Students and teachers can explore the STEM concepts and skills found in the artists work. The STEM Concept tool provides a core idea from the Next Generation Science Standards and illustrates possible ways it has been applied in each artist's work. It also includes artist tips and views on STEM for a personal perspective on their unique STEM + Art connections.

The Matter of Memory

Next Generation Science Standards

Core Idea PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

PS4.A: Wave Properties
PS4.B: Electromagnetic Radiation
PS4.C: Information Technologies and Instrumentation.

The Matter of Memory: This art project illustrates modern digital communications that rely on electromagnetic waves to function. The Global Positioning System (GPS) uses electromagnetic waves sent from satellites to measure the position of a receiver device on the earth. Processors on the receiver devices use special algorithms such as trilateration to find the position based on signals from at least three satellites. This data is then used by an application on a mobile device to play recorded sounds, which also manifest as waves in the air

skills applied

  • GPS technologies
  • Processing languages
  • Systems thinking
  • Arduino programming


My project uses GPS positioning and recording sounds to talk about memories and spaces. In the past, artists didn't have as many resources available to them, but they created work about these same topics. Janet Cardiff is an artist who creates “Walks”. You put on a headset and walk around, either with an MP3 player or CD player, as she guides you through the museum or open space that she has already been through. All of the audio is pre-recorded to guide you through the space. During these walks she tells you a bit about her life and asks you questions about what you believe is true as you listen to her story. Her “Louisiana Walk” (1996) using a CD Player was quite elegant and beautiful: as are her other walks. I suggest getting into understanding how machines function. Programming is becoming a necessary language to understand how the world is changing. But even more than a language, programming is the relationship that you have with the machine, which is you giving a set of instructions and waiting to see what the outcome is. Many times you get back errors that turn out to be very interesting. Open Processing is a website that has everything set-up to begin programming in a program called “Processing.” “Processing” was created with the idea of having artists use computer code to modify and set-up works of art. They made sure to make it easy (it looks harder than it actually is) to learn how the language works and get people going and creating their own interactive artworks. This is how I started with programming as well. This basic set-up can be modified and when you hit "Run", your code is up and running. Always feel free to change the numbers around, make up new equations, never fear "breaking" the machine - you can always go back to the original. Keep changing it until you get something you like.  Hector

Artists on STEM
Has working with science and technology improved your professional career or life and if so how?

In the working world now, it is difficult to get a job that doesn’t recommend having some computer skills. Having worked a lot of different technology jobs, it is my impression that every industry needs curious individuals who are not afraid of working with systems. When I say “systems,” I mean a number of things-- the way people work with one another, stock market exchange, internet protocols. In general understanding systems is understanding how things work with one another. The people most able to gain better employment opportunities are those who are adaptable, take risks, and above all, are curious of the world around them.

What was your experience with STEM in school? What would you change now if you could?

I wished that in my middle-school, there were more options for after-school opportunities to continue any sort of applied sciences. Too much of the time there was an emphasis on learning the basic material without the ability to recreate what we’ve learned in a more practical real-world example. I think a bigger issue is having standardized testing in school systems that forces the teacher to teach towards the test and not towards what is actually interesting for the students.

How has your creative work influenced your use of technology and/or how has technology changed how you work or the pieces you make?

My work has made me see that technology and networking systems aren’t as binary as they seem. We see this all the time with what we are all aware of called “computer errors”, which I often find to be very interesting. Seeing a machine able to make mistakes makes me think that “Yes, computers are tools made by humans for humans” and makes me feel not overburdened by technology. I want to learn more about the tool and how it works rather than feel powerless because it is this big machine system that will go over my head. It won’t go over your head if you spend some time with it, and you end up learning about the nature of the machine itself.