Sculptures at Toledo Museum of Art camp display technological creativity

Faculty from BGSU assist area teens in program


Story from The Toledo Blade by Vanessa McCray, Blade Staff Writer

If all goes as planned, “El Sharko” will have eyes that dim and brighten and a trunk that swishes.

The elephant-shark hybrid creature is the sculptural brainchild of three teenagers participating in this week’s Interactive Electronic Art summer camp at the Toledo Museum of Art with faculty from Bowling Green State University.

The sculpture, made of clay with electronic parts, was designed and engineered by Noah Young, 15; Issa Wanjohi, 14, and Kayla Bias, 15.

“We kind of merged them together, so it’s a shark with an elephant head, and it has glowing LED eyes,” said Noah, who is one of about a dozen teens participating in the camp.

The Whitmer High School student has attended summer programs at the museum for several years. He signed up for the robotics-and-art class because of his interest in pursuing aerospace engineering.

Campers divided into teams to craft clay sculptures and then animate the creatures so they move, light up, and even make noise using electronic components.

Instructors said the camp aims to get students thinking about the creative possibilities and potential career opportunities in both fields.

“Getting students excited about robotics and mechatronics could lead to an interest in the jobs that are sprouting up in northwest Ohio,” said Jerry Schnepp, assistant professor of visual communication technology at BGSU. “I think this is kind of a long term investment into promoting job growth in the region.”

He taught campers alongside Mohammad Mayyas, an associate professor of engineering technologies at BGSU, with art expertise from the museum.

Another student team designed a clay pig with glowing red and green eyes and a purposefully broken but movable wing to symbolize a porker that couldn’t fly.

Ian Brackenbury, 17, a student at Bowling Green High School, had the idea for the creation and helped execute it with a partner.

“I have every intention of going to BGSU to major in … electronics and computer engineering technology, and I plan to minor in some form of digital arts. So this is a good way to test the waters for that,” he said.

The camp, which is one of numerous summer programs and workshops hosted by the museum, wraps up Friday with a visit to the BGSU campus.