Chapter 15. When a Summer Camp, Innovation Hub and an Herbarium Meet: How Steam Collaboration Can Build a Humanized Experience with Technology

  • Castle U. Kim


In March 2018, MCN announced the 2018 conference theme was Humanizing the Digital, and called for sessions that would inspire discussion around making technology culture more human in museums.1 One idea grabbed my attention in the theme announcement: “using technology to build empathy, foster dialogue, and inspire positive change.”2 Without a doubt, museums have been integrating digital technology to engage visitors in empathy, dialogue, and change. However, how about the visitors directly interacting with the technology, for example in makerspaces and with maker technologies, at a museum?

There has been a convergence between museums and the maker movement. Museums, like the New York Hall of Science3 and Newark Museum,4 have developed their own makerspaces. The Institute of Museum and Library Services have recognized the value of making and launching the Making & Learning project.5 There was even a session titled, “What’s the Point of a Museum Maker Space?” at the 2012 MCN conference. Makerspaces emphasizes informal self-dedicated learning opportunities, but what if visitors could be guided to have a more wholesome and human experience through the maker technology?

The following is a reflection on the collaborative project I presented at MCN 2018. The project was a collaboration between a summer camp, Florida State Universities Innovation Hub and Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium that integrated arts, maker tech, museum specimen, and scientific research.


The idea of integrating art with STEM, also known as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), was brought up in response to the STEM initiative.6 Championed by John Maeda7 and the Rhode Island School of Design,8 STEAM has been researched by many researchers. Generally, research around STEAM focuses on building problem solving, fearlessness, and critical thinking skills.9 However, there is another core idea of STEAM that is often forgotten: how STEAM fosters creativity.10

In a study published by Microsoft, it showed that 85 percent of young woman and girls view themselves as creative individuals, only 34 percent of them thought STEM jobs involved creativity, while 69 percent of them wanted a career that helped the world.11 Based on this data, a gap between creativity and STEM. STEAM could be the key to bridge the gap between creativity and STEM. However, balancing all the aspect of STEAM is difficult. It is a challenge to create a properly balanced STEAM program, so what if different institutions with different areas of expertise came together to create a STEAM program?

The Innovation Hub at Florida State University

The Innovation Hub (The Hub) at Florida State University is a new facility that opened in March of 2018. The Hub’s mission is to “foster a collaborative community founded on a culture of creativity and innovation … using design thinking and emerging technologies.”12 The fablab at the Hub features twenty plus 3D printers, a laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and other innovation technologies. During the school year, The Hub focuses on being a resource to FSU and during the summer the Innovation Hub expanse its focus to the Tallahassee community, such as creating K-12 educational outreach programs.13

More information about the Hub can be found at the Hub’s website:

The STEAM-ing Collaboration

In the summer of 2018 Innovation Hub, FSU’s Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium, and a local summer camp collaborated for a STEAM experience for the students. The goal of the program was to show different ways creativity is involved in STEM.

The day started at the Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium, where over 220,000 museum-quality plant and microalgae specimen collection, and original scientific illustration used in books and publications are housed.14 The students learned about the relevance of plant pressing in research today, scientific illustrations, and how to press plants. Through the Herbarium the students experienced how art and creativity is part of scientific research, such as how do you position a plant on a page, so it fits and best represent the plant. Following the Herbarium, the campers visited and toured The Hub. Then the students engaged in a nature-inspired activity that involved 3D modeling, 3D printing, and laser cutting. Using TinkerCAD, a free web-based 3D modeling software, the campers modeled nature inspired tokens (which later was 3D printed at the Hub). After 3D modeling, the campers were asked to draw a ‘scientific illustration’ throughout the week. The campers would select one on their illustrations. The selected illustration was converted digitally with Adobe Illustrator, and then the illustration was laser cut into a wooden costar for the campers to take home.


In 2014, McGrath predicted that people will look to organizations to “create complete and meaningful experiences.”15 This has been becoming the expectations visitors have with museums: to have a wholesome human experience. For museum visitors who are directly interreacting with technology, as more opportunities are arising with the development of museum makerspaces, could have a deeper experience if they are involved in STEAM program. A singular institution is often an expert on something and not all thing, it would have been impossible if the summer camp, The Hub, or the Herbarium tried to build this program on its own. A true STEAM program could provide a wholesome experience where museums and technology feel more human as the visitors are free to be creative. Perhaps one way to humanize the digital, specifically the digital and technology visitors directly interact with, is to engage visitors in empathy, dialogue, and change through collaborative STEAM projects.


  1. Adrienne Lalli Hills, Rob Weisberg, and Catherine Devine, “MCN2018: Humanizing the Digital,” Museum Computer Network (blog), March 6, 2018, (accessed February 25, 2019).
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Maker Space.” New York Hall of Science, (accessed February 25, 2019).
  4. “MakerSPACE at Newark Museum,” Newark Museum, (accessed February 25, 2019).
  5. “Making,” Institute of Museum and Library Services, (accessed February 25, 2019).
  6. Lisa Catterall, “A Brief History of STEM and STEAM from an Inadvertent Insider,” The STEAM Journal, 3, no. 1 (2017). DOI: 10.5642/steam.20170301.05
  7. Ibid.
  8. “Rhode Island School of Design Launches STEAM Map to Demonstrate Global Activity and Support for the Movement,” Rhode Island School of Design, (accessed February 10, 2019).
  9. John Maeda, “STEM + Art = STEAM.” The STEAM Journal 1, no. 1 (2013). DOI: 10.5642/steam.201301.34
  10. Nicole Radiziwil, Morgan Benton, and Cassidy Moellers, “From STEM to STEAM: Reframing What it Means to Learn,” The STEAM Journal, 2, no. 1 (2015). DOI: 10.5642/steam.20150201.3
  11. Suzanne Choney, “Why do girls lose interest in STEM? New research has some answers - and what we can do about it,” Microsoft (accessed February 10, 2019).
  12. “Welcome to the Hub!,” Innovation Hub, (accessed February 10, 2019).
  13. More information about the Hub can be found at the Hub’s website:
  14. “Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium,” Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium, (accessed February 10, 2019).
  15. Rita McGrath, “Management’s Three Eras: A brief History,” Harvard Business Review, (accessed February 10, 2019).