Design

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Two teams at Washington State University Tri-Cities have partnered with Washington River Protection Solutions to procure and program an autonomous vehicle and develop a form of ultra high-performance concrete to help protect workers in radioactive areas at the Hanford Site and safely immobilize solid secondary wastes.

Srinivas Allena and students

Engineering professor Srinivas Allena and students work with in the concrete lab at WSU Tri-Cities.

WRPS is the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tank Operations contractor responsible for managing Hanford’s 56 million gallons of highly radioactive waste and preparing it for delivery to the Waste Treatment Plant on the site. The partnership for the projects will provide WRPS with customized technology to fit their needs, in addition to further improving the safety capabilities of its employees and environmental impact stemming from the tank farms at the Hanford Site.

Robotics to analyze radioactive vapors

WRPS provided a WSU team with an initial contract to procure and program an autonomous vehicle that would be used for measuring vapors, or chemical gases, within the tank farms.

The WSU team consists of Akram Hossain, vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and external programs; Scott Hudson, professor of electrical engineering; John Miller, associate professor of computer science; and Changki Mo, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The team plans to purchase a pre-fabricated, compact and programmable vehicle, which has the capacity to hold 40-50 pounds of equipment. The team will then eventually outfit, customize and program the vehicle for its desired purpose within the tank farms. The vehicle must be able to follow a defined path, dock itself to charge its battery, withstand long-term use, be able to run autonomously, as well as allow manual override operations.

“This vehicle will be going into areas, minimizing personnel entries, so we need to assure that it can operate reliably and it won’t break down,” Miller said “We have to make certain that the quality is of impeccable standards and that the system can demonstrate operational longevity in these areas.”

The design of the autonomous vehicle marks the first phase of what will potentially turn into a multi-phase project. WRPS has also expressed interest in having the robot detect obstacles in a changing environment, change filters at the site and monitor radiation. Miller said those challenges will most-likely be addressed in future phases of the project.

“This is a great opportunity, both for WSU, as well as for our students,” Miller said. “It creates opportunities for undergraduate research, as well as providing funding for graduate research. It is the perfect opportunity for us.”

The team plans to have the first phase of the autonomous vehicle completed and demonstrated to WRPS in the next few months. The team will conduct demonstrations and additional phases of development over the course of the year. When fully developed, the autonomous vehicle would be deployed in tank farms to support construction and operations.

Ultra high-performance concrete to encapsulate nuclear waste

Srinivas Allena, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, received a contract to develop an ultra-high performance cementitious

Cementitious material created by Srinivas Allena and his team

Cementitious material created by Srinivas Allena and his team at WSU Tri-Cities.

material to potentially be used as a grout to encapsulate solid secondary waste from the Hanford tank farms.

“WRPS is currently using a grout that they obtain from a local concrete supplier, which uses a regular cement mix with sand and some other chemical additives,” Allena said. “But the goal with our research is to use locally available materials to create a composite with low permeability, superior durability and greater stability that would perform at the same level as the commercially available pre-packaged ultra high-performance concrete.”

Allena said there is currently limited types of ultra high-performance concrete available on the market with high operational costs associated with use of the material. He said by using locally available materials and by optimizing mixture constituents with those that are more environmentally friendly with his team’s composite, however, they would be able to keep the costs low, while maintaining the same quality in the concrete and reducing the impact to the environment.

“We will be able to compare our grout materials with properties that WRPS is currently using and show the improved properties,” he said. “The goal is to provide a cheaper, more environmentally friendly option that will compete with the best product on the market.”

The team plans to have initial mixtures ready with their mechanical and durability properties evaluated by September.

The projects are a part of solving some of the world’s Grand Challenges. They pertain particularly to developing sustainable resources and smart systems by harnessing technology to improve quality of life. The projects are also in line with WSU’s Drive to 25.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Susana Butterworth
Butterworth

RICHLAND, Wash. – The emotionally powerful, poignant “Empty Photo Project,” created by Washington State University Tri-Cities student Susana Butterworth, that details the tragic and emotional experience of what it is like to lose a child, will be on display from Jan. 12-Feb. 8 in the WSU Tri-Cities Art Gallery.

