Technology alone is not enough

—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.

Steve Jobs

What is it?

The Duke STEAM Challenge wants you (you=Duke undergraduate, graduate and professional students) to explore new ways that Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics–along with the humanities and social sciences–might contribute to one another for the greater good.

STEAM Challenge teams will identify a real world problem or issue and suggest an idea for a project-based solution that utilizes an interdisciplinary approach bridging the STEM disciplines with the arts, humanities, and social sciences in meaningful ways.

This year’s STEAM Challenge is focused on Digital Humanities.

Digital Humanities can represent or interpret arts and humanities source materials, derive meaning from data about cultural phenomena, or explore technology-driven approaches arts and humanities projects. In all of these cases, our STEAM goal is to think about how the seemingly separate realms of information, computation, and engineering relate to and can enrich arts and humanities research and its expression. In a society where we have the potential to represent and mine our histories, libraries, galleries, and cultural objects for meaning and insight into the past, present and future; where topics like data leaks, surveillance, sousveillance, and help shape our understanding of ourselves in relation to others in thought, word and deed; where our inner lives are mediated by the data shadows, marketing algorithms, matchmaking sites and buzzfeed quizzes that reflect us back to ourselves as individuals and communities; and where our natural and built environments are becoming increasingly responsive and shaped by the demands and possibilities of global technoculture, we have the obligation and opportunity to share our expertise across art-science divides and find ways to live rich and empowered lives together in an increasingly info-mediated and technology-defined world.

The Challenge will run Spring 2016, kicking off in December 2015 with participants forming interdisciplinary teams and submitting a brief Challenge application about their projects by February 1, 2016. The most compelling submissions that best meet the criteria and objectives of the Challenge–as determined by a panel of expert judges–will be invited to further develop their proposals over the spring term, and will participate in two back-to-back Challenge weekends in April 2016 –an unconference design sprint and a live pitch session–where the winning team will be selected.

The winning team will receive a prize of $10,000, second place will receive a prize of $3,000 and third place will receive a prize of $2,000. All winning teams will receive publicity and networking opportunities.

Last STEAM Challenge Winning Project (2014)

Why the Duke STEAM Challenge?

The Duke STEAM Challenge is designed to inspire Duke students to bring different disciplinary perspectives together in order to address a real world problem. It is rooted in the conviction that the challenging questions of the 21st century can only be answered through the integrated efforts of all disciplines working together.

The Duke STEAM Challenge has been designed

  • to model the transformative, society-changing potential of STEAM cross-disciplinary work that asks what the arts can teach us about the sciences and, conversely, what the sciences can contribute to the arts and humanities.
  • to explore the productive intersections between the STEAM disciplines and to examine what can be learned in the combining of traditional disciplines;
  • to challenge students to apply what they have learned in classes with collaborative and management skills to envision interdisciplinary projects that model the best of STEAM;
  • to offer students a transformative learning experience that leverages all the possibilities offered by Duke and its networks (community, alumni, etc.) and the opportunity to remix their formal education in a real-world project design.


About the Duke STEAM Challenge Team

The STEAM Challenge 2015-16 will be co-led by Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Keith Whitfield, Duke Professor Victoria Szabo, and a leadership team of faculty, staff, and students from across the university. This effort is supported by the Office of the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs with additional support from  the Franklin Humanities Institute’s Digital Humanities Initiative, the Program in Information Science + Studies, and the Information and Entrepreneurship Initiative.  The Challenge will also be supported by the international virtual learning network, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, pronounced “haystack”).