Melpomene Katakalos, a scenic designer and professor in the theatre department, and Christina Viau Haden, a professor of practice in mechanical engineering, co-taught a new course called “Leonardo da Vinci: Artist & Engineer.” The interdisciplinary course was funded by a Mellon Humanities Lab grant.
Students were given tools similar to what da Vinci had to work with, such as springs and stored energy from falling water. Projects included developing “butterfly robots” by using an elastic to wind up and release them, flying biometric aircraft and reverse engineering windup toys. The final project involved kinetic art. Students also had weekly sketchbook assignments where they made graphical representations and descriptions of their projects, and they were encouraged to think creatively about their personal exploration of the topics. Some students learned “mirror writing,” DaVinci’s method of writing from the right side of the page to the left.
Pictured is Spencer Duff ’25, who designed a set of “dragon wings” for his kinetic art project. The wings are attached to a cord that makes them flap when Duff moves his heel.