How Arts, Crafts and Design Training Benefit STEMM Professionals – Robert Root-Bernstein

How Arts, Crafts and Design Training Benefit STEMM Professionals – Robert Root-Bernstein


We’re going to move on with our program now.
Our next speaker is a refound scientist, humanist, and artist who truly exemplifies inter disciplinarity.
He was awarded a McArthur fellowship, also known as the genius grant, in 1981, which
further encouraged his multidisciplinary activities. He is currently professor of physiology at
Michigan State University, where he studies the evolution of metabolic control systems,
autoimmune diseases, drug development, and the creative processes in the sciences and
the arts. He exhibits his artwork both in group and solo shows, and he serves as an
editor for Leonardo for whom he edits a regular section on art science. He has written four books, including one with
Michele RootBernstein titled “Sparks of Genius,” the 13 thinking tools of the world’s most
creative people. Please welcome professor Robert RootBernstein. [ Applause ] What a pleasure to be here. Okay. So I want
to start out by giving you a little conundrum. It’s going to start out sounding like a joke.
It’s not. It’s really a puzzle. And it goes like this. So a physician and an engineer
and a dancer and an artist walked in to a bar and she ordered a drink, and there’s the
conundrum. And I’m going to talk back to that at the end of my talk. Now, in this group may be able to understand
that without too much problem. I’m not getting any forward. Why are  where’s the control
here?>>YOUNGMOO KIM: Hit this thing up here.
>>ROBERT ROOTBERNSTEIN: Oh, here we go. Okay. Yes, no. It still doesn’t like me. Nope.
>>YOUNGMOO KIM: Try one more time. This is the clicker, correct?
>>It’s working.>>YOUNGMOO KIM: Oh, it’s working now. Sorry.
>>ROBERT ROOTBERNSTEIN: It’s working. Great. Okay. Thank you. Outline of my talk here.
Basically I’m going to address the evidence that integrating arts and science are actually
useful, especially in this case I’m going to be focussing on the STEMM side. I think
one of the problems in thinking about evidence is that people want some kind of critical
experiment which there isn’t going to be, and, in fact, they don’t exist in science
either. Really, we understand things because we have a spectrum of different ways of looking
at things, all of which enlighten and bring, as a spectrum does, made of all of the different
colors, this bright white light at the center here. So I’m going to go through quickly and these
are just going to be tastes of  and this is all ongoing research. There’s not nearly
enough at this point. But, first, large scale statistical studies, then individual case
studies to see what’s going on within those statistical studies, looking at the cognitive
similarities between the arts and the sciences, successfully integrated STEMM experiments,
where they have actually integrated the arts already in the curriculum. I’m then going to flip it over, and I’ll explain
why when I get there, and look at arts, crafts, and design people as actual scientists and
inventors. And you’ll see why I’m going to do that. It actually has two purposes, because
that’s going to lead in to looking at arts, crafts, and design as a way of getting people
in to STEMM subjects as professionals who otherwise would not get through a program. So let’s start with a large scale statistical
studies. Probably the biggest one we’ve done so far is to look at all the Nobel Prize winners,
510 of them, compare them to a survey of Signa Xi which are pretty much anybody who can become
a scientist can join this group, and basically what we found here is on the righthand side
there, the Nobel Prize winners are about twice as likely to be a photographer, four times
more likely to be a musician, but the really interesting parts are when you get to being
an artist, a craftsman, creative writers, performers such as actors, theatre directors,
things like that. Here, the Nobel Prize winners are 15 to 25 times more likely, and this is
the most conservative interpretation of the data. It may actually be much greater than
that. We’ve also looked at the Royal society, the
national academy of sciences and so forth, and the differences are very similar. We’ve also looked at the national academy
of engineering. We could actually differentiate within that group itself. Of course, these
are all very high performing people. Those who are most likely to have patents and to
have started their own companies, by whether they have ongoing activities with crafts,
photography, recreational electronics and computing, music and things like that. We’ve
looked at a similar kind of study in Michigan where there  we looked at Michigan engineers,
compared them to a group who actually funded by the state to develop their patents in to
companies so, these are the entrepreneurial types. You can see from all the starred bars
there that they’re much more likely if they found a company to have patents to be involved
in ceramics, dancing, metal work, mechanics, painting, drawing, and so forth.
