Interdisciplinary Show and Competition Spotlights the Art of STEM

Posted Feb 09, 2021

Otterbein University’s STEM faculty have an eye for art, so each year they host an interdisciplinary STEM Art Show and Competition open to students, faculty, and staff.  

The primary rule of the annual competition is that each piece of art must be related to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and/or Mathematics (STEM). Participants could enter pieces in the categories of painting, sculpture, wildlife/nature photography, agar art, computer art, chemistry art, microscopy art, technology art, and more. 

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“One of the things that I love about Otterbein is that our students, faculty and staff have so many diverse interests and talents. It is not uncommon for STEM students to double major, minor, or just take classes in many of the arts offered on campus,” said Professor Sarah Bouchard, Department of Biology and Earth Science

This year’s competition, held at the end of fall semester, came shortly after an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Agar Art Workshop, which gave individuals the opportunity to create art by “painting” with bacteria in a petri dish safely under the supervision of STEM faculty and students. Agar is the gelatin-like substance placed in the base of the petri dish on which the bacteria grow when placed in an incubator. 

Professors and students explained to participants how different results can be achieved by using specific types of bacteria on a specific agar base. For example, some bacteria will fluoresce under a blacklight when grown on one agar base, while other bacteria will grow into a vivid color, like red or purple, on another agar base.  

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Cardy made for the ASM Agar Art Show

Participants from the ASM Agar Art Workshop were invited to enter photographs of their pieces into the STEM Art Show and Competition alongside STEM-related sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, and mixed-media art.  

The participants were as varied as the categories. Students majoring in a spectrum of disciplines and faculty and staff representing many departments and offices across campus submitted pieces to the competition. 

“The STEM art show gives everyone an opportunity to showcase their passions and to experience science as a fun creative process,” Bouchard said. 

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Students in Otterbein’s ASM chapter created a gallery of the submissions in the various categories to create an exhibition. People could view the pieces in person at The Point at Otterbein or online and vote for the “people’s choice” awards.  

You can view the winning submissions online.