Hold out your phone. Now ask yourself, "what does it take to make this?"
Consider all of the layers of design, engineering, math, technology and more it required to create such an interactive and functional gadget, one that has transformed the way people communicate.
Benjamin Knapp, the director of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT), said this is how he explains why ICAT is essential to how we approach research and innovation in the future.
ICAT was founded two years ago and was housed in STUDIONE in Collegiate Square. Now, the institute has relocated into the new Center for the Arts building where there are a variety of state-of-the-art studios, workshop spaces and the CUBE theatre to host its research and events.
“It’s an incredibly complicated building, and one of the cool things about this building is that you can move data and video and audio from anywhere to anywhere,” Knapp said. “A theme is everything is movable.”
This flexibility and adaptability is a key design for ICAT’s particular interest in crossing academic lines through transdisciplinary research.
ICAT is one of seven research institutes that stretch across the colleges on campus. It collaborates with and engages so many groups and areas that it can be difficult to clearly state what they do.
Knapp narrowed down all of their efforts into three primary goals.
ICAT aims to prepare all students from primary to university levels to succeed in a work world where the STEM education areas collaborate in a cohesive and diverse way with grants received both nationally and internationally.
It also promotes transdisciplinary research that knows no bounds from engineering to art to innovate future knowledge and work.
And lastly, ICAT organizes events, classes and workshops to engage all ages in the creative process where participants can turn their own ideas into art.
A majority of their research focuses on K-12 education, which has been the inspiration for many of their community events.
The Children’s Museum of Blacksburg has partnered with ICAT since the institute’s beginnings to support and help organize various community events such as "Dino Dig" and the "Cardboard Challenge" to engage children in creative technological environments.
Janine Kniola, founder and board member of the Children’s Museum of Blacksburg, said the museum’s mission is to support and engage children in the exploration of science, technology, the arts and regional heritage, so naturally, they are a perfect fit for ICAT.
The Children’s Museum's most recent collaboration with the institute was "Tech or Treat," which they supported with a fall art display created by children in a workshop as well as providing volunteers to guide children through the festive displays and activities.
Kniola said the two organizations are interconnected to help children become creative and dynamic thinkers in more than just in the realm of art.
“It’s not just about the artistic aspect or musical aspect, it’s also connected to science and math and the other STEM subjects,” Kniola said. “We’re not just being creative. We’re being innovative and helping children enhance their learning experience.”
Knapp also said the focus on creative learning at a young age results in a more inventive future generation of students and thinkers.
“If you look at the arc of ICAT, it wouldn’t make sense not to include K-12, because if we’re looking at the inflow of students that have this creativity and this understanding of all the different disciplines and how to bring them together, we want to have them feed Virginia Tech and the students here and the collaborative projects here,” Knapp said. “And then finally, what’s the output? The output is entrepreneurs and innovators.”