more than 80,000 natural history objects, books, visual resources, microscopes and digital workstations, serves as an invaluable research facility for the RISD community.

Investigating the Lab: Relationships between Art, Design, and Science, a new exhibition co-curated by Senior Critic in Foundation Studies Carl Fasano and RISD alumna Sophia Sobers [MFA 13 DM], will be on view in the Waterman Gallery, adjacent to the Nature Lab. Looking at the influence and application of science-driven and science-inspired work, ranging from detailed illustrations to organ-inspired jewelry, the exhibition will show the wide range of ways art and design students engage with science.

The Synergetics Collaborative and RISD's Nature Lab have teamed up to organize biennial Design Science symposia on campus since 2007. This year, the RISD and Brown STEAM Clubs will participate, lending their energy, talents and enthusiasm to the event.

"STEM to STEAM thru Synergy is an interdisciplinary educational event based on the work of mathematicians, scientists, engineers, artists, architects, and designers," said Amy Leidtke, critic in RISD's Department of Industrial Design. "The Design Science Symposium provides a forum for sharing knowledge between specialized disciplines, recognizing their inherent connections and increased strength when considered as a whole."

To register, visit Fees are $250 in advance and $295 at the door. RISD and Brown students attend the event at no cost. Participating K–12 Educators will receive a ProfessionalDevelopment Report from RISD.

About Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has earned an international reputation as the leading college of art and design in the UnitedStates. Approximately 2,400 students from around the world study at RISD, pursuing full-time bachelor's or master's degree programs in a choice of 19 studio majors. RISD is known for its phenomenal faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on, studio-based approach to learning – one in which critical thinking informs making works by hand. Required courses in the liberal arts provide an essential complement to studio work, enabling graduates to become critical and informed individuals eager to engage with the world. Through the accomplishments of its 26,000 alumni, the college champions the vital role artists and designers play in satisfying the global demand for innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced "RIZ-dee") and the RISD Museum of Art help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit or

Media contact: Jaime Marland, Photos available upon request.


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At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.