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Art contest for engineers recognizes importance of creativity

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Claudia McAllister-Peterson’s painting, “Tedi.” Credit: Courtesy of Claudia McAllister-Peterson

Claudia McAllister-Peterson’s painting, “Tedi.” Credit: Courtesy of Claudia McAllister-Peterson

While walking to class in mid-February, Claudia McAllister-Peterson noticed a poster tacked to a cluttered corkboard in the hallway of Hitchcock Hall. It was asking for submissions to an art contest for those within Ohio State’s College of Engineering.

McAllister-Peterson, a first-year in engineering, had recently finished an acrylic painting. After seeing the flyer, she decided to submit her newly completed creation.

She was one of roughly 70 people who entered a piece of art into the Department of Engineering Education’s Creative Writing + Arts Contest.

Many of those submissions are set to be on display Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. in Scott Laboratory at the contest’s showcase. Winners are slated be announced at the event as well.

“We have this group of really creative people who aren’t traditionally thought of being all that creative, but we know that is actually not true because engineering relies on creativity and innovation,” said Lynn Hall, a senior lecturer within the Department of Engineering Education who is one of the event’s main organizers. “(The showcase) is a way of celebrating that and giving people a place to come look at what everyone else is doing outside of their coursework.”

Submissions, which can come from engineering students, staff and faculty, were entered into three groups: creative writing, visual and music.

Poetry, fiction short stories and nonfiction essays were included under the creative writing category. Visual entries could include 2-D, 3-D and multimedia or digital works.

Musical works, which were added to the contest this year, could be instrumental or include vocals, as long as they were original compositions.

Some of the available artwork will be displayed at the showcase. The musical entries will be played through speakers for attendees to hear, Hall said.

Submissions are judged by a 10-person panel from multiple disciplines, ranging from a local writer to affiliates with the Columbus College of Art & Design to a few people within the College of Engineering.

The art doesn’t have to relate to engineering, although those are “particularly welcome,” according to the event’s website. McAllister-Peterson’s painting, for instance, does not.

The contest, Hall said, is “imbedded in the notion of ‘STEAM,’ instead of just ‘STEM.’” The added “A,” she noted, represents the importance of arts to form a well-rounded engineering education.

Multiple engineering students who spoke to The Lantern said creating art, whether it is for the contest or not, offers them a chance to escape from the challenging coursework.

“I’ll find myself going to a practice room around 1:00 a.m. just to play (guitar) after doing homework all night,” said Kevin Unkrich, a first-year in pre-biomedical engineering, who submitted an original song, “About You,” to the contest.

McAllister-Peterson’s painting — titled “Tedi,” which she said is short for tedious — took her five months to complete. She began in October and put the final touches on it in February.

“I did it to get away from all the work in chemistry and things like that,” she said. “Taking a break from classes and being able to work art in was my motivation (for painting it).”

A poetry contest for the engineering community at OSU existed in the early 2000s, Hall said. The last one was held in 2006. A push to resurrect an arts and engineering contest eventually surfaced and last year was the first installment of the revamped contest.

“Bringing it back was a way of recognizing that celebrating creativity is an important thing to do,” Hall said.

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