The challenges of the 21st Century

require new interdisciplinary collaborations, which place questions of meanings and values on the agenda.

William Grassie

The following is a list of STEAM project examples from Duke University and beyond. Please note that these are merely examples offered only to inspire you and give you a sense of the type of projects that we want you to be thinking about. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it intended to be prescriptive. We recognize that some of these are larger in scope than we anticipate being feasible for the Duke STEAM Challenge. We would welcome smaller scale projects as well.

Time & Resource Estimators for STEAM Examples

The following are chart keys to help you understand the potential time and resource commitment that might be involved with each project. The more clocks and check marks you see, the more time and resources required. Please remember these are just estimations. If you undertake a similar project, your time and/or resource requirement may differ.

⏰: Several weeks will be required
⏰⏰: Several months will be required
⏰⏰⏰: More than three months will be required

√: Basic Research and/or Training in one or more STEAM discipline will be required
√√: A higher level mastery of one or more STEAM discipline will be required
√√√: A professional-level expertise in one or more STEAM discipline will be required

STEAM FORMULA = What makes this project STEAMy?
RESOURCES: Time and Resource Estimations
SOCIAL ISSUEs: What are the social issues addressed?

Project Examples

Duke Projects

  1. RestrainingOrder: The Art of Self-Control, an Artistically Irrational exhibit at Duke

    Clarke Barry, Sleep Map

    Clarke Barry, Sleep Map

    • STEAM = Science + Art, Research + Practice
    • RESOURCES: ⏰⏰, √
    • SOCIAL ISSUEs: The artworks produced for this exhibit address issues of Freedom, Environmental Conservation, Personal & Social Health, Life in the Future

Behavioral scientists present scientific research to artists who are then asked to create art inspired by that science. The resulting art pieces are then publicly displayed in an exhibit designed to marry the practices of scientific research and artistic creation.



  1. Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3) Mellon Grant Supports Digital Classics at Duke

    A fragment from Duke's papyri collection.

    Papyrus at Duke

    • STEAM = History + Computing + Archiving
    • RESOURCES: ⏰⏰⏰, √√√
    • SOCIAL ISSUEs: Preservation & Digital Archivization of Decaying Artifacts, Access to Education and Resources, Global Research Collaboration

A professional team of programmers, historians, and classicists “will use new technologies to analyze some of the world’s oldest documents and artifacts [and] design new technological experiments” with the hope of furthering the STEAMy field of Classics Computing.


  1. She w[Rites] of Passage at Duke

    She w[R]ites of Passage

    She w[R]ites of Passage

    • STEAM = Art +  Dance + Education + Health Care
    • RESOURCES: ⏰⏰ to ⏰⏰⏰, √ to √√  (depending on expertise)
    • SOCIAL ISSUEs: Health Awareness, Sustainable Illness Therapy/Treatment

She w[Rites] of Passage was a collaborative student-led project that engaged the question of how to improve public health awareness of Parkinson’s disease. It included a 5-week dance program for Parkinson’s patients and a multimedia, interdisciplinary performance exhibition.



  1. Duke FHI Haiti Lab digital mapping project on 19th century Caribbean Cholera


    Haiti Lab Cholera Map

    • STEAM = Disease Research + Interactive Computing + Poverty Remediation
    • RESOURCES: ⏰⏰ to ⏰⏰⏰, √ to √√ (depending on expertise)
    • SOCIAL ISSUEs: Health in Underserved Areas, Global Research Collaboration, Spread of Epidemics, Awareness of Freedom & Slavery

An interdisciplinary group of student and professional researchers from Duke’s Haiti Lab collaborated to digitally map 19th century Caribbean cholera data in an attempt to better understand the Caribbean cholera outbreaks.


  1. The Very Loud Chamber Orchestra of Endangered Species at Duke



    • STEAM = Art + Zoological Science + Ecology + Activism
    • RESOURCES: ⏰⏰, √
    • SOCIAL ISSUEs: Wildlife Conservation, Environmental Conservation, and Ecosystem Education

The Very Loud Chamber Orchestra of Endangered Species is a Duke graduate student led collaborative art-science project exploring the impact of environmental degradation on non-human animals.


  1. Duke University biomedical engineering students design a special adjustable artist’s easel designed for paralyzed artist.


    Durham, 2013

    • STEAM = Medicine + Engineering + Design + Art
    • RESOURCES: ⏰ ⏰, √√
    • SOCIAL ISSUEs: Rehabilitation, Creating Art Tools/Access for Disabled Patients, Art Education, Gun Violence


  1. Painting By Numbers at Duke


    Mathematician Daubechies

    • STEAM = Math + Computational Analysis + Art + Art History
    • RESOURCES: ⏰⏰+, √√+
    • SOCIAL ISSUEs: Art Authenticity, Art-Historical Preservation, STEAM Education (Using Computational Analysis to study Art & Art History)

Duke mathematician turns art into data and data into an authenticity-verification tool for art historians and museum curators.


