GREENVILLE — The bells were ringing atop Clemson University’s Tillman Hall, but the people choosing which notes to play were tapping a keyboard and listening from an arts festival in downtown Greenville.

It was a connection made possible by an app and website that students created as part of the university’s celebrated Creative Inquiry program and that was shared with the public when Clemson’s STEAM Exhibit returned to Artisphere for a fourth year.

Robots that can be programmed to draw on paper will be among the activities returning to the STEAM Exhibit at Artistphere, which runs May 12-14.

Robots that can be programmed to draw on paper will be among the activities returning to the STEAM Exhibit at Artistphere, which runs May 12-14.

The bell-ringing was among 17 activities geared for all ages that shined a light on how science, technology, engineering, arts and math complement each other. The public response to the exhibit was huge.

Some of this year’s activities were big hits returning for another run, and several were making their festival debut. Visitors ventured into virtual reality worlds, looked through microscopes and programed robots to draw on paper.

One new activity allowed visitors to design an operating room in virtual reality while the audience observed their brainwave activity. Another taught children about protecting the environment by having them make art out of recycled materials.

The STEAM Exhibit was free and open to the public for the duration of the festival, which ran May 12-14.

The exhibit was the same place as the first three years, the corner of Main and Broad streets next to Grill Marks restaurant.

Here were the activities:

Color Booth

Visitors could experiment with the effects of colored light and learn how theatrical lighting designers make informed decisions when picking colored filters for lights on stage. Visitors could see and experiment with the effects of colored light on theatre scenery and costumes, and play a challenging guessing game.

Brad Putman, left, and Shannon Robert are the chief organizers of the STEAM Exhibit, which had more than 75,000 visitors last year.

Brad Putman, left, and Shannon Robert are the chief organizers of the STEAM Exhibit, which had more than 75,000 visitors last year.


The STEAM outreach network of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, developed hands-on activities for K-12 students, families, and other festival goers.

Big Data is All Around Us

Gummy bears and virtual reality helped illustrate how many data points a single person leaves in a year. Each gummy bear represented a single data point, such as a phone call, credit transaction or a log-in.

Recycled Art

This activity helped educate children about how they can turn trash into something useful, reducing the amount of garbage produced by humans. It made them more familiar with recycling and teaches them about caring for the environment, while triggering innovation.

Kinetic Energy Visualized IN Art (KEVIN)

Visitors discovered the visual delights of variable motion with kinetic sculptures. The exhibit displayed sculptures that use wind power, gravity, motors, and strobe lights to provide unique visual effects.

Real-time Brain Response to Designing a Virtual Operating Room                                    

 This experience allowed the user to wear a head-mounted device that provided external input (virtual reality) and internal input (brain wave activity). The user was able to move equipment in a virtual reality world to design an operating room while the audience observed the user’s brainwave activity in real time.

Playing Fraction Pies

Visitors connected their knowledge of fractions and equivalency to musical notes and rhythms.  They chose their fractions and pressed play. Their fractions transformed into a musical composition that could be seen and heard.

Small Bugs Making Big Waves: How Microbes Benefit Humankind

Despite being so small that they are invisible to our eyes, the microorganisms in our world have a big impact on our lives. This exhibit combined the art of microscopy and the viewing of these microbes with a connection to the daily application of the everyday things they provide.

Coding for the Carillon: Automating Clemson’s Bell Tower

Visitors watched live video and audio feed from the top of Clemson’s iconic bell tower as songs played entirely automatically through a system implemented by a team of Clemson students in a Creative Inquiry project. Visitors could interact with the bells in real time through a virtual display and keyboard.

Science as Art 2017

Science as Art challenges Clemson University students, faculty and staff, as well as pre-college students around the state, to share the powerful and inspiring visual images produced in laboratories, workspaces and learning environments. Science as Art aims to draw interest and understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through visually captivating images that are described in basic terms.

The Magnificent Microcosm

Visitors had the chance to look at samples under a microscope, see images from the“HOOKEd on Microscopy” contest, and build their own hologram projector to use with a smartphone or tablet.

Drawing with RobotsR2D2 Meets Rembrandt

This exhibit is an interactive activity that introduced children and young adults to computing programing through art.  They wrote the code for shape they wished to create and downloaded it to a small Scribbler robot that then drewtheir picture.

Cutting, Folding, and Stacking: Turning Paper into Resilient Structures

In this hands-on exhibit, attendees tried to fold a piece of paper into a tessellated structure as a scaled model bridge and use precut pieces of cardboard to create a structurally sound mini chair. The purpose of this exhibit is to show that different geometric designs can affect the strength and stability of a structure.

Light flow

Did you know that optical technologies such as lasers and optical fibers are important for applications ranging from communications to healthcare?  This interactive exhibit invited participants to learn more about these technologies from a highly visual and artistic perspective. Light flow offered opportunities to manipulate laser light with water, send music from a mobile phone to a speaker with a laser beam, and create your own colorful shapes using a special form of light-diffusing optical fiber.

Clemson Baja SAE

Clemson Baja is student designed and driven organization where participants challenge engineering principles by building a fully capable off-road vehicle.

Drawbot and Air Piston Musical Instrument

Visitors used an iPad to control a Drawbot to create fun pictures from audio files. They played a unique musical instrument using a rotating disk with specific hole sizes on it and pistons producing the air needed to make sound. Visitors could use the pistons to produce sounds and musical notes.

Biomimetics – Showcasing Nature through the Eyes of an Engineer

Visitors experienced the power and creativity of Mother Nature, from a simple abalone shell to powerful synthetic shark jaws and prehensile seahorse tail marionette.

More about the exhibit:

The STEAM Exhibit was a collaboration of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences and the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

The chief organizers of the exhibit were Brad Putman, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences and Shannon Robert, associate professor of scene design in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

Richard Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, said a dedicated group of faculty, students and staff worked for months to ensure that this year’s exhibit was a success.

“Their efforts illustrate how imagination and creativity can bring together the STEAM disciplines,” he said. “Our collaborative efforts help position Clemson as a national leader in STEAM education.”

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences said the exhibit serves as a reminder that engineering, computing and science are closely related to the arts and creativity.

“It also gives our students and faculty a place to showcase their work and provide a public service,” he said.  “We have had a positive response in past years and had another great festival.”

Also this year, Todd Anderson of Clemson University was chosen as one of  Artisphere’s four jurors. The assistant professor of art and printmaking was on the Jury Review Panel with Darin Gehrke, Mercedes Jelinek and Marilyn Zapf, according to the festival’s website.

Kerry Murphy, executive director of Artisphere, said that Clemson’s contributions help enhance the festival.

“The STEAM exhibit is innovative, unique and well-received by festival-goers each year,” she said. “Clemson’s offerings are not only educational but also fun for adults and children.”