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Computer science and art are more closely connected than you might expect. Here's how they work together.

People like to put things into categories, and often, we assume that these categories are mutually exclusive. This is typically the case with describing ourselves as “technical” or “creative” – rarely would we consider that someone might be both, or that there’s a strong connection between these two categories.

But there is a connection. And in spaces like STEM, it’s important that students are encouraged to explore their creative abilities, and integrate creativity into more technical processes. Doing so can actually make those processes more approachable to a larger range of students and nurture stronger problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Not to mention, in the digital age, design plays a huge role in supporting technical flows and user experiences, meaning that an artistic lens is particularly valuable in computer science.

With that in mind, here’s why computer science and art go hand-in-hand, and how teachers can bring art into STEM learning environments.

STEM and the Arts

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – subjects that are generally considered technical in nature. Yet, as the world changes, art has been added to the STEM discipline to accommodate its evolution. Known as STEAM, students are guided to apply creative processes to technical tasks. For example, in computer science, students can use coding robots and design-and-build kits to explore imaginative ideas, visualize projects, and think outside of traditional science parameters. 

Currently, the majority of the STEM workforce is male and white. Connecting art to STEM subjects can help improve diversity by welcoming people with a variety of backgrounds to the space. Individuals who perhaps wouldn’t choose to study engineering may be more curious about it as a career option when it encompasses artistic practices. Likewise, students who believe that their strengths lie in the arts have more opportunities to collaborate on STEAM projects. 

Why is Computer Science and Art Important?

There’s a reason why creation sits at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid (a highly respected teaching framework). Creation is what ultimately leads to new concepts, processes, and real-world change. Helping students understand STEM approaches is key, but the ultimate goal is giving students the tools and space to apply their knowledge and create something original.

Forging connections between STEM, computer science, and creative courses is therefore a natural way to foster creativity. Likewise, students can enjoy the choice of demonstrating what they’ve learned, in their own way. Such agency leads to higher engagement and higher quality outcomes because students are motivated to creatively tackle projects and assignments. 

Much like art, there is no one right answer in computer science. Computer science is about identifying and evaluating many different routes to a solution and then selecting the most effective one based on the context. Embracing the openness of computer science, students can develop their creative curiosity, and can form their own solutions instead of following existing pathways. For budding computer scientists, an artistic mentality can be a powerful advantage.

Already, we’re seeing the need for creativity in STEM via roles like graphic designers and 3D animators who use specialized creative software to create digital art. Similarly, data analysts spend much of their time forming data visualizations to make complicated data sets digestible. And, front end developers and UX/UI designers work on website designs to ensure both a logical user journey and an aesthetic experience.

Activities to Bridge the Gap

There are numerous creative ways teachers can bridge the gap between computer science and art. If you’re looking for a little inspiration on how you can bring STEAM to your classroom, check out the activities below.

Light Painting

With the help of the Sphero Edu app, students can learn how to use long-exposure photography to capture an image over time. Download a long-exposure photography app to your smartphone and have students use the Light Write program or Shaper Shifter program to draw letters or polygons with light.

Animated Emojis

Emojis let students share emotions in a fun and unique way. Teachers can use this new-age communication technique to get kids excited about STEAM by letting them design their own animated emojis using Sphero BOLT.

Robot Dance Routines

Dive into active listening and program choreographed robot dances with the help of BOLT. Students can experiment with functions to program groovy moves for their Sphero robots to perform. This exercise helps students understand musical form and builds their understanding of programming and robotics. 

Art is inherent in STEM (widely recognized as STEAM). Not only does art accelerate students’ computer science capabilities, but it also leads to greater innovation in the field, and subsequently the world around us. Browse Sphero’s ready-to-code robots and spring your classes’ art into action.

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