The exhibition, which Butterworth began in a fine arts course at WSU Tri-Cities after losing her own son in utero, tells the story of 25 parents who have lost a child, and the physical and emotional impact it has had on their lives and their relationships with family, friends and even strangers. In addition to the written stories of each parent featured, each features a photo of the parent taken by Butterworth, which represents both the physical and mental hole left in the parents’ lives after the child’s passing.

The Empty Photo Project offers insights into the emotional stories of 25 parents, like Miriam, who have lost a child.
The Empty Photo Project offers insights into the emotional stories of 25 parents, like Miriam, who have lost a child.

An opening reception for the exhibition will be held 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12, in the WSU Tri-Cities Art Gallery.

Butterworth lost her son Walter in March 2017. Butterworth’s son suffered from a rare condition known as Trisomy 18 where the baby develops with an extra chromosome. The condition disrupts the normal pattern of development in significant ways and leads to death in approximately 50 percent of cases. Butterworth’s son passed away at 36 weeks in utero.

“After losing Walter, I was experiencing a lot of grief, but there was also this disconnection with people that I was feeling,” she said. “I wanted to explore this realm of capturing emotions that people go through, but I also wanted to make it relevant to what I was going through. Coming out of the hospital, I want to show that losing a baby is a big deal. Some people don’t realize that or know what to say.”

The Empty Photo Project has now been viewed by thousands after being featured by a variety of platforms, some of which include Babble (a parenting website operated by Disney), the Huffington Post and Pop Sugar. Butterworth said she plans to continue the project as long as there are people who want to contribute their stories to the project.

“Child loss is not going to stop,” Butterworth said. “One out of four women experience miscarriage and approximately 26,000 pregnancies result in stillbirth. I think that so often as child death happens, there is always going to be a need to talk about it. As long as people want to share their story, there is always going to be a need for this project.”

For more information on Butterworth’s project, visit https://emptyphotoproject.com/ or her Facebook and Instagram pages.

 

Contact:

  • Susana Butterworth, WSU Tri-Cities student, susana.vidrio@tricity.wsu.edu
  • Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,maegan_murray@wsu.edu

By Maegan Murray

During the couple of weeks that artist and urban planner Sarah Kavage was at Washington State University Tri-Cities this fall, she had quite the busy schedule.

She met with students about her life as an artist and urban planner, provided an in-depth and hands-on look at her works and presented about her efforts in improving communities by introducing art and culture.

Artist Sarah Kavage lectures to students during her residency at WSU Tri-Cities

Artist Sarah Kavage presents to students about an art project she completed in recent years involving the uses of thousands of pounds of flour she had purchased and the discussions she was able to bring about on access to food and other related areas through the project.

But in addition to what she was able to bring to the students and community of the Tri-Cities through her artistic experience, she also had the opportunity to gain some cultural knowledge of the area and explore possible future art installations as part of her own professional repertoire.

Kavage’s visit was part of the new Cultural Capital Residency Program at WSU Tri-Cities, which is the brain child of Peter Christenson, artist and WSU Tri-Cities fine arts and digital technology and culture professor.

An enhanced scholastic experience

Christenson said his goal with the residency program, which kicked off this fall, is to introduce artists and other scholars to the Tri-Cities community with the goal of expanding upon traditional learning opportunities typically held in a university setting. Through the program, scholars with backgrounds ranging from the arts, to engineering, to urban planning, to social work, temporarily live in a living learning community among WSU Tri-Cities students, which is located adjacent to campus.

At the living learning community, the scholars participate in community dinners, discussion sessions and generally interact with the students in the living learning communities. Additionally, the scholars hold open informational office hours at WSU Tri-Cities where they welcome interaction with students on campus, complete art and other creative projects with classes at WSU Tri-Cities, present guest lectures to the students and Tri-Cities community, in addition to using the experience as a means to explore and learn more about the Tri-Cities.

Visiting scholar Sarah Kavage talks to students about a recent art project she completed that involved vegetation braiding. The students then had the chance to try out the technique for themselves.

Visiting scholar Sarah Kavage talks to students about an eco-art project she completed. The students then had the chance to try out some of the techniques for the project, themselves.

“With the Cultural Capital Scholar Residency program, we wanted to enhance the educational model,” Christenson said. “We want to give exposure to a variety of research agendas and forms of scholarship. Through this program, we get to pick from an international scope of scholars. This way, students get access to a broad range of scholarship.”

