Novel Program Teaches Computer Science Alongside Art, Biology

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For example, when there’s plenty of light and plants are photosynthesizing, a student might program some part of his or her sculpture to twinkle with white light. When water is low, a thirsty plant might be depicted with reds and purples. When water, temperature, and light are optimal, a sculpture might display vibrant blues or greens, or pulse between the two.

Integrating Skillsets

Recent research by Burning Glass and Oracle Academy shows that computer science skills aren’t just for software engineers. Yet computer science, art, and biology are usually taught as separate disciplines, with students developing separate skillsets and identities for participation in each, Finch says. “I believe that learning about each subject can be enhanced by integrating all three,” she says.

Lila Finch built a nine-foot illuminated tree sculpture to help visualize biochemical processes.NICK SUTCLIFFE, ATLAS INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER

The rationale goes something like this: Coming into the experience, students may identify more with art than science, or vice versa, but for them to succeed in this program, they need to perform across all three domains. Artists must understand the related biochemistry and programming skills to achieve the aesthetic they’re after, while budding biologists must master the necessary code and artistry for their sculptures to exhibit their nuanced understanding of the biochemical processes at play.

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