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 for the Solar Tree to serve as a multidisciplinary research instrument, teaching tool, and most importantly a beautiful, functioning clean energy power source that would promote social interactions and understanding through public engagement. We believe that providing a visually appealing interactive design 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.