Giving back, giving forward

Kavage marked the second scholar to participate in the residency program at WSU Tri-Cities. Her work centers around place, history and ecology. The first scholar was multimedia artist and communicator Laurel Terlesky, whose work examines the use of technology to communicate and build relationships.

Kavage said she had participated in residency programs prior to completing her experience at WSU Tri-Cities, but that this was the first time she had the opportunity to have in-depth interactions with university students.

“It is always wonderful to have people to pass your knowledge on to who are interested in sharing and learning about your work,” she said. “I appreciated the dialogue that we had. Some of what I did in Allison Matthews’ environmental psychology class was asking students about their perceptions of this area, given its history with Hanford. I also had the opportunity to work with students on an eco-art project. It’s been an awesome experience.”

Kavage said one of the things that drew her to the residency program at WSU Tri-Cities was the Tri-Cities’ cultural and historical ties to the Hanford Site.

“Being here and doing the tours of the B Reactor and Hanford site has given me a much better insight into this area,” she said. “There is a lot here. It is a really complex place with a lot of big history. It provides great opportunity, artistically.”

As part of the residency experience at WSU Tri-Cities, every scholar is required to submit an art piece or other works back to the university that becomes part of a collection hosted by WSU Tri-Cities. The piece can consist of something they created while they were at WSU, or it could consist of something they had created, prior. Kavage submitted some sketches about possible art installations that could one-day take shape at the Hanford site.

Diversity of scholars and benefit to students

Christenson has a selection of scholars that will participate in the residency program in the coming year. Those individuals include photographer June Tay Sanders, sculptor and multimedia artist John Henry, multimedia artist Tra Bouscaren and milliner Jean Hicks.

The variety and diversity of the artists and scholars selected for the program is important, Christenson said, as it encourages diversity of thought, opinion and sharing of ideas among WSU Tri-Cities students and overall Tri-Cities community.

“The students in our community are really diverse,” he said. “Part of a role of a university is to expose our students to a diversity of views, opinions and ideas. Bringing these folks here gives us all an opportunity to think about the world differently, projects differently and our place and community from a different paradigm.”

Student Jessica Roth said the experience of having a visiting scholar, particularly in the arts, proved to be a major benefit to her academic experience at WSU Tri-Cities. She said she enjoys the fact that the artists come to campus, from not only around the country, but from around the world, and that it adds diversity to their studies.

“This exchange of ideas and exposure to different types of successful working artists and their practice is a huge benefit to students because it helps them navigate their own career paths by exploring many creative professional options,” Roth said.

“The diversity in the resident artists, their works and the creative paths that their careers took helps to expand the artistic perspective of our students and lend insight into the endless ways an artist’s work can be culturally informed, unique and successful,” she said.

For more information on the Cultural Capital Scholar Residency Program at WSU Tri-Cities, contact Christenson at peter.christenson@wsu.edu.

By Maegan Murray

RICHLAND, Wash. – Neon rainbow pathways, smoldering ember-lit caves, eerie forests and bridges that lead to mystical lands, are just some of what individuals experience in virtual reality environments created by students as part of a fine arts sculpture course at Washington State University Tri-Cities this semester.

Student experiments with sculpting in virtual reality

WSU Tri-Cities student Alana Ahquin sculpts an environment in virtual reality.

Jonah Firestone, assistant professor of education and director of the Simulation and Integrated Media for Instruction Assessment and Neurocognition (SIMIAN) Lab, first approached Sena Clara Creston, clinical assistant professor of fine arts and digital technology and culture, this semester about using the virtual reality technology in the lab as a means for student course work in the arts.

Creston decided to have her students explore the medium to create 3-D settings that can then be enjoyed and explored by others.

She said typically with art, students are limited in what they can create, as it has physical and monetary limitations. Using Google’s Tilt Brush program in virtual reality, however, students can create 3-D masterful creations that extend beyond what is physically available in the traditional art sphere.

Students created three environments using virtual reality software

Students created three different, but detailed, environments using virtual reality software as part of a sculpting class at WSU Tri-Cities.

“It’s an opportunity for students to create within the parameters of their imagination, rather than within their physical parameters,” she said.

Using imagination to explore beyond physical limits

Students worked in three teams, each group intricately designing and planning for what they would include in their environments. Using basic tools, much similar in scope and style of the Paint program on the Microsoft operating system, the students created complex worlds, each with their own flare and style that encompassed 360-degree views of colorful landscapes.

