A weekend in Michigan: Exhibitions, Robots, and MSU

A few weeks ago, I made my first trip to Michigan and traveled from Detroit to East Lansing to visit my collaborator, Rebecca Tegtmeyer at Michigan State University. She and I have been working together remotely since 2013 researching design collaboration & technology, and have been developing collaborative drawing robots since about 2015. You can see some previous posts about our research here:

Expanding the Robot Family: An update in collaborative drawing tools and speculating future design possibilities

Exploring the Wild and Weird on Vancouver Island with Design Inquiry

Since we published and presented work last year, we have been working on many types of technical upgrades to our drawing robots including enhancing movement and drawing capabilities through physical (hardware) and digital (software) development. We are also developing interface upgrades with new drawing functionalities. With so many new developments going on, this past year has been a divide and conquer sort of year, where the main goal has been to prototype and test as many new robots and drawing platforms as possible.

Sweet Tea, one of Rebecca’s new robots (built in collaboration with partner Tom Nelson), was recently featured at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum in the MSU Faculty Triennial show. Sweet Tea is the first robot in the family to be featured in a gallery space and she can receive texts from museum-goers (and anyone really who has her number) and responds to them by drawing. Either forward, back, right, left, she responds to commands and draws on the canvas in real-time. The result becomes a series of collaborative drawings between all participants who engage with the project.

With some institution funding, I was able to travel to MSU for the opening reception, and we met with Michelle Word, Director of Education, Brian McLean, Manager of Public Programs, and Meghan Zanskas, Museum Educator: K–12 and Family Programs to discuss the possibilities of a robot workshop for the upcoming “Future Lab,” part of MSU Science Festival, focused on STEAM education.

During my visit, we also spent some time in Detroit and walked along the Riverfront Conservancy, looking across the river to Canada. We stopped in the historic Guardian Building to admire the art deco architecture and rode through Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project.

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