So the creative people who are entrepreneurial who are driving our economy have ongoing arts
and crafts and design activities. There’s another study I’ll just point out,
and there are many, many more, but this is one of the largest, 7,000 Americans when,
you look at Americans, just the general population of who are filing patents, again, there’s
a very high correlation between filing a patent and having had a strong arts background in
your education. All right. The problem with statistics, obviously,
is that statistics are simply correlations. We don’t know for sure that this is what’s
driving things. So we want to dive in to the actual case studies. And, again, I’m just
going to give you a taste. We’ve got about 150 of these done. Most of them are I would
say I think only about 24 of them are published at this point, and I would have to live to
about 104 if I’m going to get them all out there so maybe I’ll make it. Georgia Washington Carver, we all know him
as the peanut man, one of the greatest inventors ever. What often gets left out of the story
is he was also a world famous painter. He won international competitions. And I just
went through all of his patents and it turns out that twothirds of them are actually for
paints, dyes, and specific types of paper to be used for that kind of use. In other
words, his art was driving his inventing. Alexis Carrel got a Nobel Prize for inventing
the techniques that allow us to suitor together major organs and arteries. He literally went
out and got trained by the best lace makers in France and took their techniques directly
and literally directly in to the surgical theater. Louis de Broglie, Nobel Prize for looking
at wave particle duality. He was a very fine violinist. When the bore model comes out saying
maybe these electrons are really with standing waves, going around, you know, a nucleus,
he sits there and says, as a musician, if they’re standing waves, they have to have
overtones and harmonics, I can look at the size, I can calculate them two years later,
people actually measured those over tones, that’s where he get his Nobel Prize direct
analogy. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, one of the very
first women to get a Nobel Prize for her crystallography work, was home schooled. Her parents made
her write out in her own words all of her lessons, everything she read, she had to illustrate
them. They taught her how to paint. By the time she was 16, she was doing the professional
illustrations for her parents’ archeological work that’s in the center there, that’s one
of her drawings she did when she was 16. She said that that kind of training was what made
it possible for her to actually see what was going on in these very mathematical, crystallography
experiments and without that, she would not have been able to become a scientist. Physicist Jacob Shaham of Columbia University
told me that he leaned how to do his physics by taking acting lessons. That, as he was
being introduced to physics and being introduced to things like Maxwell’s equations, he suddenly
realized that they were a script and just like a script you had to bring them to life.
I’ve talked to people at Cal Tech and MIT, every student can do the math who gets in
to those programs. Only half of them now how to translate those scripts in to what’s actually
going on and that’s where they lose most of their studies. They literally can’t enact
what the equations mean. So we’ve already mentioned at this conference
a little bit earlier, Alan Alda, people like that we know that this is teachable, and that’s
the important part. Each of those case studies gives us a clue as to what we can take in
to the classroom more formally. So just to sum up what these sets of studies
show us, basically STEMM professionals get from arts, crafts, and design things like
new materials to work with, new techniques, methods action and tools, new kinds of phenomena
to study, new structures they never see, and I’ll illustrate some of those a little bit
later on. Experience navigating the creative process because it’s identical across fields.