Student Athena Marquez said even though the parameters of the program were simple in concept, it forced them to use their imaginations to bring scenes and objects to life.

“It’s really freeing,” she said. “You had to use your imagination to create a whole environment.”

One of the teams created a world featuring neon and bright pulsating lights, rainbow paths, banana peels and monsters, inspired by that of Nintendo Mario Kart’s rainbow road. Another group created an enigmatic world that featured a dark and mysterious cloud-like environment featuring archways of trees that led to a cave that showcased flickering golden embers. The last group created an extravagantly detailed dual environment that first welcomes the viewer into a cloud-like nebula that then encourages the viewer to enter into a fantastical forest featuring rich trees, waterfalls, pools and other features.

The students were required to spend a minimum of 20 hours in the lab, but many ended up spending more than 30 hours working on their environments.

A hands-on, enriching experience

“I didn’t know what to think about it, at first,” fine arts student Audrey Danielson said. “But as soon as you started doing it, you become crazy about it. It definitely gave me a great perspective on what is possible with art. There is so much space and you’re free to create these large environments that other people can then explore.”

Experimenting with virtual reality environments

WSU Tri-Cities student Adam Whittier logs into a virtual reality environment that he created with a group of students in a sculpture course at WSU Tri-Cities before putting on the VR headset to immerse himself into that environment.

Student Adriana Iturbe said what she enjoyed most about the project was the fact that it blends elements of art with elements of technology and engineering.

“I think this is something that many more students should experience,” she said. “As an engineering major, what I like is seeing and exploring the connections between disciplines and using those different disciplines to bring a project to life. This project really does open your mind to other experiences.”

Student Adam Whittier said he hopes the opportunity is extended to students from a variety of different backgrounds, as it provides a learning experience like no-other that is useful to the students’ diverse academic tenure.

“There are so many capabilities,” he said.

Creston is now partnering with Bob Lewis, associate professor of computer science, and his graduate student Antonio Ledesma, on an interactive virtual reality art environment. Lewis is planning on teaching a course to program interactive environments. Creston plans to partner with him and his students to conceptualize, design and program these interactive environments.

“We want to make these environments interactive, instead of just static,” she said.

For more information on the SIMIAN Lab at WSU Tri-Cities, contact Firestone at jonah.firestone@wsu.edu. For more information on the digital technology and culture program at WSU Tri-Cities, visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/cas/undergraduate/fine-arts/.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Students will present on their research, course projects and art from noon – 1 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, Dec. 12-14, as part of the Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition - Spring 2017Members of the public are invited to attend the student presentations. The sessions will be in Consolidated Information Center room 120, with Thursday’s presentations also in the Art Gallery and SIMIAN Lab, located on the second floor of the library.

Allison L. Matthews, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of psychology, said that the symposium provides students with the opportunity to showcase their research designs and findings, in addition to providing them with the public experience of communicating those results to a wide audience.

“This event is a great way for our students to present their scholarship, creative works and real-world research that has the potential for advancing discovery and knowledge in a range of academic subjects,” she said. “The Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition allows our students to showcase these projects and highlight their accomplishments.”

Academic areas highlighted during the symposium include: biology, computer science, English, fine arts, history, political science and psychology.

Some of the projects include:

  • Partnering with PNNL to write software that helps advance informatics and instrumentation to help understand fundamental biology, including aiding cancer research.
  • Evaluating the composition of macroinvertebrate samples from the Tucannon River.
  • Exploring how dystopian literature reflects the culture and social anxieties of a given time period.
  • Using quantitative analysis to help establish patient demographics and to assess the relationship between mental health and blood sugar levels – a partnership with the Grace Clinic in Kennewick.
  • Creating virtual reality environments through the use of the Simian Lab on campus.
  • Partnering with CypherPath to write software that can analyze network traffic, which can be used for cyber security.

 

Contacts:

Allison L. Matthews, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of psychology, 509-372-7146, almatthews@wsu.edu

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations spe

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Yichien Cooper, adjunct professor of teaching and learning at Washington State University Tri-Cities, is showing the world that arts education is more than the creation of physical and digital media through her work in growing international partnerships across the globe.

