Professors awarded grant from The Arts Council of Greater New Haven

Charmaine Banach and Karen Bliss
From left: Charmaine Banach and Karen Bliss

Dec. 13, 2012 - Charmaine Banach, assistant professor of interactive digital design and Karen Bliss, PhD, assistant professor of mathematics, have been awarded a $10,000 grant that will help them to bring together creative thinkers to find innovative solutions to everyday challenges.

Their project is part of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven's Reintegrate program.  The grant project aims to disarm stereotypes of artists and scientists and help identify ways that artistically- and scientifically-minded people can best collaborate on projects. Banach and Bliss said they hope to find where communication breaks down and find solutions for these challenges.

In the first part of the project, Banach and Bliss will work with juniors and seniors to create cross-discipline learning kits that intersect mathematics with interactive digital design. First, they will create a "learning kit" for students and professionals who need to make a website but do not have previous knowledge of website coding. The professors will research best practices in teaching website coding in order to create the learning kits. The math and design students will then create and code a website to make these learning kits available to the general public. The learning tools might include a listing of already established research, downloadable PDFs, project ideas, files and schematics, and videos to describe complicated processes.  

Banach and Bliss will observe the interactive work between the team members (faculty, students, and professionals) to see how and when "design thinking and the scientific process" work well together to push the project forward. Based on their observations in creating the first kit, the professors will articulate the collaborative process and apply it to the development of the second and other future kits.

The second part of the project involves a hands-on, real-world project: studying beer-making. This process involves mathematical equations including chemical reactions, fluid flow, and temperature control. The professors hope that the math will help inform the creative beer-making process, and that the creative design process can, in turn, can help inform the math processes. For instance, if one wanted to create a beer with higher alcohol content, the mathematical equation might look at the "x" temperature to cool the beer for "y" hours. These types of explorations can inspire more inquiries and collaboration for improving the beer-making process between the creative designer and the scientific math-user.

For this portion of the grant, the professors and students will work with an engineer on beer-making equipment at Make Haven, a local non-profit that is a workshop for tinkerers, creators and makers of projects. "This experience gives our students the chance to work with professionals in the New Haven area, fostering yet another connection that spans academic and professional arenas," says Banach.

"Because Quinnipiac is interested in furthering cross-disciplinary scholarship and teaching, our projects help foster one more avenue for both faculty and students to work together to solve problems. Plus, we are excited to motivate students with examples of real-world applications," say Banach and Bliss.