Everybody uses the same creative process. Aesthetic principles, a great experiment is
like a great piece of art, and many of the scientists literally use exactly the same
aesthetics in evaluating each. Recreation. We should not underestimate the
value of taking your brain out of its normal place and going someplace else because when
you involve  get involved in recreation, you start playing, you recreate other things
and, by recreating, you often learn how to create and create new things. And then, finally, of course, we’ve seen in
the last couple of days, recording communication techniques, analytical techniques and so forth. All right. So the other critical thing that
you get out of all of these studies is that every single person we looked at can be described
as having an integrated network of enterprise. Now, what does that mean? We know top image
here that we can require students in lots of different areas to take their humanities
and we can  they can take their arts and they can take their music and they take their
science and they take their engineering and they remain independent strands, they never
wave them together. If we don’t weave it together, it doesn’t mean anything. In every case we’ve
looked at, the people knowledgeably and with forethought integrated their interests and
their knowledge to make new things happen. That’s part of what has to happen educationally,
we’re going to make these things work. All right. How do you do that? So again, looking
at a lot of case studies, what my wife and I ended up drawing out or what we call 13
tools for thinking. So these first came you the of my study similarly of scientists and
my first book, discovering. I kept interviewing people, looking the ever at lab notebooks
and they kept describing things which we then realized that everybody across all creative
fields are using, things like everybody observes, everybody has to be able to image their observations,
whatever form they use, whether it’s tactile or visual or whatever, you abstract out the
critical information, we saw all of this yesterday, find a patterns in it, develop new kinds of
patterns. All these link in to everything we’ve been talking about at this conference
so far. But then there were some that are a little bit odder, like prospective thinking.
How does it feel, okay? Your feelings, your emotions, all of those things are part of
the creative process. Playing, empathizing. We heard a comment earlier about empathizing,
I’ll come back to that. You have to model these things. You have to take a set of data
and transform it in to what it means and so forth. So in the end, one of the critical things
is integrating all this or synthesizing it. And the outcome of everything we’ve talked
about here is you have to know what you feel and feel what you know. So really, what I’m
talking about with these 13 thinking tools is what we could call intuition. Let me show you just briefly a couple of examples
of how these work across disciplines. So here’s Picasso, abstracting. He did a series of bulls
over three years and it took him three years to figure out what the abstraction of a bull
was. He started with something very realistic on your upper left hand side here, tried all
sorts of different things. What is bullness? Because I don’t want to draw a bull, a real
bull, I want to draw what the essence of a bull is. And it’s a process of taking things
away. That’s what abstracting is. Until you leave that’s sense. Well, it turns out that scientists literally
describe in exactly the same words what they are doing. And I’ll give you an example here
because it’s nice and visual, but Niko Tinbergen, very fine photographer, a cinematographer,
he actually wrote a couple of children’s books which he illustrated himself, one of them
called “Clue” is still in print if you want to buy it. He was one of the founders of animal
behavior ethology. And one of his first discoveries was looking at baby chicks, gull chicks who
were peck at their mother’s beak for food. Now, it looks really simple, but when you
started thinking about it, what’s the factor here? Are they pecking because it smells like
food? Are they pecking because of sort of Pavlovian, this is where the food comes from
so I get used to just pecking at the bake because there’s a where I get fed? It’s a
big yellow bake. Is the yellowness essential? There’s a little red dot there. Could that
be somehow involved? Who knows. So he literally does what Picasso did. First,
on the left hand side there, he makes a very realistic one, I couldn’t find a color photo,
unfortunately, but it was a realistic looking beak. He puts it in front of the chick. It
pecks. He now got rid of one of the variables. He knows it’s not smell, because there’s no
smell there. But it still would be the yellowness, it could be the fact that it looks like a
bake, it could be all sorts of things. Long story short, after making hundreds of
these and testing dozens and dozens of chicks, he finds out that he can take anything away
except red and, in fact, he can give him a red ball, a red pencil, a red anything, they’ll
peck at red. Food is red for a baby chick, okay? That’s the essence in the same way that
Picasso was looking for bullness. Empathizing. We know what empathizing is when
the doctor empathizes with you. We know what empathizing is in lots of other cases. Artists
actually develop whole ways of thinking about it in new ways, and this is one of my favorite
examples of empathizing, Isamu Noguchi’s core, it’s about sixfeet high, he’s literally made
a whole in the center there, and he says, go ahead. Put your head in to it. And then
