Students combine art and science at CI2 lab

Patrick Higgins

Posted on October 22, 2013 in News
By dakotawing

Patrick Higgins

Assistant professor of design science and fine arts Raphael Diluzio and his CI2 lab are trying something new, working to combine fine arts with hard sciences.

Diluzio runs the CI2 lab in which he is attempting to incorporate technology into the arts in the form of digital media. He was given an National Science Foundation grant to in order to work on supporting artistic and creative projects for students studying STEM subjects.

The CI2 lab is technically neither a lab, nor a class, but is instead called a “research studio.” It is a working environment, Diluzio explained. He does not assign work to the students, instead allowing them to think of projects that they would like to do through a method called “project based learning.”

The studio is funded by the university and is certainly a part of the school, but Diluzio said that one of the project’s strengths is that it is so radically different in the way it runs compared to a traditional university program.

There are currently 18 students working in the lab, including computer, engineering and design students. Diluzio said they are always looking for more participants. Students in this lab are able to work on what interests them and are even given “mini grants” to work on their desired projects.

The challenge for some students is having free reign to research whatever they want rather than being given an assignment with a deadline, but Diluzio feels that this method is more effective with the type of system he’s trying to run.

“Some people don’t understand how to do things differently,” said Diluzio. “We always say ‘think differently, think out of the box, be creative, be innovative.’ Well, the moment you really are creative and really innovative in a traditional academic environment is really the moment people get scared.”

Diluzio has decided that rather than running this program with very little structure, he will provide the students in the program with a more structured system. Students will now come up with the ideas for the projects they would like to do and submit them to Diluzio, where he can then approve them and provide the student with funding to work on their project.

Diluzio stated that this is to provide a certain amount of structure so the students are not scared by a lack of structure. His main focus is to show the students that it’s okay to come up with their own ideas because that’s what it will be like in the world outside of school.

Diluzio has plemty of his own experiences of lack of structure in the real world. He came to USM after years working in different places across the country, including 12 years of building a media program at UMO. He halted his work there due to the fact that the technology was not advancing because the university would not provide funding for new equipment.

He said he got “burnt out” at UMO, and though it may be the flagship school to the UMaine system, he left to come to USM, where they were willing to provide current technology. “There is no ‘new’ in ‘new media’ unless you shovel money into it,” said Diluzio.

When asked how the studio will help the students involved, Diluzio said that he provides students with a space where they can learn new things based on their own interests. “The more they’re interested, the more they’ll learn,” said Diluzio.

With students able to come into the studio and work on something, whether it be starting and managing a business or researching modern technology, they are building skills for their futures and are provided with the infrastructure and equipment to do so.

Diluzio hopes that more students will become involved in this program and actively shape what they will do with their lives.
“They can define what their future can be, they can make a great future for themselves.”