Non-Duke & Professional Projects

  1. Digital Arts: Virtually Stitching The AIDS Memorial Quilt


    AIDS Quilt

Digital media communications experts partner with artists, interface engineers, and public volunteers to digitize the collaboratively handstitched AIDs Memorial Quilt – the world’s largest community folk art piece – into an interactive application that can be accessed, searched, and annotated by anyone in the world.


  1. Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica 


    Sinfonia Antartctica

Multimedia artist DJ Spooky collaborates with musicians, video designers, and climate scientists to produce a seventy minute performance combining science,  history, and audio field recordings from Antarctica’s melting glaciers with digital music and video. The piece reflects on man’s dynamic relationship with the changing Earth.


  1. The Black Cloud: Using Games to Understand Air Quality


    Black Cloud

A team of artists, designers, programmers, and engineers partnered with a local high school English class to create an interactive game to help players reflect on the connections between human social behaviors – like land, waste, and energy use – and deteriorating environmental conditions. The public game does double duty: it gathers local social and environmental data as it educates players on the meaningful consequences of their daily actions.


  1. Fusebox: Cue China


    Fusebox: Cue China

Cue China combines video documentary and animation art with digital technology and   professional photography to produce an interactive experience, called an Autoteatro work, that puts Chinese migrant workers digitally face-to-face with the consumers who use the products they manufacture.


  1. HyperCities LA


    Hypercities LA

HyperCities LA is a collaborative mapping and data visualization project that links community organizations and LA citizens to archivists and social scientists. Powerful interactive mapping tools were created to allow the public to explore – and contribute – information about the social and political conditions of LA in the past and present.


  1. Combating Human trafficking with a humanitarian app



Microsoft sponsored a one-day global hackathon for female programmers that challenged participants to collaborate to create an App for preteen girls that could help combat human trafficking.

  1. Preserving Digital Worlds

    Preserving Digital Worlds

This project tackles various methods, infrastructures, standards, and technologies in order to preserve the  complex software, content, and interactivity in computer games and electronic literature. It also seeks to preserve “the transactions and interactions that constitute the user’s experience of them.”

  1. Pick Your Poison

    Pick Your Poison

This project traces “the transformation of a particular drug, from an acceptable indulgence to a bad habit, or vice versa” and reveals how this process is closely related to the intentions of those using particular drugs, as well as their social status in society. This project historicizes the very definition of “drug” and incorporates historical, sociological, and health methods to answer important social questions.

  1. Enigma


Using a wide range of collaborative data sets, this project seeks to interrogate the issue of global climate change, and to understand how various actors, from small businesses to farm workers, both affect and are affected by climate change in the United States.

  1. Images and Texts in Medical History

    Images and Texts in Medical History

Envisioned as a collaborative effort between health professionals and historians/librarians, this project seeks to create a massive online archive of medical history knowledge to be used by both historians and medical practitioners.


STEAM Inspiration!

  1. Create a STEAM Festival! This STEAM Carnival is a traveling carnival reimagined with robots, fire, & lasers to inspire young inventors in science, tech, engineering, art, & math.

  2. Start a STEAM Club! Cool Girls STEAM Club

  3. Organize a STEAM Exchange! Organize a cross-disciplinary exchange program. Teach Engineers to Dance! Or lead a coding workshop for dancers wanting to integrate technology into their performances.

  4. Produce a STEAM Journal or Magazine! The Claremont Graduate University’s Transdisciplinary Studies program has just released the inaugural issue of their STEAM Journal.

  5. Build a STEAM Hacker Space! Named Do-Gooder of the year by Seattle Children’s Research Institute, 21-year old Edward Jiao created a hacker space for young makers. Why not think about a MOBILE hacker space?

  6. Design a GAME! Interested in designing a course or a curriculum? See the Game-Based Wellness Curriculum for inspiration:

“Our curriculum development project is a collaboration with Chicago Quest to develop a game-based wellness curriculum for youth ages 12-14. The Game-Based Wellness Curriculum is a new approach to sexuality education in an 8th grade classroom in which we teach health and wellness through gameplay, theatrical roleplay, wiki participation, and other online formats.” Other games from the Game Changer Design Lab of interest to STEAM: Stork & Cache.

  1. Lead a STEAM Hack-a-thon…! Organize a STEAM hack-a-thon or a global wikipedia edit-a-thon. See #TooFew Feminists Engage Wikipedia or the National Day of Civic Hacking for inspiration.

  2. …Or maybe a STEAM Tweet-a-thon! Duke’s Soundbox team devised a day-long #tweetasound Twitter event that asked participants to Tweet their favorite audio files using the #tweetasound hashtag. More than 100 audio files were tweeted! How might you mobilize social media for social change?

  3. And, get inspired by our Duke STEAMy Summer Challenge winners:
    Grand prize and First place People’s Choice: “Seed” by Rebecca Lai

    Second place People’s Choice:”Dance for Parkinson’s Pilot at Duke: Moving Towards a Healthier Life” by Lauren Henschel and Alana Jackson

Second place Judging:”Using Movement to Control Music” by Robert Lam

Honorable mentions:

“Dig a Little Deeper” by Zanele Munyikwa


“Between the Paths” by Farruk Jadoon, Abdul Latif, Rifat Rahman, Daniel Santoro Reiland, and Kyle Smith