you will know what the inside of a stone feels like. That is just so cool. Inside of a stone
feels like. I never thought of being a stone. And the really crazy thing was then I started
finding scientists talking about this. My mentor, Jonah Saul can said, you know, I asked
him how did you solve the polio problem, he said I became the virus. I want to know what
the virus was going to do. And then I became the immune system, said how am I going to
respond to this thing. Joshua Leterberg said every scientist has
to learn how to do this. Probably the best example, Barbara McClintock spoke of a feeling
for the organism, and there’s actually a biography of her called that and she says as you look
at these things, they were the genes she was studying, they become part of you and you
forget yourself. It’s almost a Zenlike experience here. It surprised me that I actually felt
that these were my friends and the main thing is you forget yourself. Think about what we teach our science students
about being completely objective. This is not objective at all. And yet this is where
the creativity comes in science. It comes from the same place that artistic creativity
comes from. One final example. Playing. We were doing
a study of science textbooks, things like empathizing are proscribed, playing is either
not mentioned or you’re told never to do this because you’re wasting time, and that kind
of stuff. I don’t know a scientist who doesn’t play. Great scientists all play. So example. Alexander Flemming, one of the
most playful guys you ever meet, one of the crazy things he did was to play with painting.
Not very good. Right? But let’s cut him a little bit of slack, because this is with
a twist. This is not written with ink but with bacteria which develop color as they
grow. This is really tough, actually, because different bacteria grow at different rates
in different media at different temperatures, sometimes they need carbon dioxide, sometimes
they need oxygen, I mean, there are all sorts of problems here. Many of them interfere with
each other. The amount of technical knowledge he developed by his game and the need to actually
develop a palette, he literally had a palette, meant that he would leave his cultures open
in order to let them get contaminated, find whatever came, and guess what came? Penicillin
notatum. And when it killed off a bunch of pathogenic bacteria as a side response, he
was in the unique position of knowing that this was completely unique because he had
been doing this for 20 years and never seen anything like it. Okay? He had specific knowledge
through he couldn’t have had any other way. All right. So there are many other tools.
I don’t have time to go through them. But the really critical point here is, first of
all, these develop intuition. You understand things from the insideout. You feel them.
And that, then, gives you a conceptual basis for integrating across disciplines because
they’re all working the same way and using those tools. And finally, one of the most useful aspects
of this for the teacher is it gives you a common language, and this is one of the biggest
problems across disciplines is we need a common language for talking about how to integrate. All right. So fourth, successful integrated
arts, crafts, and design, with STEMM pedagogy. So we now then went and my wife and a student
and I went through and decided to look at all of the studies we could find where people
actually put arts, crafts, design in to a formal curriculum. We looked for what we called
high quality studies, and we did this under the SEAD, aspects of SEAD, with Carol Stroheckeh,
Carol LaFayette, and Roger Malina, who is here, got to network people together, so we
thank them for their support here. What we found was there are less good studies
than we would like, but critically, every time somebody came up with a way of integrating
arts, crafts, and design in to a STEMM curriculum, there was always a bridge, okay? And the reason
for having a bridge, I will make apparent to you, I hope, so here’s just a visual analogy
here. So we have the art of Ken Snelson. You can go see him on the mall here. His needle
sculpture is on the mall here. Engineers have used his new kinds of sculptures to actually
build bridges. They did so through the medium of the principle which is tensegrity, and
I’m not going to try to explain that here today. But the point is they didn’t take the
art and try to apply it. They took the principle by which the art is made and used that as
the bridge to make a bridge. This is what we found in every study. Every
one of the high quality studies we looked at where they could demonstrate real STEMM
effects always had a bridge, okay? Most of these were involved with graduate and collegelevel
studies. There are very few K through 12 studies that have been done well which is really sad,
we need a lot more information here, we found that if you didn’t have a good bridge, if
you simply just said I’m going to put an artist in to a biology class and they’re going to
teach him how to draw and this will make him better biologists, that doesn’t work. You
have to have a goal, you have to understand which art you’re using, why you are using
that art, and how it will influence a specific pedagogical goal at the end. Those are fairly
simple things to do so. It’s amazing how many people that haven’t. For those of you that know about near transfer,
far transfer issues, can art actually effect, you know, a science or something because they’re
not near disciplines, this concept of bridge just totally eliminates it. The bridge creates
literally a bring. Everything is now near if you can show that you bring them together.
