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  • Meet a Maker: Amenda Tate Corso

    Meet Amenda Tate Corso, an accomplished artist and metal worker. She took some time to chat with us about her approach to making and what inspires her work.

    SCI: Can you tell us about what you do?
    Amenda: I have been working on a project called the “Manibus Project” for the last year-and-a-half. It utilizes a robotic painting device I created and translates the movement dance and motion into two-dimensional works of art.

    SCI: Where does the name “Project Manibus” come from?

    Amenda: In Latin, Manibus means “the hand.” I wanted a name that expressed the idea that this project wasn’t replacing the artist by any means. Instead, it acts as an extension of the artist’s hand, or as a new tool that to make or create.

    SCI: So it’s a tool that acts on its own, but creates work by an artist?
    Amenda: Sort of! It works by using a remote control that senses movement as the input. This allows it to conduct and create the art piece.

    I like to think of myself as the overseer or the person that orchestrates the creation of the finished product.

    SCI: Where did you get the idea to make a project like this?

    Amenda: I had a transformational experience at the ballet, I probably only went to the ballet once before adulthood, and all of the sudden I felt like I was experiencing it in a way that was different from what I perceived it to be. I could see the lines and the shapes. I forgot I was looking at the bodies of the dancers as individual elements, instead I saw them as a whole.

    After that, I had a friend that told me about an artist residency program. I really wanted to do something with Ballet Des Moines that was not only inspired by ballet, but directly related to the dancers and what they were doing. In the end, I wanted something that created an impression that was more lasting than just the moment of dance. When you watch a dance recital, you get this emotional high, and then the dance ends, and the moment expires. I wanted it to make something that told the story directly of what was happening in the moment that had a lasting impression. Something that can be analyzed in a different way.

    SCI: There’s a huge difference between just taking a video of a ballet recital and displaying it on paper. They give off different types of energy.

    Amenda: You can feel the interaction of the energy that was present in that moment. It’s not meant to be an exact reproduction of the movement, but more of a translation of the energy or emotion or the inspiration of it.

    SCI: How did you start making?

    Amenda: I don’t know if there was a specific time that I can say, “That’s where I got into making,” but I remember something happening as a kid. My parents used to let me use tools, which I thought was fantastic, because some kids don’t get to experience tools until they’re older or there’s a specific need.

    I used to take things apart all the time. My dad had a retractable keychain that was broken, and I remember taking it apart to find out what was broken, what happened to it and what made it work, and I fixed it!

    There were lots of things like that. For me, it isn’t just about needing to know how things work and why, but more so as an element of expression. I didn’t want to just make something to function. I wanted to make something that does something, tells a story or communicates to us in a way that the everyday world doesn’t.

    SCI: What’s your favorite part of the making process?
    Amenda: For me, it would have to be seeing the end result. There’s something very satisfying about the process for sure, but I think it’s that point of discovery. Making these works of art are kind of like discoveries, because there isn’t a scripted form. I don’t have a set idea of what it’s going to look like when it’s finished.

    SCI: If someone is interested in learning more about making, what would you recommend?

    Amenda: Be prepared to fail a lot. Do not be discouraged by making mistakes. I think that a lot of people don’t want to make mistakes, and we all have this fear of making mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough to make new things. It’s all part of the process. When you embrace that, you’re on your way to surprising yourself!

    See Amenda’s project in action at the Des Moines Mini Maker Faire on Monday, September 3! To learn more, visit http://desmoines.makerfaire.com/, and be sure to check our social media channels for exciting news and updates!

  • Meet Our Maker: Madelaine Thomas

    Meet Madelaine, one of our resident Makers with a background in education. Madelaine sat down with us to talk about the day in the life of a Maker, what she was surprised about when starting at SCI and her favorite projects for the Summer of Making.This interview was edited to make it more concise and clarified.

    SCI: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started at the Science Center?

    Madelaine: I graduated from Iowa State with a degree in Elementary Education last December. I subbed and worked in Des Moines Public Schools. I accepted a teaching job for next year, but it doesn’t start until August. I started looking for opportunities this summer to work with kids, but I didn’t want to have to worry about taking control of a classroom. Being a Maker is a great option for that!

