Case Studies

RISD Foundation Studies

art + engineering

As part of RISD’s creative rite of passage known as Foundation Studies, Senior Critic Deborah Coolidge teaches a Spatial Dynamics studio where one of the projects challenges students to design and build a hand-held wooden tool that can be used to pick up an egg, move it, break it over a bowl and then beat it. The resulting egg crackers are functional and creative flights of fancy that beautifully capture principles of design and engineering.

Brian Smith, an engineer and former dean of Continuing Education at RISD notes that the tools created in Coolidge’s studio illustrate the inextricable links between art and science that have long fueled invention and innovation. “People don’t talk about the fact that Samuel Morse, who invented the telegraph and Morse code, was an extremely gifted painter, or that Rufus Porter, the man who founded Scientific American magazine, was a muralist and portrait artist,” Smith says. “I think one of the important questions we have to ask is: At what point did art split from science? Because it wasn’t always this way.”

Although the project primarily focuses on design, it also requires ingenuity and experimentation as students work through the mechanics of levers and pulleys and the geometry of wedges and inclined planes. The egg crackers demonstrate the power of the creative process in bringing innovative solutions to basic engineering problems.

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