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.

wai project

Next Generation Science Standards

Core Idea PS3: Energy

PS3.A: Definitions of Energy
PS3.B: Conservation Of Energy and Energy Transfer
PS3.C: Relationship between Energy and Forces
PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life 

Te Hunga Wai Tapu: (the group of people for whom water is sacred):  This art project illustrates the principle of Wai, a Maori concept that is best expressed as water or flow.  In the Maori worldview, water or Wai connects people to mountains, rivers, the air and birth.  Wai both contains and exercises power, just as energy can be modeled both as force fields and as moving particles.  The Maori values of respect for nature and sustainable practices aim to ensure that energy flows in ways that are useful and healthful for the planet. This project has an engineering/electronics component where data sensors in New Zealand control audio of traditional Maori and Navajo instruments, heard in Albuquerque. Following Ohms Law, the artists can utilize the ability to resist electrical energy flow as a means to creatively control by simple processor programming, the behavior of elements of an integrated electrical circuit composed of sensors and output modules such as audio and LED. Being able to output data to the internet allows the artists to add an additional modulation in terms of audio output. That has allowed a further layer of creative framework.

skills applied

  • OHMS Law
  • Processing programming
  • Integrated electric circuits
  • Audio and LED outputs


One thing students could do, is start by deciding to work with someone from a different culture, and then talk about what is similar or different, seeking connecting points. Another thing they could do is to take simple technologies like LED's and try to work out ways they can be incorporated into art works. It is fairly straightforward to program LED lights to flash in patterns. You basically tell the LED when to turn on and when to turn off. The creative becomes which pattern to use and why. One of the works in the show is called a Pou Hihiri, and it has imagery and LED's. Students could make a work inspired by the Pou, which was made under the direction of Te Urutahi Waikerepuru. It connects traditional Maori knowledge with electronics.  Ian

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

It definitely has. This is because of the importance of innovation. Artists understand this very well. Even a painter develops or innovates on their work. Artist who work with technology, operate at the boundary of emerging technology. That's because technology is always developing. So if you can get used to changing ground, to new things happening and even fun things dying out, then this can be very powerful. Since taking on technology in art, I haven't really looked back. Lots of opportunities are there. Also you have an opportunity to integrate the most recent ideas, like getting involved in many cultures.

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

STEM wasn't part of the school curriculum. However, the person regarded as the best math teacher in Australia taught me for a year and I don't know what he did but he made the anxiety about maths go away. He made math seem possible, that it could be beaten. I wasn't a slave to it, trying to understand and getting nowhere.”

How has your creative work influenced your use of science or technology?

Well the first thing I did with technology and art was use Photoshop to make an image of me and my dead brother back together again. We grew up one year apart and he died when I was 19. I Photoshoped us together about 20 years later. This capacity of digital to unite, runs through much of what I do. It turns out there are many logical reasons why digital media or electronics can unite diversity. But I also have an emotional reason.

Space Messengers is made possible in part by the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund for U.S. Alumni; an opportunity sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by Partners of the Americas. This project is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts

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