Here students and teachers can explore the STEM concepts and skills found in the artists work. The STEM Concept tool provides a basic definition of a key concept in Science, Math or Engineering and suggests possible ways it has been applied or illustrated in each artist's work. It also includes artist tips and views on STEM for a personal perspective on the STEM + Art connections.

Neil Mendoza and Anthony Goh
What is your name and where are you from? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Neil Mendoza and I'm an interactive artist based in London.

Are you a digital native or digital immigrant?

Digital immigrant.

What is the purpose behind your ISEA2012 piece and what inspired you?

In city life, we are constantly surrounded by mobile phones that endlessly bleat for attention. This installation takes these familiar, often stressful and annoying devices, and creates an alternate reality in which they pique people's curiosity, and make them want to use their phones in a playful manner. It's about taking the worst of modern life - disposable unwanted phones and unwanted noises - and turning them into something beautiful.

What do you hope an audience takes away from this piece? 

I'd hope that it makes the audience take a second look at the roles technology and gadgets play in the world around them.

How is your medium or technique unique? How have you integrated, adapted or recombined STEM components to create something innovative?

The birds are made out of pieces of junk mobile phones that have been brought hack to life. To do this, I used a piece of hardware called an Arduino, more info at http://arduino.cc. It is a tiny computer that allows you to interact with the physical world using electronics. The moving parts of the birds are controlled by small motors called servos.

What would you suggest as a STEM activity or resource for a student that would like to explore the type of work that you do?

Go to the website http://instructables.com and have a search for Arduino projects, there are plenty of great ideas for projects along with detailed instructions on how to make them a reality.

Can you share your methods for brainstorming and how you get your ideas?

I try to keep up with interesting news from various fields, from new scientific discoveries to news topics. I often discuss ideas for potential projects with friends. Once I have a pretty good idea of the direction I'm going with a project, I will do some internet research specific to that area.

Once you had your idea how did you approach the phase of designing and planning for its realization?

I often make small models and sketches until I have a plan that I think should work. I then start researching all the different bits I will need to get hold of. Often gathering the right materials can be the hardest part of the project. For instance, for my ISEA project, gathering the phone junk took as long as making the birds themseves. Some of the projects I do involve machining parts using techniques such as laser cutting. These parts need to be designed in a computer program before they can be made.

Did you build a model or prototype for this piece? if so, how did you decide what to make it out of and can you describe the process?

Due to the nature of this piece, it was possible to prototype as I went. For pieces that need to be more accurately engineered, I often make small models, for example from card.

Did this piece require doing research and if so can you share why it is important and how you go about it? Is there any advice you can offer about this phase?

I spent a while looking at birds in photos and real life various as well as researching different sculptural techniques people had used to create animals. In the original piece, the birds responded to mobile phone calls, unfortunately this wasn't possible at ISEA as the USA has different a different type of cell phone network to the UK. However, for that part of the project, I researched how mobile phones talk to other devices over a cable using serial, I was then able to get the phones to talk to the Arduino.

How did you test and evaluate your design? For example, did it work the first time or were there many versions before the final one? Do you have standard ways of testing your work?

This is often the most important part of the process as it is where you start to see your ideas come to life. It brings up issues that you may not have thought about but also present opportunities that you hadn't considered.

What criteria did you use to evaluate your piece, or your work in general?

I try to be as objective as possible when I evaluate my work and look at it from the perspective of someone who has never seen it before. Often towards the end of a project I will leave a piece alone for a while and come back to it with a fresh eye to work out if it is actually finished.

What do you get from sharing your work with others? This question addresses the greater question of why we create art in the first place? What is its role in society? Why is it important for us to create and share art?

For interactive work, one of the most important bits of feedback I get is seeing how people interact with it and how it makes them feel. There is the immediate feedback of watching playful interaction but it's great when people tell me that it's started them thinking about something as well.

Did you have to collaborate to realize this piece? If so why? Is there anything you would like to share about the collaboration process?

I collaborated with a friend I've worked on a few projects with. I enjoy working with him as we bring different skills to the table. We also have different ideas that mix well together, I have a tendency to use man-made materials and concepts whereas he takes more inspiration from nature.

Is there anything else about your creative process that you would like to share? Perhaps we missed an important part of your creative process.

no response

Do you come from a STEM background or an Arts background? What is the STEM skill or concept that inspired or formed this piece, or your work in general?

I come from a STEM background, I studied Math and Computer Science at university. This project involved computer programming and a little electronics.

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

People feel more comfortable coming to me with creative projects that are technically challenging knowing that I have the STEM experience and education to draw on if necessary. For example, recently I worked on a project where we hacked around 150 obsolete bits of computer equipment to make them into an orchestra for a viral video.

What was your experience with STEM in middle and high school and what would you change if you could?

When I was at school we weren't shown imaginative uses of technology. It wasn't until after university that I started to realize the potential for using technology to make projects that sparked my imagination. If I could change one thing it would be to learn how to code for creative purposes much earlier.

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

Most of the work I make it interactive so one does not exist without the other.

Can you share any differences and/or similarities between artistic and scientific creativity that you may have personally explored by uniquely merging the two in your work? Or you may choose to share the more general question of what the arts and sciences have in common, or differ?

Artistic and scientific creativity are both about creating new ways of seeing or understanding the world. Scientific creativity is often concerned with very specific problems though, trying to think about them in ways that nobody has thought of before. Artistic creativity is more free and often approaches this interpretation of the world from an aesthetic angle.

How do you think artists can benefit from science / scientists? and/or visa versa, how do you think scientists/science can benefit from artistic creativity?

Artists can definitely make scientific concepts more accessible and get people interested in the arts.

Do you think the arts are as important as science? If so why, if not why not?

Yes, science gives us a way to understand the world but without the arts it would be a dull place to live, the arts have an influence on virtually all parts of modern culture.