Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Center for Science and Imagination of Arizona State University are collaborating on a project designed to cozy up strict, factual scientists with creative, entertaining artists — beginning with next week’s SciFi TV Dinner in Scottsdale. The ASU Center’s editor and program manager Joey Eschrich talked with Examiner about the whole artsy, science-based endeavor and about Tuesday’s upcoming program.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education initiatives have made a big splash in the education world in the last five years. The kind of gritty sparkle that groups like Scottsdale’s Arts Center and Eschrich are advocating, however, suggest that adding a letter, A, to the acronym is necessary for meaningful growth…in education, and for communities in general. Arts inclusion, or STEAM power, focuses on the kind of creative thought that gives individuals an innovative edge and understanding.
“If we want a better future, we don’t just need more scientific knowledge or more effective technologies. We also need to tell better stories about the kind of future we want to build and live in together,” remarked Eschrich about the free Scottsdale event that’s preceded by a dinner that will circle those awesome gourmet food trucks on the grounds for a make-and-buy your own chuck wagon meal before the presentation. “ASU Science Fiction TV Dinner provides an arena for inclusive, public conversations about the future, using science fiction as a meeting place for people from all walks of life to share their ideas and perspectives.”
Modeled after previous similar programs ASU’s Imagination folks have hosted that pair popular shows with cutting edge ‘sciency’ technology topics, Tuesday’s program will feature an episode Hugh Laurie’s House, M.D. followed by a discussion with a couple of the Valley’s heavy hitters in medicine. Past events have mixed Dr. Who with guest physicists, The X-Files with investigative journalists, and Star Trek with historians and roboticists.
“Science fiction can help doctors think critically and creatively about how we can change medical environments or what kind of prototypes might lend themselves to certain situations,” Eschrich suggested. He noted Dr. Cathy Seiler, the scientific liaison for the DNASU Plasmid Repository and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics at the Biodesign Institute at ASU, and Dr. Kenneth S. Ramos, associate vice president of precision health sciences and professor of medicine at the Arizona Health Sciences Center of the University of Arizona will explore with the Scottsdale audience what new, real possibilities exist in what seems sometimes the far-fetched TV medical world of Gregory S. House.
Just earlier this month a Washington Post article indicated Eschrich and his group are on the right track. “The arts being the major brain booster and spark behind creativity is overwhelming and shouldn’t be a complete shock. It should be obvious, the arts need to take a seat at the table in national education reform,” the article said, adding, “Our contemporary world craves empathy and understanding in the face of an intensified onset of technological advances and a decline in direct interpersonal communication. Art and design can offer just that.”
The SciFi TV Dinners are just the tiniest taste of what the ASU Center for Science and Imagination will be inviting the public to in the near future. Their collaborations include seriously creative partners like Intel, Google , the World Bank and the Herberger Institute. The muscle of a major research university into a STEAM environment is realizing in very tangible ways the potential it has to create all sorts of artsy magic, and truly improve the world.