Art Meets Science in Mechanical Engineering

January 8, 2010

Interactive art—so small it can only be seen through a microscope—might seem like an impossible task to some, but not to Kathryn Ecsedy, a sophomore at the University of Utah, who has been asked  to present her kinetic micro sculptures at the International Conference of Technology Knowledge and Society in Berlin, Germany.  Ecsedy and her fellow students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering have found a way to make art from dynamic micro electro mechanical systems (MEM’s), a technologypreviously reserved for devices such as micro sensors in airbags or micro injectors in ink-jet printers.

“I am glad to have been able to combine two of my passions – art and engineering,” said Ecsedy, of her motivation to create art that can only be seen through a scanning electron microscope.

The micromachining process involves creating thin microscopic layers to form devices that function on a micrometer scale (between 1 to 100 micrometers).  The kinetic micro sculptures created by Ecsedy are powered by the injected negative charge generated when viewed through a scanning electron microscope.

Ecsedy’s interactive micro artwork has piqued the interest of the academic and scientific communities; her presentation in Berlin marks the fourth invitation extended for her to present her work.
“Kathryn began this work as a freshman in Mechanical Engineering, and is now presenting her work internationally during her second year, here at the University of Utah,” said Dr. Ian Harvey, Ph.D and Associate Research Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah.   “We are delighted to create opportunities for young, talented, enthusiastic students, and use the output of these efforts to show junior high and high school kids how much fun it is to be an engineer and see what they can both see and build on such a small scale.”

The artwork created by Ecsedy has been made possible by a grant from The Center for Interdisciplinary Art and Technology within the University of Utah, College of Fine Arts.