As global climate change rises to the foreground of our current social, political and scientific consciousness, the collective awareness of viable solutions that offer options for accessible renewable energy sources is relegated to experts.
Many people have general knowledge of “green” energy options but lack firsthand experience or engagement with these technologies. In addition, several proposed “green” energy options (e.g. solar panels, windmills) are considered eyesores by many.
This lack of firsthand experience, coupled with negative aesthetic appeal, can be a barrier to adoption. Our collaborative team seeks to develop an artistically designed portable renewable energy UConn STEAM Tree and then to explore human social reactions to the presence of the tree.
Our vision is that this tree would serve as a multidisciplinary research instrument, teaching tool, and most importantly a beautiful, functioning clean energy-harvesting power source that would promote social interactions and understanding though public engagement.
We believe this tree could become an integral part of the landscape at UConn and provide an appealing design that would help raise public awareness of renewable energy and other global solutions through firsthand experience and social interaction, while also serving to illuminate current research, interdisciplinary work, and positive change at UConn.
While modern living and globalization has many benefits, rising inequality throughout the globe has resulted in challenges like as overpopulation, increasing energy requirements, pollution, overuse of Earth’s resources and climate change. A social consequence is that people are becoming less connected to nature and to each other. We are less physically active, with documented rates of depression and mental illnesses on the rise.
Solutions to these obstacles are emerging in the form of clean and sustainable energy solutions, smart, connected cities, novel approaches in urban planning, social policy changes, and community initiatives. To facilitate this change, research areas are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and the public awareness of these trends and collaborations needs to be promoted. The project has a huge potential to advance knowledge and research in a number of disciplines, to expand learning in unconventional and creative ways by crossing borders between art and science, and create opportunities for novel aspects of research. The project will open new avenues for collaborations and allow pursuit of new interdisciplinary research and collaboration opportunities.
The UConn STEAM Tree project will be a physical and ideological landmark at the University. It will promote inclusion, togetherness, equality, positive thinking and a revived connection to nature. Interdisciplinary collaboration between diverse fields will be taught as an integral part of emerging research with a strategically informed design for a co-opted future in solution-creation to emerging global problems.
Through the design and creation of an accessible, clean-energy source we can all help influence public awareness and behavior.