Visiting Innovator Blends Math, Science, and Art

Visiting Innovator Steve Tanimoto explores the combination of science, math, programming, and art with Steward faculty and staff.

A team of Steward teachers was awarded a Partners in the Arts grant from the University of Richmond this past March, which provided the opportunity to host Steve Tanimoto as the first visiting innovator of the school year. The faculty members and several of their classes worked with Dr. Tanimoto for two days this week—Laura Akesson (AP Physics and Biomedical Design), John Alley (Photography), Jennifer Maitland (Algebra I and Algebra II), Rugene Paulette (Upper School Art), and Cary Jamieson (Director of the Bryan Innovation Lab).

Dr. Tanimoto is a professor at the University of Washington, the author of An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Image Processing, and the lead developer of PixelMath. His research interests include collaborative problem-solving environments and technology for educational assessment, such as the use of pattern-recognition methods in teaching of written language on tablets, and his teaching interests include image processing, visual languages, artificial intelligence, data structures, and algorithms.

“This grant is a wonderful opportunity for our students because we are able to look at some interesting topics through an interdisciplinary lens,” Mrs. Jamieson says. “The best of math, art, and science is applied to these projects, and learning is done from different perspectives in a new and exciting way. The design process that fine arts does so well” is applied to math, programming, observation, and design,” she adds, “and it’s kind of magical how it comes together.”

Dr. Tanimoto assisted each teacher in the following ways:

  • Mrs. Akesson has developed lessons and methods with which students will translate the mathematical laws of nature into visual representations. Images can be made using Python Programming within the PixelMath application. Examples of programs include a projectile motion graphic with a color gradient that corresponds to the velocity of the object, and an image of an electric field that surrounds a flower. Students are meant to appreciate the exactness in the nature of physics and computer programming as well as the complexity or simplicity that lie beneath digital images.
  • Mr. Alley and Mrs. Paulette have developed student projects involving the image analysis of classic paintings. Students will consider fundamental questions—what is an image? What is a pixel?—and will use math as a universal language to decipher ways in which a painting might be described as a function. In addition, Mr. Alley has developed projects wherein students will learn aspects of computer programming to explore the emerging field of computational photography. Relevant topics could include green screen, anamorphic images, morphing, photomosaics, and high dynamic range photography.
  • Mrs. Maitland has created several lesson plans that will have students explore equations and inequalities within PixelMath to create lines and use them in image effects. Her students will write functions that change the color of the images and design their own slope art. In fact, one of the activities will involve creating colorful square images similar to the square designs of renowned painter and printmaker Frank Stella.

Dr. Tanimoto’s visit allowed these faculty members to explore concepts that will help students discover the structure of image processing at the pixel level with an understanding of computer programing, highlighting the concepts shared between the visual arts, science, and math. The Partners in the Arts grant is an ongoing project, and will allow Steward faculty members to enjoy the expertise of future visitors throughout the school year.





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