Yichien Cooper and teachers from STEAM workshop in Hong Kong

Yichien Cooper and teachers from STEAM workshop in Hong Kong

Cooper traveled to Asia this summer to create and build upon international partnerships in arts education where she presented at conferences and provided workshops in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. During these presentations, she worked with arts educators and researchers from around the world, discussing ways to bridge gaps in arts education. She said instilling arts-based academic programming among STEM-based programming is critical to growing a students’ problem-solving and innovative ability.

“Art isn’t just art,” she said. “It is the confluence of ideas that come from many different experiences and knowledge that one obtains throughout their life. When applied to subjects like science and engineering, for example, that is when products and initiatives develop that continue to change the world.”

Leading by example

Cooper said many Asian nations are now trying to catch up on American standards for pairing the arts with technical and science-based academics. The United States, she said, began a focused philosophy to include arts with STEM fields, combining the old “STEM” acronym to make “STEAM.”

She said countries in Asia have witnessed the successes of companies ranging from Microsoft, to Apple, to scientific and medical firms that have

As an invited speaker for the 2017 InSEA World Congress, Cooper gave a talk on “Building A Sustainable Creative City through Art with Social Purposes: An Autoethnographic Account of Being an Arts Commissioner.” She talked about how one discovers identity and sense of self through the planning and development of public arts.

taken the world by storm by means of developing products and apparatuses that originated out of creative real-world problem-solving.

“What research has shown is that with the introduction of arts concepts among these technical fields, children thrive in their creative product development, their teamwork ability and their ability to think long-term to come up with creative solutions to real-world problems,” she said. “It’s a tool that is effective in bridging across curricular areas and improving learning.”

Cooper said other countries are emphasizing how arts can enrich students’ learning. With the popularity of STEAM education, they are looking up to what American students are able to accomplish through that creative process.

“They want to collaborate and implement those strategies within their own schools,” she said.

Presenting to countries across Asia

During her travels in Asia, Cooper gave a range of presentations focusing on how to incorporate the arts into various academic fields.

One of her presentations focused on integrating arts at Washington State University Tri-cities, providing highlights from her upcoming Chinese book, “The Power of Integration” which will be out in November in China. During another presentation, Cooper talked about her work partnering with local schools in the Tri-Cities to develop their arts programming in combination with STEM curriculum. Cooper also spoke about her journey as an art advocator in Richland at the 36th International Society for Education Through Art World Congress in Daegu, Korea..

Cooper (second from right) with some participants during her STEAM presentation in Foshan, China, where she conducted a three-day workshop on STEAM. The participants were asked to apply simple machinery in a craft design Displayed in the photos, participants showcase an octopus head dress where the wearer pulls strings to move all tentacles.

Cooper spoke to educators and individuals from various industries on improving visual literacy and research through data visualization. As the chair of the data visualization working group for the National Art Education Association Research Commission, she said it is important to create visual representations of information that is easy and accessible for all to understand and ingest, making it more accessible to the non-technical expert in that field.

Cooper also conducted hands-on workshops that were organized by the Art Education Research Institute in Taiwan, Art Education Training Center at Foshan in China, and the Hong Kong Society of Education in Art.

Further, Cooper used her experience abroad to build partnerships with local students overseas. She worked with teachers at Shang-Shi Elementary School in Taiwan, where both groups hope to partner to develop joint curriculum for arts education.

“We could have the students in Taiwan showing our American students what their art and arts curriculum looks like and our American students can share with them what art looks like in America,” she said. “Our ultimate challenge is the time difference, so we might go for a video-based route and exchange videos, as well as talk about each other’s daily life and how they are similar and different.  Shang-Shi strives to provide global education to children’s life, being able to assist them finding opportunities for students only shows that we are living in a global village.”

Looking toward the future of arts education

As the Acting President of World Chinese Art Education Association, Cooper will organize the International Society for Education Through Art Asia Regional Congress in 2018 in Hong Kong with colleague Solan Wong, of the Education University of Hong Kong, and Kaitak Kwong, president of the Hong Kong Society of Education in Art.

Focusing on collaborative efforts to sustain greater arts education community, she said the conference aims to welcome groups from throughout Asia and south-east Asia. The congress will focus on the theme of “challenges and transformations,” or CT for short in connection to the type of body scan, and the goal will be to evaluate the next steps for arts education and embracing challenges within current educational systems.

“So many countries individually write their teaching standards, training standards and curriculum,” she said. “The fact that we can come together and work collaboratively and share ideas is a huge win for education. We all have a common goal that is focusing not only on the immediate results for our students, but the long-term value of their education. That is a good change.”