This is very much like a wrinkle in time, right? Which simply bring the stuff together. All right. So overall, what we did find is
when done well, arts, crafts, and design integrated in to stem learning really, really improves
the STEMM outcomes. All right. There are still lots of sceptics,
right? We still don’t have as much data as we’d like to have, and one of the arguments
that people kept raising is I would go and give talks about this would be, well, you
know, if the arts actually have these incredible tools and they actually have this knowledge
and they can be so useful to STEMM professionals, then why aren’t the artists making the discovery
and the inventions? Now, my first response to that was well, that’s
really stupid, that’s like asking Beethoven to be a Nobel Prize winner in physics or Bordean
to be a chemist, or, wait, Bordean was a chemist. Huh. Okay. So let’s go and look and see whether
there are there are maybe people who have bridged these different disciplines who are
really recognized as being mainly a artist or performer or dancer o or something like
that. And I’m currently finishing a book called modern Leonardos, artists, musicians and formers
as scientists and inventors. Here’s a list of the different kinds of things that I have
found that these artists, musicians, and performers actually give to the sciences and to engineering
and some other areas. Theories, analogies, structures, materials, techniques, methods,
at the no, ma’am in a, discoveries, devices, innovations, all sorts of things. There are
at least 150 really fundamental, I’m only go going to put about 50 in the book just
as being illustrative, again, there’s more information here that we can actually use,
and I’ll just give you a taste. Structures. I already talked about Ken Snelson
and bridge building, engineering, things like that. It’s also had his tensegrity concept
has a tremendous effect on cell biology where two young men, one of them is in the National
Academy down in Egberg, one of my colleagues, Steve Hydeman, used to build tensegrity sculptures
in graduate school just for fun, suddenly realized that those principles could be used
to understand cell structures. Innovations. So Youngmoo Kim played some of
Le Lejaren Hiler’s music yesterday morning. He’s wellknown as one of the real breakthrough
computer music people. What people really don’t realize is he actually invented the
first artificial intelligence in expert systems computational models. He got written out of
the histories because the guys at MIT and Bell labs are the ones who wrote it and it
sort of looks bad when a musician beats you to what you’re supposed to be doing professionally. Techniques. Heather Ackroyd, Dan Harvey wanted
to make art out of strange material called grass, and particularly, wanted to see if
you could use it as a photographic material. They, you know, we’ve will all seen, if you
put something on a piece of grass, it turns yellow underneath. The problem is that it
wilts and fades and goes away so fast you can’t exhibit it. So how do you make this
in to a art form? So they went to some people in England who
were working on something called stay green grass, stay green grass turns out to be really
important. The greener class Grass is and the longer it stays green, the more nutritious
it is. So this has a huge impact on, you know, forming things like that. And the two groups got together. They worked
with each other. We now have the stay green grass photographs. We also have an entirely new way to screen
for high nutrition plants because the artists knew all these techniques for analyzing images
which had never been brought in to botany and this is now saved somewhere on around
billion dollars and speeded up by a thousand fold the screening of various versions of
plants for their nutrition. Very effective economically. Here’s another huge breakthrough which has
saved lots of money. NEA funded, I want to point that out, for about $30,000 it led to
a 15 billion a year phytoremediation industry, and this was started by artist Mel Chin. Mel
Chin does strange things like he wanted to go out and remediate contaminated soil. He
had read in some article that plants sometimes take up heavy metals, so maybe they could
take them out of the soil. Various botanists who played around with this but nobody had
actually tried it. He convinced someone in the I believe it was the EPA to actually try
this. It works. And so for $30,000 we now have this whole industry which is remediating
