Teams of local scientists, engineers, artists, students and others have, during the past year, created cool, inventive products, like a solar-powered backpack that extracts water from air, a mobile app meant to inspire water-smart landscapes, a computer game that allows kids to play with the regional water system and sculptures that harvest water from the atmosphere.
The common thread running through all the projects created by the San Diego Incubator for Innovation teams, for The Art of Science Learning initiative, is an attempt to creatively solve one of the region's biggest problems: water shortage. The integration of art is also at the core of all the projects, yet it's easier to spot in some than in others.
Whether or not art is obvious in the results, says Nan Renner, director of the San Diego Incubator for Innovation—which is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and run by the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership—various art forms did play crucial roles in the yearlong project.
"The arts did many things," explains Renner, who says integrating art with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) was the initiative's main focus. "We got right into making things from the very beginning, and people came together around making. It created this comfort—these social bonds early on... The arts are a catalyst for the imagination. Imagination doesn't just happen sitting in a chair with your eyes closed. Imagination happens when you're actually working with your hands and interacting with materials."
All nine Art of Science Learning projects will be presented at a free, public event, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, at the Balboa Park Grand Ballroom. The event is meant to show off the results and help keep the projects going by finding investors or new collaborators.
"We're definitely looking for further expertise," says Judit Hersko, an artist and professor who helped create the sculptural dew collectors. "We're dedicated to continuing on."