Full 'STEAM' Ahead: NSU students and faculty collaborate to design car

NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - What started out as a raw Mazda RX-8 model, is now a colorful classroom tool.

Photo Source: KALB

Northwestern State University Associate Professor of Art Collier Hyams applied for a grant with Mazda for a STEAM project. He collaborated with the science, technology, engineering, art and math departments.

"Hands-on learning or experiential learning has become very prominent," Hyams said. "More and more we are coming to terms with having to do more of a vocational style teaching."

The current holiday design on the car was created by Hyams, but art students help tackle the interior and exterior design by bringing their on-screen ideas to life.

"We 3-D print stuff that we've actually made on a computer," said NSU senior AJ Dempsey. "It is pretty cool to be able to touch it, look around it, see what works and what doesn't."

Other departments experiment with alternative power solutions for the car's unique Wankel Rotary engine, and with programming.

"To potentially do data analytics on the car," said Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems Dr. Jason Powell. "Learn about programming an actual device as opposed to sitting by a computer and coming up with the program."

But, professors feel the student collaboration is the most important part of the project.

"Quite often on school campuses you have sort of these little islands that don't connect," Hyams said.

"It is going to allow them to solve problems with other people who have a different perspective than they have," Dr. Powell said. "So it really opens them up."

Students said it is a fun challenge.

"I am fluent in a little bit of it, but every time I get on there to work on it, I learn more and more," said NSU sophomore Jeremy Lawson.

And it is something they think will give them an edge in the job market.

"It puts you above a lot of other people," Dempsey said. "It is definitely a useful skill and can lead to other things that you didn't really think you'd be doing."

Professors have been bringing the car around to area conferences to get other students interested in the project. For more information about the project, visit the attached link.

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