    SCI: You still get to educate people about making, but you don’t have the pressure of being in charge of a classroom.

    Madelaine: Exactly. While I was student teaching, I did a special science program called “Trinect.” It focused on better science instruction in the classroom. Because it was so fresh in my brain, I thought working at the Science Center of Iowa would help me continue to grow.

    SCI: What got you interested in the world of making?

    Madelaine: When I first applied at the science center, I didn’t have the chance to apply for the Maker position. I was applying to help with the outreach programs, which I thought would be an interesting way to get involved in science and still work with children. In the interview, Ellie (https://www.sciowa.org/about-sci/sci-blog/make-sci/meet-our-maker-ellie-willhoit/) described the Maker job to me, and because I’ve always been a creative person, I went for it. I love to make things outside of work.

    SCI: What types of things have you made?

    Madelaine: My mom is a big quilter, so I make a lot of things with fabric. I also led a sewing camp for kids a few summers ago, which is one of the most fun things I’ve done.

    SCI:  That’s awesome! Creating things is always a lot of fun. Can you describe the day-to-day life as a Maker?

    Madelaine: I start off in the morning by getting my bearings. I see what we have planned for the day. I also get out on the floor and do Tool Time shifts in the Maker Studio early in the day when I get the chance. This lets me interact with curious participants. After that, I start prepping for Studio Time, which means gathering materials, making sure we have examples and seeing if there’s any way we can improve what we did the day before. I sit down for lunch, and then I hop into the Studio Time sessions from 1:00- 3:00 PM. In the afternoon, I spend my time collecting data of how Studio Time went and to see if there’s anything we can improve.

    SCI: What do you enjoy most about your job?
    Madelaine: Each day is a different adventure. We always get to try and do stuff totally different. It’s not a dull job at all. I get to do some really cool things most people don’t get to do at their jobs. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like work at all!

    SCI: People assume you come in and do the same project every day in a week, but in reality, you’re constantly tweaking the process.

    Madelaine: Yeah, we did parachutes this week. We had some obvious successes like plastic bags which float down great. On the other hand, fabric doesn’t work so well, so we did some searching for something more aerodynamic, and we found coffee filters! All these little tweaks help it go smoother and smoother each day.

    SCI: When you started as a Maker, what surprised you about your job that you didn’t think would happen?

    Madelaine: I was very surprised at how flexible the job is in its nature. We have a lot of freedom to take an idea and run with it. For example, the Living Wall we’re putting together (see Sabrina’s interview). We started off with the concept of a living wall, and we didn’t know what that would look like. So we sat down and brainstormed. We threw out some idea until we found one that would work the best.

    SCI: What projects are you most looking forward to working on?
    Madelaine: We’re working with a camp called “Challenge Accepted,” and I think the idea we came up with is really exciting. We call it an “Instant Challenge.” We put out 3 dice. The first dice tells you the material you have to use, the second one tells you what to build, and the third one tells you the purpose that your creation has to have. For example, you might get something that tells you to build a diaper out of paper plates that makes you laugh, or build a boat out of straws that can dance. I think this will be a lot of fun, and it has a lot of room for creativity.

    SCI: That sounds like a lot of fun! How did you come up with that idea?

    Madelaine: When I was younger, I participated in this program called “Destination Imagination,” and we did a lot of instant challenges. So that’s probably where I got the idea from.

    SCI: If you’re stuck in the middle of a project, and you can’t figure out what to do next, what do you do?

    Madelaine: I’m lucky because there are so many people in this office that are full of awesome ideas, so if I’m stuck on something, I’ll usually go ask someone that’s been here a little longer than I have. For everyone else, make sure you have people around to collaborate with. I call myself a social scientist!

    SCI: What can you recommend to someone who possibly just went to a Studio Time session and wants to do more?

    Madelaine: It’s really important to just get started with something. I think people get stuck on the idea that making is just one thing, but really anyone could be a maker.  You can make with clay, paper, circuits... Making can be so many different things, so really, anyone can be a maker. Just getting started and trying something is the most important part!

    The Summer of Making will be going on throughout the summer at the Science Center of Iowa. It focuses on the maker's mindset, and the process of creation.