Cooper said it is true that many schools across the world have slowly began to narrow their scope on art, but through these types of international partnerships, arts associations around the globe hope that individuals will see the value and significance of arts in education, especially when combined with the traditional STEM fields.

“We need to make art visible,” she said. “Art brings people together. It transcends gender, age and physical boundaries and it’s an important part of a student’s education.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

tricities_career_fair_RICHLAND, Wash. – A career fair will be hosted by Washington State University Tri-Cities, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, in the Consolidated Information Center and Student Union Building.

The career fair is free and open to WSU Tri-Cities students, alumni and the public. The event allows organizations to discuss employment opportunities with potential employees. WSU Tri-Cities students are encouraged to connect with industry representatives to learn more about prospective employment and internships.

tricities_career_fair
WSU Tri-Cities Career Development panel discussion begins at 8 a.m., with career fair to follow at 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Beginning at 8 a.m., the WSU Tri-Cities Career Development will host the “State of the Tri-Cities Workforce” panel discussion, a new program to the career fair. The forum enables panelists to provide a strategic and professional analysis of the local workforce. Panelists will present their understanding of the behaviors and resources that help maintain and strengthen the Tri-Cities area economy. Those interested in attending should RSVP at careers@tricity.wsu.edu

The event also will feature a career development student spotlight program that allows students to practice and deliver their one-minute resume pitches to on-site recruiters.

For more information about the WSU Tri-Cities career fair, visit http://tricities.wsu.edu/careerdev/careerfair.

 

Media Contacts:

By Adriana Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences

Christenson-Peter
Christenson

RICHLAND, Wash. – Peter Christenson, assistant professor of fine arts at Washington State University Tri-Cities, has received the Governor’s Arts & Heritage Young Arts Leader Award from the Washington State Arts Commission.

Christenson is a multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker. He co-founded Left of Centre, an artist collective and guerrilla-marketing firm, and has been the catalyst behind Null Set, a locally produced interventionist magazine and collaborative organization in the Tri-Cities.

He also initiated the Guest House Cultural Capital Residency, a short-term residency program that invites scholars and creatives from across the globe to Richland.

At WSU, Christenson teaches in support of the fine arts and digital technology and culture programs with a pedagogy and research agenda focused on multidisciplinary, new media and social art practices.

Peter Christenson, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of fine arts, helps artist Joe Batt set up his art exhibition in the WSU Tri-Cities Art Center.

Peter Christenson, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of fine arts, helps artist Joe Batt set up his art exhibition in the WSU Tri-Cities Art Center.

“This award is particularly meaningful for me as an artist and scholar committed to culture-building and community-based development across the state,” Christenson said. “I’m very honored and grateful to the Arts Commission and Governor Inslee, and feel so indebted to the communities whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with here in Washington.”

Christenson is a recent recipient of a US–UK Fulbright Scholar Award in Art & Design. His current practice is rooted in new media and video, collective campaigning and protest, performance, psychosocial and interventionist art, and site-specific installation. His research is significantly informed by his previous experiences as a social worker and licensed psychotherapist.

“Peter continues to build a reputation as a practicing artist in the Northwest, across the country and around the world,” said Squeak Meisel, chair of fine arts at WSU. “It is nice to know that the state of Washington values his contribution to the cultural landscape. His research is a model for how all students can choose to be innovative in their approaches to making and having a career as an artist.  I look forward to what he does next!”

Originally from Metro Detroit, Christenson holds bachelor of arts and master of social work degrees from the University of Michigan and a master of fine arts degree in intermedia from Arizona State University.

Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) is a state government agency established in 1961. Among its various activities is advocating for the public value of the arts; building leadership in and for the arts; strengthening arts education in Washington public schools; documenting the impact of and building community participation in the arts; and acquiring and caring for artwork in the State Art Collection at K-12 public schools, colleges, universities, and state agencies.

Other ArtsWA programs include Art in Public Places, Arts in Education, Poetry Out Loud, and Washington Poet Laureate.

 

Contacts:

By Adrian Aumen, WSU College of Arts & Sciences

In a cold, dimly blue-lit room, a strange human–animal hybrid paces before the entrance to a fiery red cave. When the “Huminal” senses a viewer approaching, it stops, turns its head to stare at the visitor and emits its own red-hot glow. The viewer must then decide how to respond to the apparent challenge: continue toward the creature or retreat.