what we’ve done to the environment. New geometries. Just briefly. Wallace Walker
was an artist doing a standard boll house type of exercise, take a piece of paper, followed
it, do something interesting with it, okay, couldn’t cut, did couldn’t doing do anything,
all you could followed. He invent this had object which they’re now called colloid cycles,
a mathematician happened to come by and looked at it and said I’ve never seen anything like
that and then she as fared investigating and realized no one had ever seen anything like
this. This is entirely new form of geometry. There are at least five artists who have invented
new objects, new forms of geometries, new kinds of structures that have never existed
before which mathematicians are now studying. Materials. Sculptorist Patricia Billings used
to work in plaster. She was making  okay. Making a wonderful, you know, sculpture of
a swan, happened to knock it over, six months of work gone, very angry. She goes off and
she invents a new kind of plaster, it it’s called geo bond. It turns out not only can’t
you break it, it’s almost bulletproof. You can’t burn it. You can put it under a rocket,
literally, and it will not burn. This is totally renovating or the whole building industry. And finally, inventions, sculptor Jan de Swart,
one of the very first people ever to carve in plastic. If you look at the fundamental
patents in plastic inventions, things like plastic bottle caps passthroughs, grommets,
every single one of them is from him because he was the only person who had the tools and
the knowledge of how to use plastics in the 1930s and 40s because he was an artist, solving
art problems, not because he intended to be an inventor shall. All right. So I’m going to quickly go through
the how arts, crafts, and design improve under representing STEMM learning and then give
you my conclusions here. So I just want to point out that the people I just mentioned,
Wallace Walker, Patricia Billings, Jan de Swart, you can list a whole bunch of others,
failed their science courses, their geometry courses. In fact, Wallace Walker, invented
that geometry, failed his geometry course three times. These are not people who would
normally make it in to STEMM professions. We know, for example, that kids who can’t
see in their heads, who don’t have good imaging ability can’t survive in STEMM classes. We
know that if you give them drawing classes, painting classes, sculpturing classes that
they can then, without any additional tutoring in STEMM subjects, suddenly succeed. Okay?
Just by giving them that imaging. We don’t know about the other 12 tools that
I’ve talked about. There are no studies. What we do know, we’re in the midst of doing a
study, it’s fought published at this point, that minorities and women have a different
spectrum of tool, mental tool use, than what I’ve been talking about, okay? So particularly
minorities tend not to be visual, women tend not to be visual, are much more embodied,
they’re much more verbal, and these are generalizations, but what we need to do is now start looking
at can we use some of these other ways of thinking and redesign science education so
that we take advantage of the strengths that these individuals have instead of trying to
do it in a white Caucasian male approach. Conclusions. There’s really only three conclusions.
The first is connect. The second is connect. The third is connect. Okay. Why? So one thing
we just need to get rid of is this whole right brain, left brain. Roger sparely the guy who
invented the whole, did all of this stuff on right brain, left brain, was an artist.
He was a poet. He did all of these other things beside his science. And he says, we’re am
by cerebral. Every normal brain is whole, it’s a unified consciousness of right and
left hemispheres that adds up, remember the braiding, that’s what we’re looking for, the
braiding. So this gets me back to my first little crazy
thing that sounded like a joke. A physician, an engineer, a dancer, and an artist walks
in to a bar and she orders a dink. This is Mae Jamison. And she found the perfect way
to use all of this. It was just being an astronaut where you need every single one of those sets
of skills and have you to bring them together. We need to listen to her. Because she is our
future. Science and the arts are not different sides of the same coin, or different parts
of the same continuum, rather they are different manifestations of the same thing. So let’s make them whole again. Thank you.
[ Applause ]

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