At the NAIS annual conference last week, I became acquainted with the work of Neri Oxman: www.media.mit.edu/people/neri. When I say acquainted, I have to confess that I came away with a very superficial understanding of her work - superficial because of the limitations of my brain, not because of her presentation skills.
Linguists typically enjoy finding words to describe things, and yet I have found myself rather incapable of capturing properly what it is that Neri is, and what she does. But, let me try. In the 30 or so minutes she had to address a room of educators, she shared a couple of her projects. She opened by comparing two images. One was of a car (30,000 pieces in total) and a photo of a silk worm cocoon, which is comprised of one single part. Extraordinary designs from nature like cocoons have inspired Oxman to consider how personkind can manufacture nature. The results? Part wearable art, part living 3-D printing project, part, her explanation of the project "mushtari" was mind-blowing.
Another project described how shrimp skeletons could be repurposed into building materials. Indeed, Oxman had transformed the shrimp remains into 10-foot-long structures that connected into a beautiful building. The building would ultimately end up back in the ocean, thus returning the shrimp to their origins.
So what does this all mean? My understanding of the science behind Oxman's work is so very limited, so I cannot begin to foresee the opportunities for the scientific communities. Suffice it to say that she and her peers in the field are close to creating natural products that could help medical conditions, products that might even create spin-off products of their own (think photosynthetic underwear that can produce sugar cubes, for example). The power, for me, was in the intersection of so many disciplines. I also loved how wildly far beyond the boundaries of the typical person's mind Oxman's work is. She transfixed thousands of educators that day and had us all, I suspect, pondering how we prepare our students for a world that is already capable of this kind of thinking.
Back here at school, I look at our 3D printers with a new sense of awe, and I find myself pondering possibilities. Watch this space...perhaps a Galloway student will be addressing the NAIS annual conference in years to come.
Thursday April, 2, 2015 at 12:56PM
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