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric work on the "Huminal," an interactive robot that responds to its environment.

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric work on the “Huminal,” an interactive robot that responds to its environment.

The Huminal is an interactive, kinetic sculptural installation featuring an autonomous, mobile robot that senses and responds to changes in its environment. Created by an interdisciplinary team at Washington State University Tri-Cities, it incorporates research and techniques in fine arts, design, electrical and mechanical engineering and robotics to provide a unique platform for exploring the relationship between humans and machines—and, it turns out, between artists and engineers, too.

Two years in the making and nearing completion this month, The Huminal is the third and most complex art-machine designed and built in as many years by fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston in collaboration with WSU engineering students and faculty. It debuted recently to rave reviews at a robotics exposition for employees of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, where Gordan Gavric, a key member of the Huminal development team, is an electrical engineering intern.

“The feedback we’ve gotten so far is really great,” said Gavric, a senior in engineering and president of the WSU Tri-Cities Robotics Club. “People recognize it’s a robot, but at the same time they’re a little creeped out. How do people want to interact with a creepy robot?”

Designed to pique curiosity along with uneasiness, the Huminal is about the size and shape of a large dog and covered with white plastic discs resembling scales or fur. Its four jointed legs give the appearance of walking as it rolls in an elliptical path outside its apparent den.

Multiple internal sensors, a camera and a small Raspberry Pi computer communicate with microcontrollers across two electronic systems to direct the robot’s movements and trigger the pulsing red LED lights in its chest. The steady hum of its heart—two 8.6 volt motors—is interrupted only when a sensor detects nearby movement. At that point, the Huminal is programmed to stop in its tracks, turn its head to face the approaching object and transmit its warning glow.

“I look forward to seeing how more people react to it,” Gavric said. “Is it alive? Is it human? The mystery is unnerving and it’s this uneasiness that Sena is trying to exploit.”

A corporeal experience

new media artist, Creston builds interactive art-machines to create a corporeal experience for viewers. Her artworks invite people to engage with machines and familiar materials in unfamiliar settings and ways. Environmental impact and social consciousness are frequent themes.

Sena Clara Creston and Gordan Gavric work on the Huminal

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric work on the “Huminal” at WSU Tri-Cities.

“Some people get really aggressive with the work and some are really careful with it,” she said.

By enabling viewers to choose their response to her art, she hopes to help them understand other ways they affect the wider world.

From the haunting Huminal to the satirical Machinescape—an immersive environment of post-consumer electronics—to the dreamlike Umbrellaship—a land-roving, steampunk-style sailboat—much of Creston’s art employs fantasy while exploring intersections between the natural and the man-made.

“Part of it is movement, part of it is response, part of it is material and part of it is social engagement,” she said.

She will talk about her innovative artwork at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, as part of TEDxRichland events at Uptown Theatre in Richland, Washington.

To create the Huminal’s skin, Creston cut up dozens of discarded plastic water bottles—familiar and somewhat controversial objects that connect the organic and inorganic.

“Many people across the world live with an unsafe water supply, yet we think of water as the source of life and the source of health and wellbeing, and water bottles deliver that,” Creston said. “However, the water bottle itself is not biological or biodegradable—it’s inorganic and it’s not going away. So the material itself becomes this questionable component.

“How do we actually feel for the inorganic and how do these things elicit responses?”

Collaborating in uncommon opportunities

Giving form to Creston’s layered ideas and complex inventions often requires more technical skills than she possesses. So for the past 10 years, she has been learning and implementing modest means of physical computing and mechanical engineering.

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric observe the Huminal as it interacts with its environment.

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric observe the “Huminal” as it interacts with its environment.

“But, as my mentor explained, I didn’t need to learn how to do everything—I needed to learn how to collaborate,” she said.

Fortunately, interdisciplinary collaborations are strongly encouraged and available at WSU. Engineering professors Changki Mo at WSU Tri-Cities and Charles Pezeshki and Jacob Leachman at WSU Pullman recognized the uncommon opportunities Creston’s projects offered their students and wove them into their coursework.

“Her projects presented the perfect combination of an interesting customer, an achievable design and the monetary scope to take some risks in a shared learning experience,” Pezeshki said.

