IMPLEMENT THIS COURSE AT YOUR SCHOOL
After you have a basic idea of the cross-disciplinary
content of your course, write a short abstract, read it, and then pursue
peers in departments which you are not a member of. Approach them informally
and ask if they would be interested in supporting the idea. This may
take a number of meetings and total rewrite of your original concept.
You may have to try several different people before the right mix clicks
The four phases of exposure, exploration, development
and presentation were applied to the theme of robotics
and theater in our courses. However, they could just as easily be applied
to other advance subject matter such as art and biology, energy and
environment, history and film, or any exotic combination of fields.
Two crucial elements which must be present are 1) Interdisciplinary
subject material 2) Extreme creativity. The first is necessary to
create unusual combinations and provoke thought. The second is necessary
to challenge the student to extreme effort of thought and project development.
This produces productive stress during the middle of the project, which
inevitably precedes a period of hard work, growing confidence, and development
of talents and thought patterns which are a completely new and rewarding
experience for most students. They learn to present themselves in a
manner which will benefit them in job interviews and presentation in
their jobs and careers. They develop self-confidence in exploring new
Once you have chosen your subject matter, fold your own
content into the four phases Establish
a source list of readings and films, schedule assignments in reading,
and proceed with the timetable appropriate to your calendar. Each phase should take roughly 25% of the course
period. Be careful NOT to let the last phase slip below 25%, and do
not let the first phase exceed 30% pf the course period. There is always
a human tendency to delay the most difficult phase, but that is precisely
the most valuable in this experience.
with the administrators of your institutional curricula
You must have the wholehearted support of administrators
and colleagues for this endeavor.
and document your objectives to support theirs, and give an enthusiastic
Once you have their support, flesh out the content
of the course and write a syllabus.
Meet regularly with your academic team on a biweekly basis. It
is particularly important, and usually challenging, to get interdepartmental
This requires going up the chain of command which inevitably leads
to tight scheduling and potential turf conflicts. At the interdepartmental
level, be brief in your presentations and do your homework by finding
out what the needs and missions of departments with which you are not
Be very careful not to push too hard at first,
and listen, listen, listen.
you can recruit overworked administrators by showing them that other
schools are revitalizing their curricula with such programs.
a good source of information.
Surf the Web!
Use a search engine to find collaborative educational
programs, and then refine the search with your content discipline interests.
Many teams pursue exciting interdisciplinary work NOT using a
course like ours. They are often eager to talk to people like you and
support your activity.
Every institution is different; our development history
will not be the same as yours, but here are some of the elements of
ours which may help you pursue your own path. This course specialized
from the NSF Gateway Coalition course titled ăDesign, Illusion and Reality”
at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. The interdisciplines
of Robotics and Theater arose from the collaboration of an artist, Adrianne
Wortzel, and a roboticist, Carl Weiman. The first course was taught
by Weiman, Wortzel and van der Heijden in the Fall of 1999 under the
subtitle Robotic Visions and Theater. Of the seven students who
completed the course, one was an art major, one an architecture major,
and five were engineering majors. Wortzel and Weiman taught the course
again in the Fall of 2000 under the subtitle Equally Avatar: Humans
Machines and Virtual Beings. Of the seven students completing the
course, two were art majors, one was architecture, one was stage technology,
and three were engineers. The last time the course was taught was Fall
2001 by Weiman and Wortzel, under the same subtitle. Of the nine students
graduating, two were art majors, and seven were engineers. The preponderance
of engineers was partly an arti- of the fact that the course was offered
under the engineering department.
The collaboration of Weiman and Wortzel led to a NSF DUE
grant titled ăRobotic Renaissance: Bridging Engineering, Art and
Science via Web Robotics
” (Award #9980873). It also led to an interactive
web-robotic exhibit at the Whitney Museum for American Art authored
and directed by Adrianne Wortzel entitled Camouflage Town