Honors College Lecture Explores the Art of Technology and Craft

Gradient of Grain
Courtesy Edmund Harriss

Gradient of Grain

Just as painters wield brushes and paint, Vincent Edwards, director of technology for the School of Art, and Edmund Harriss, assistant professor of mathematics, want students to view technology as another palette.  

Rather than solve a problem, students in this class might be encouraged to ask machines, “What questions can you answer?” or “What ideas can you play with?” Harriss describes this approach as curiosity-driven manufacturing – something not often seen in a “world of productivity.”  

Edwards and Harriss will present the history of technology and craft as something native to art in their public lecture “Technology Craft,” at 5:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, in Gearhart Hall Auditorium (GEAR 26). All on campus and in the community are invited to the lecture.     

The public lecture will preview their August 2024 Intersession Honors College Signature Seminar, Technology Craft.  

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE 

The goal of the hands-on intersession is twofold: learn about the history and theoretical framework of technology and craft while also nurturing students’ curiosity using technology in making (or failing at) something new.  

“It is not about asking students to make the perfect gear for some wonderful machine,” Harriss said. “We will ask them to make the machine move. In an interdisciplinary course like this, there will be students who will be better at the programming piece and those who exceed in dealing with the physical world.”   

This course will primarily focus on 3D printing, laser cutting and computer numerically controlled (CNC), a code-based manufacturing method. However, the instructors will also touch on augmented reality and artificial intelligence.  

“Hopefully we will have some crazy ideas that don’t work,” Harriss said. “Failure is one of my favorite things and great for this course.”  

Like their open minds regarding technology, Harriss and Edwards are leaving the second week of the intersession open to focus on the students' interests. Those enrolled in Technology Craft will be encouraged to take a research course in the fall centered on creating a project using the skills from the seminar.   

CURIOSITY AND THE CURVAHEDRA  

Harriss has proof for his curiosity-driven manufacturing. In 2018, he and Carl Smith, professor of landscape architecture, taught an Honors College Signature Seminar that conceptualized the idea for the Curvahedra sculpture in the Gearhart courtyard. 

But more than just the idea, the class inspired Harriss and Emily Baker, an assistant professor of architecture and Bodenhamer Fellowship alumna ’04, to explore the digital side of steel fabrication using a numerically controlled plasma cutter. The innovative method allowed the team to create the large, curved sculpture at a reasonable cost.  

Since the fabrication of the sculpture, Harriss and Baker have worked with Mohammed Ismail and Caitlin Mueller of the Building Technology program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create formwork for optimized concrete beams using the technology they developed to craft the Curvahedra. The best part? The solution isn’t high-tech and doesn’t require specialized equipment. Above all, it’s accessible.  

“If you look at technology over the last 100 years, there is consistent development over time, but there are also big waves of change,” Harriss argued. “There are always a dozen reasons why something won’t work, but what if we imagined that it did?”    

ABOUT VINCENT EDWARDS
Edwards teaches digital fabrication and sculpture at the U of A where he runs the 3-D Advanced Technologies Lab. He received his MFA from the Herron School of Art and Design in 2012. Edwards' studio practice focuses on hybrid methodologies, specifically the intersection of traditional furniture craft and digital fabrication.  

ABOUT EDMUND HARRISS 
Mathematician, artist, teacher and maker Harriss works to entice people into mathematical thinking and experiences through art, toys, coloring images and more. His research ranges from illustrating algebraic numbers through the differential geometry of machines guided by numerically controlled computing to mathematical art and perceptualism. 

Harriss’ research has appeared in journals including Nature and the proceedings of the National Academy of Science, as well as in national and international media, including New Scientist, NPR, the Guardian and Numberphile

His artwork is installed in several universities, from Imperial College in London to the U of A, where a 12-foot steel sculpture was installed in the courtyard at Gearhart Hall. He has created two adult coloring books of mathematical images and coauthored a children’s book. 

SIGNATURE SEMINARS EXPLORE DIVERSE TOPICS

Technology Craft is one of four Honors College Signature Seminars scheduled for fall and summer 2024. Other topics to be explored include:  

The Geography of Star Trek — taught by Fiona Davis, associate professor of geosciences;  

Gothic — taught by Lynda Coon, Honors College dean, and Kim Sexton, associate professor of architecture; and  

Fashion, Identity and Power — taught by Eric Darnell Pritchard, associate professor English and Brown Chair in English Literacy.  

Deans of each college may nominate professors to participate in this program, and those selected to teach will become Dean’s Fellows in the Honors College.        

Honors students must apply to participate, and those selected will be designated Dean’s Signature Scholars. The course application is posted online on the Signature Seminars web page. The deadline to apply is Monday, March 10.    

About the Honors College: The University of Arkansas Honors College was established in 2002 and brings together high-achieving undergraduate students and the university’s top professors to share transformative learning experiences. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $80,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. All Honors College graduates have engaged in mentored research. 

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research and Economic Development News.  

Contacts

Edmund Harriss, assistant professor
Department of Mathematical Sciences
479-575-6332, eharriss@uark.edu

Vincent Edwards, director of technology
School of Art
203-915-4167, vicente@uark.edu

Shelby Gill, director of communications
Honors College
479-575-2024, segill@uark.edu

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