Students in Pezeshki and Leachman’s junior-level design classes worked remotely with Creston to create The Umbrellaship and Machinescape. The installations were designed, like The Huminal, to question the relationship between humans and their perceived environment.

Eric Loeffler, a May graduate in engineering who constructed the Huminal’s aluminum frame, said he and other students on the project gained a variety of valuable hands-on experiences not usually available to undergraduates.

For example, Loeffler learned new design software applications that he can use in his master’s degree program, and he expanded his welding skills to include aluminum materials.

“There were a lot of new things to work with from an engineering standpoint, and getting the chance to interact with Sena as a client was huge, too,” he said. “There’s really not a class that teaches you how to interact with a person who has their own particular wants, ideas and capabilities. That experience will definitely be useful in the future.”

Shared purposes, different approaches

“Some people might think engineering and arts are very different, but artists and engineers kind of have a shared purpose,” Gavric said. “They create things. They bring things into existence, and have ideas and concepts that they want to make. The difference lies in medium and motive. An engineer might design a circuit board to save a life, while an artist might paint a picture to change a life.”

“Working with Sena, I kind of opened up to ‘why are we doing this this?’ Oh, it’s for the aesthetic, or it’s for trying to get the point across.”

Gavric admits, “There’s no way I ever thought I’d be working on a robot for an art project.” But even before Creston finished presenting her concept sketches to the Robotics Club, he was hooked.

“It intrigued me immediately as an interesting concept and totally something new. There was a lot of back and forth on what we could do with the given technology and funding, and a lot of compromises, abstractions and problems that were solved. It was a rare opportunity. I’m glad I did it.”

Loeffler especially appreciated the chance to think outside the box.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and come up with different ways to solve a problem,” he said. “I think we’re fairly close to what Sena originally envisioned, with the aesthetic and the function she was looking for, and that’s very satisfying.”

The interactive art machine projects encouraged the engineering students to consider their role as engineer, inventor, creator and artist, Creston said. As they grew comfortable working on art projects and expressing their own creative ideas, they sought new collaborations with artists and invited them to participate with the Robotics Club.

Some of the rising engineers began working with fine art students on interactive media projects and even created an interactive art installation of their own, called Lux Flux. The large-scale ceiling installation was designed to sense when a viewer entered a darkened hallway and to send a river of light shooting along the ceiling.

“The project was completely collaborative with a fluid crossover between artists and engineers filling in the rolls of conceptualizers, designers and technicians as needed,” Creston said. “It was beautiful to see.”

Creston is now working with a team of mechanical engineering design students to develop their collective senior year project. Her creative and scholarly work has received financial support from the WSU Office of Academic Affairs, the Department of Fine Arts and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, as well as a chancellor’s seed grant to provide tools and materials and a project grant from Artist Trust.

The interdisciplinary projects align with the WSU Grand Challenges goal of improving education. They further the University’s Drive to 25 efforts by delivering innovative teaching, community outreach and transformative student experience.

Photos and video by Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities marketing and communications

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities will confer 372 degrees during its commencement ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Toyota Center, 7000 W. Grandridge Blvd. in Kennewick, Wash.

WSU Tri-Cities commencementDoors open at noon. The event is free to the public and tickets are not required.

Among those graduating, 313 students are earning their bachelor’s degrees, 46 master’s and 13 doctoral degrees.

Chancellor Keith Moo-Young will present the welcome address, the Chancellor’s Excellence Award for faculty and staff and will confer degrees. He will also present the Distinguished Alumnus Award to Gesa Credit Union CEO Don Miller. Michele Acker-Hocevar, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, will present introductions and recognitions.

Israa Alshaikhli, Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities president, will give the graduate greeting, which will be followed by the student address by valedictorian Kylie Chiesa.

Six students were selected to carry gonfalons, which are colorful banners that represent the colleges, based on their academic excellence. Those students include:

• Dennis Bonilla, agricultural, human and natural resource sciences
• Ana Isabel Sandoval Zazueta, arts and sciences
• David Law, business
• Jasmine Gonzalez, education
• Lorraine Seymour, engineering and architecture
• Mercedez Gomez, nursing

WSU Tri-Cities graduating student Kayla Stark will sing the national anthem.

For more information, visit http://tricities.wsu.edu/commencement.

 

Media Contacts:

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, Maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu