John Maeda Champions the Role of Design at STEAM Lecture

John Maeda
John Maeda, who is a design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, made a case for how STEM subjects can benefit from taking design into consideration — a movement known as STEAM.
UT Dallas faculty from different disciplines met with John Maeda on campus before his lecture on Oct. 15.

Graphic designer and computer scientist John Maeda kicked off the third season of the Arts and Technology Distinguished Lecture Series on Oct. 15 with a discussion about the role of design in science, technology, engineering and math.

Maeda, who is a design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, made a case for how STEM subjects can benefit from taking design into consideration — a movement known as STEAM, and the “A” representing art.

Before his lecture, John Maeda attended meetings with students and faculty to discuss the STEAM movement and the growing role of design.

“Design in many cases is all about meaning and the conveyance of meaning,” Maeda said. “Designers tend to be good at taking you from something that doesn’t make sense to something that makes more sense, which is valuable.”

During his lecture, Maeda detailed his journey — from a student at MIT, where he studied software engineering, to his role as president of the Rhode Island School of Design.

He recounted meetings with influential graphic designers such as Ikko Tanaka and Paul Rand, who sparked his shift from engineering to design.

He said his first meeting with Rand in the late 1990s helped shape his thoughts on the value of creative pursuits.

“Creativity is a funny thing,” he said. “Creativity is about the surprise, while safety is no surprise. In the real world, you don’t want to mess things up, but in the creative world, you get to do that. It’s important to code what kind of situations enable creativity and when to just shut it down.”

Maeda also described design’s role in creating new technologies as paramount. He said that to make quality products, companies must prioritize design at the front end, rather than treating it as an afterthought.

He cited successful companies with designers as co-founders, such as Airbnb and Instagram.


“Creativity is about the surprise, while safety is no surprise. In the real world, you don’t want to mess things up, but in the creative world, you get to do that. It’s important to code what kind of situations enable creativity and when to just shut it down,” John Maeda told the audience.

“This an industry of creating businesses, and a business is not won purely by beauty,” he said. “A lot of my work is showing that design is less about beauty. It’s about how relevant it can be and what its staying power is.”

Before his lecture, Maeda held more intimate meetings with both students and faculty to discuss the STEAM movement and the growing role of design.

“He expanded the possibilities within the Rhode Island School of Design to incorporate new technologies with the more classical methods,” said ATEC professor Cassini Nazir BA’02, BA’03, MFA’11. “I think ATEC is very much at the opposite end of that spectrum. One of the things that I took out of our discussion is we’re looking at what’s new in technology and rooting ourselves in the classical perspective of design.”


Attend the Next ATEC Lecture

P.W. Singer

The next speaker in the lecture series will be P.W. Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, who is considered one of the world’s leading experts on 21st-century security issues.

His talk, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know,” will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12.

Purchase tickets from a desktop or laptop today.

EMAC Professor Kim Knight to Kick Off ‘Viruses, Vectors and Values’ Lecture Series

Inspired in part by the notable, viral outbreaks of 2014, the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology will explore “Viruses, Vectors and Values” in its upcoming lecture series.

Dr. Matthew Brown, associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Center for Values, said the theme for this year’s series was inspired in part by widely reported epidemics in the United States, namely Ebola and measles.

Dr. Kim Knight
Dr. Kim Knight

“This year’s lecture series will explore the social values and cultural meanings associated with viruses, disease, epidemics, vaccinations and public health,” Brown said. “Our annual lecture series serves to foster recognition of the various, complex ways that ethics, values and culture interact with science, technology and medicine by bringing world-class scholars to UT Dallas to share their research and ideas in these areas with faculty, students and the members of the general public.”

Dr. Kim Knight, assistant professor in the emerging media and communication program, will start the series today with a talk titled “Viral Anxieties in Art and Antiviral Technology.” She’ll explore the connections between the viral in human bodies and computers.

“If we abstract their characteristics, biological and computer viruses share many traits,” she said. “They are largely invisible to the average person, they circulate despite attempts to control them, and they self-replicate. They are also connected in the kinds of anxieties they evoke among people.”

Our annual lecture series serves to foster recognition of the various, complex ways that ethics, values and culture interact with science, technology and medicine by bringing world-class scholars to UT Dallas to share their research and ideas in these areas with faculty, students and the members of the general public.

Dr. Matthew Brown,
associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Center for Values

Knight will give a reading of a 2003 installation piece by Sneha Solanki titled “The Lovers” and will connect the media project to contemporary antiviral technologies.

Influenced by the “ILoveYou” computer virus of 2000, Solanki’s piece consisted of two computers networked with only each other. At the beginning of the installation, one of the computers is infected with a virus, and each monitor begins to display text from love poems.

“The virus itself is quite interesting because it exploits a computer weakness, but it also exploits the human need for connection,” Knight said. “Of the various works in this exhibition, I found Solanki’s installation quite provocative in the way it combines Romantic-era poetry with the virus. Human and machine language work together in ‘The Lovers’ to achieve the work’s impact.”

She said the talk will draw a parallel between the functions of antiviral computer software and crowdsourced health reporting applications and how these technologies premediate anxiety to encourage adoption.

The lecture will take place in the Jonsson Performance Hall at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.

ATEC School Draws Upon New Professors’ Skills to Build Programs

Todd Fechter
Todd Fechter

The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communications is beginning its first year with three new tenure-track faculty members who will help build new areas of study in the school.

One of the new faculty members studies digital culture and new media art, and the two new animation professors have extensive experience in the technical industry.

“As the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication begins its inaugural academic year, many exciting developments are underway,” said Todd Fechter, interim dean of the school. “An extensive review of the undergraduate curriculum began this past summer and will continue throughout this year. Through this effort, core knowledge and skills are being identified, and plans for new courses and course material revisions are being made.”

Fechter said the intent is to give undergraduates a strong foundation that will allow them to be successful in future academic endeavors and the workforce.

“The ATEC graduate programs are also being reviewed in the same manner with the same expectations,” Fechter said. “Key to all of this is our ability to continue to provide outstanding courses and instructors for our steadily growing student population.”

ATEC has recently produced a notable body of work — from innovative games like “Push and Pull” to two new animated shorts, “Snatch” and “Terminal B,” which both premiered at the State of the University address in September.

The University announced the creation of the new school earlier this year in response to the rapid growth in both the arts and technology and emerging media and communication programs. At the end of 2014, 1,096 undergraduates, 167 master’s students and 28 doctoral candidates were enrolled in the programs.

The school is in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, a 155,000-square-foot facility, which features classrooms for game design, sound design and visual arts, 2-D drawing and painting art studios, 3-D art studios, a recording studio, a motion capture lab, soundproof chambers and photography and 3-D fabrication labs.

New Tenure-Track Faculty

Christine Burrough

Christine Burrough

Christine Burrough, associate professor, emerging media and communication

Previously: associate professor of communications at California State University, Fullerton

Research interests: new media art,, Internet studies, remix studies, digital culture

Quote: “I’m looking forward to the integration of my research, practice and teaching at the intersection of digital culture and new media art production, or put simply: theory and practice. So many programs emphasize just one part of the theory/practice dyad. I am impressed with the way the curriculum in UTD’s School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication reinforces the strong relationship between theory and practice. I’m also excited for the various potentials for collaboration with my new colleagues.”

Phillip Hall

Phillip Hall

Phillip Hall, assistant professor of arts and technology

Previously: adjunct instructor, the Art Institute of Virginia Beach; animation director, Christian Broadcasting Network

Research interests: character animation, animation studio, 3-D printing, augmented reality

Quote: “I am most excited about collaborating with students and faculty alike to develop visual storytelling techniques through performance animation, and providing hands-on instruction and valuable industry insights to prepare students for an exciting career in this field. I look forward to exploring new technologies to push the boundaries of audience immersion to communicate ’What is the character thinking?’ and ’Why do they feel that way?’”

Casey Johnson

Casey Johnson

Casey Johnson, assistant professor of arts and technology

Previously: animation technical director at Reel FX, pipeline technical director at Rhythm & Hues

Research interests: pipeline development, tool development and animated shorts

Quote: “I’m looking forward to working with the faculty and students in the ATEC program.”

UT Dallas Professors Discuss ‘media art’ and Aurora 2015

imgresKim Knight, an assistant professor of emerging media and communication and Charissa Terranova, an associate professor of aesthetic studies discuss ‘media art’ with The Dallas Morning News as Dallas prepares for Aurora 2015. The expansive outdoor new media art event will return to the Dallas Arts District this fall on Friday, October 16, 2015 covering 19 blocks of downtown Dallas.

Read the full story at


Minecraft’ Mod Offers World of Scholarships, Learning Opportunities

Current, Future Students Can Win $5,000 in Online Competitions; Video Game Becomes New Tool in Classroom

Polycraft World
Get in the game and win a scholarship. Each week the team behind “Polycraft World” is unveiling new challenges in which UT Dallas students and future students can compete for $5,000 scholarships. The challenges can be found on the game’s YouTube channel. Learn more about the competitions in the video above.

Video games are not just for fun anymore. By winning weekly challenges on a UT Dallas-developed game, students can earn scholarships to attend the University.

Last year, a team of faculty, students and alumni launched “Polycraft World,” one of the most comprehensive modifications, or mods, available for the popular video game “Minecraft.” Earlier this year,access to servers hosting the beta version of the mod was free for the first 10,000 users.

The team, led by assistant professor Dr. Walter Voit BS’05, MS’06, who teaches in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, is calling on students to showcase their skills.

Each week, new competitions are unveiled on the game’s YouTube channel. Whoever completes the challenge best is named “Polycrafter of the Week” and receives a $5,000 scholarship.

Competitions last 12 weeks each and are open to both current and future UT Dallas students.

Polycraft World student

It’s not all play in this class. This semester, students are using “Polycraft World” to develop online teaching methods and educational video games that balance fun with learning.

“We may ask users to design the most efficient chemical processing plant within a limited space that produces a certain amount of plastics each hour,” Voit said. “Or, we may challenge students interested in journalism to build a jetpack and fly around the server and publish a weekly newsletter on what’s happening.”

The first competition? Get the most unique visitors to your private property in “Polycraft World” during a timeframe that began Sept. 3 and ends Nov. 26.

“How you attract visitors is up to you. That is the challenge. Share with your friends, family, post videos or tweet to your followers — advertise. We want to see how you spread your message,” Voit said.

With assistant professor of chemistry Dr. Ron Smaldone, Voit is teaching a class to help students develop online teaching methods and educational video games that balance fun with learning. The students are playing “Polycraft World” as a case study.

“We’re treating the class like a startup company,” Voit said. “Students come from different disciplines, and we have tracks in computer science, chemistry, social media and engineering. It will be heavily project-based.”

Voit and Smaldone are using the extensive world of “Minecraft,” hoping to create a unique educational experience for those interested in learning more about science and economics in new ways. Users are encouraged to experiment with and create new tools as they mine, build, refine and grow their communities.

‘Polycraft World’

“Polycraft” is free and available to the public. To play the game, click here.

For full details about scholarship opportunities, click here.

Access more information about the “Minecraft” modification at and instructional videos on YouTube.

“The first thing you can do in ‘Polycraft World’ is collect a polymer — natural rubber,” Smaldone said. “You get it by tapping a tree. You can make bouncy rubber blocks, a pogo stick, things like that. It gets people introduced fairly early on into actual polymer chemistry.”

From there, Smaldone said players can build machines to make rubber grips for tools, which makes the tools already in the game better and last longer.

“There’s pretty advanced chemistry built into the game. If users are dedicated enough, they can fuel their jetpacks, but they have to refine crude oil down to propane first,” he said.

Connor Cone, a junior physics major, is taking the “Polycraft World” course.

“I took AP chemistry in high school, but other than that I didn’t have much background in the subject. I knew a little organic chemistry,” Cone said. “In the game, I’m using real-life processes to make plastics and I understand the science behind it. I own and operate oil refineries. I can tell you how the oil becomes plastic and I can name the chemical formula for polyethylene off the top of my head now.”

Voit said that additions to the game are constant. The team has recently included an electrical engineering component where users can build a clean room.

“We included ways to build silicon wafers and solar cells, and other components that you can use to build solar arrays, walkie-talkies or cellphones. Users can find a better way to communicate and make the game more efficient,” Voit said.

Voit said that as the game grows, users will be able to focus on many aspects, such as electronics, chemistry, economics, agriculture and food or architecture.

ATEC Professor Joins International Artists in an Exhibition on the Art of Resistance

The work of ATEC professor Andrew Scott is featured alongside the work of nearly 100 of the boldest artists working today in a New York exhibition connecting visual arts with political, cultural and social movements.

“Reliquary” is on display from Sept. 25 to Nov. 8 as a part of the “Power, Protest, and Resistance: The Art of Revolution” exhibition in the Skylight Gallery in Brooklyn, New York .

Artist Statement:

scottA reliquary is a receptacle used to hold, display and keep sacred relics. The form and spirit of this work is directly informed by the reliquary figures of the Kota People in Gabon. This reliquary is dedicated to African American men who lost their lives in tragic encounters with the police in 2014.

John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” a song written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963, provides the framework and structure for the video that is projected onto the surface of the laser cut and polychromed relief sculpture.

The work uses projected video footage to bear witness to the tragic interactions with police that led to their death juxtaposed against portraits that contain the basic humanity of these people whose lives were cut short all too soon. The choice of projection mapping as a process serves as a metaphor for the many ways that images are projected onto African American boys and men in American society in particular.

The artwork was created at the University of Texas at Dallas where Andrew F. Scott is an Associate Professor of Art and Technology in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication.

-Andrew Scott

View Reliquary on Youtube


PPR-FINAL-FOR-PRESS-RELEASE-“Power, Protest, and Resistance: The Art of Revolution, is an exhibition designed to push the viewers to not only engage the work but to engage what is beneath the surface. Why is there such a growing rift among people and the forces that seek to impose governing on them? How do we change or remove an authority that is not responsive to the needs of the people? What is power? Who has it? And how is it used to change things for the better for everyone? With nearly 100 artists participating, this exhibition will act as a call to action. As we use these works of art to grapple with this subject matter, we will create a dialogue on how as a people we can change this world. Change starts in the spirits, minds, and hearts of the people and art is one of the most potent ways I know to reach those areas.”

Danny Simmons
Sept 24th – Oct 31, 2015


Power, Protest, and Resistance: The Art of Revolution is a program of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Russell Simmons, Danny Simmons and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons in 1995 to provide meaningful arts education experiences for underserved youth, and professional support to underrepresented contemporary artists.

Why Add Art to STEM? STEAM Advocate Will Explain at ATEC Lecture on Oct. 15

Maeda-john-800-2015-10Designer and computer scientist John Maeda will discuss the role of art in STEM education on Oct. 15 as part of the ATEC Distinguished Lecture Series.

The talk, “Turning STEM into STEAM,” will make a case for why the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — could benefit from adding an art component. The lecture, originally set for last March, had to be rescheduled because of inclement weather.

“The current excitement in ways of integrating the arts and humanities with STEM is part of a centuries-old challenge of how to integrate the different ways we make sense of and work in the world,” said Dr. Roger Malina, who holds the Arts and Technology Distinguished Chair at UT Dallas. “We need both deep disciplinary experts but also professionals with the ability to cross disciplines to solve hard problems.”

Currently a design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Maeda has been at the forefront of the STEM-to-STEAM movement since 2008, when he became the president of Rhode Island School of Design. During his tenure, he told The Wall Street Journal, “Everyone asks me, ‘Are you bringing technology to RISD?’ I tell them, no, I’m bringing RISD to technology.”

He has been dubbed the “Steve Jobs of academia” by Forbes, andEsquire named him one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century. In 2014, President Barack Obama named him a member of theNational Council on the Arts.

He has previously served as associate director of research at the MIT Media Lab and on the boards of wireless hi-fi company Sonos and the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy. He is also chairman of eBay’s design advisory board.

He is also a successful author with books such as The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code and Redesigning Leadership. Maeda also received the AIGA Medal in 2010, and his artwork is represented in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

“John Maeda has been a longtime proponent of the STEAM movement, and his insights will only encourage the North Texas community toward a new vision of rethinking both the arts and the sciences,” Malina said.

The lecture will take place in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building lecture hall at 7:30 p.m.

Next in the Lecture Series

P.W. Singer, one of the world’s leading experts on 21st-century security issues, will discuss “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know“ on Thursday, Nov. 12. The lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. in the ATEC Building’s lecture hall.

Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, has worked as a consultant for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and the FBI, and advised the makers of entertainment programs and the video game series Call of Duty

EMAC and the School of Arts and Humanities host Digital Frontiers 2015

PBS_Digital Frontiers_SU15_Featured Banner(1)

The Emerging Media and Communication program of the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication and the School of Arts and Humanities teamed up to host the 2015 Digital Frontiers Conference at UT Dallas. Local co-chairs Dr. Kim Knight (EMAC) and Dr. Jessica C. Murphy (Literary Studies) partnered with collaborators from the University of North Texas to bring the conference to UT Dallas in its fourth year. Digital Frontiers was established in 2012 as a project of the UNT Libraries to explore creativity and collaboration across disciplinary boundaries in the arena of public humanities and cultural memory.


The conference brings together scholars and students, librarians and archivists, genealogists and public historians to share their experience of using digital resources in the humanities. The 2015 conference featured keynote speakers Carolyn Guertin from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Michael Edson of the Smithsonian Institute in addition to 37 other presenters from 20 institutions across the United States and internationally.


Held in the Alexander Clark Center, Digital Frontiers offered multiple highlights around the UT Dallas campus. An opening reception was held in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology building and attendees were treated to a personalized tour of the Special Collections Department at the McDermott Library. Two days of conference programming were followed by UT Dallas’ first THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp), an unconference that allows all attendees to work together to determine the agenda based on their expertise and interests.

ATEC Colloquia to feature Harvard University Physics Department Artist-in-Residence

Kim Bernard
Kim Bernard is an artist in residence this semester in the Physics Department. She is pictured surrounded by her hanging art work in the Science Center at Harvard University. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Kim Bernard:  An Artist Walks into the Physics Department…

On Thursday, October 8, from noon – 1:00 pm in ATC 3.102 Bernard will present a lively and engaging talk about how she came to be the first artist-in-residence in the Harvard Physics Department, the collaborative projects she has initiated and how her kinetic sculpture continues to evolve as a result of being surrounded by physicists.


Kim Bernard is currently an Artist-in-Residence in the Physics Department at Harvard University and   exhibits her science inspired kinetic sculpture, installations and encaustic works nationally.  Her work has been reviewed in the Boston Globe, Art News and Art New England.  She is the recipient of the Piscataqua Region Artist Advancement Grant, NEFA Grant and several Maine Arts Commission Grants.   She received her BFA from Parsons in 1987 and her MFA from Mass Art in 2010.  Bernard gives public lectures and offers workshops nationally as a visiting artist.


“It’s fascinating that there are predictable patterns in matter and motion.  I’m interested in creating work that demonstrates this phenomena simply, with an aesthetic that allows the viewer easy access, and provides a tangible way of seeing physics.”



ATEC Professor’s Exhibition Named Best in Dallas

The Dallas Observer has selected DreamArchitectonics, an audio-video installation by ATEC professor Frank Dufour and new media artist Kristin Lee Dufour, as the best art exhibition of 2015.


Best Art Exhibit

DreamArchitectonics at Dallas Contemporary


The installation was created by artistic duo Kristin Lee & Frank Dufour of Agence5970 an independent laboratory dedicated to conceptual art, using predominately sound, as well as image, exploring concepts emerging at the conjunction of perception and representation and of Time as a structural support of expression.

View the full artist statement on the Agence5970 website.