Sunday, January 25, 2015

Students combine artistry and science in Art Electric

Da Vinci High School senior Benjy Egel blows on a flaming wad of steel wool inside a glass pyramid that mimics the one at the Musée du Louvre in Paris as part of the Art Electric project at the school. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | April 11, 2012 |

Physics students channeled their inner artists for an Art Electric display at Da Vinci High School last week.

A total of 60 students were charged by teacher Zach Ronneberg with creating sculptural art pieces that included embedded circuitry connected to switches, lights, motors, speakers, capacitors, buzzers and more.

The end result, after a couple of weeks of work, ranged from a replica Avatar forest to a replica Louvre — featuring a uniquely glowing pyramid atop — to a visual symphony combining a keyboard with lights.

Students Camila Biaggi, Sid Romero, Averi Pollard and Connor Campbell were inspired by Da Vinci’s mascot (a dinosaur) and their school’s identity (technology) to come up with Eggstreme Engineering, a papier mâché work of art that featured a green dinosaur emerging from an eggshell, while playing with a miniature laptop computer. Circuitry made for a dinosaur tail that wagged.

The students first made the egg out of chicken wire and papier mâché, then the dinosaur along with connecting wires and lights. The whole project took two weeks.

Nearby, four other students paid homage to deadmau5 (pronounced dead mouse), the Canadian house and electronica musical artist known for his fantastic electronic mouse helmets.

Like all of the students, the group made their mouse head out of mostly recycled and reclaimed materials, though they did have to order the large acrylic globe that served as the head itself.

Smaller globes encircled eyes that featured spinning cardboard, carefully placed Styrofoam added structural integrity, and speakers embedded in the back of the large cardboard ears provided the music.

Alex Clubb, Cedric Duffy, Scott Gidding and Riley Gibsangraf took part in the project.

“I wanted to create some sort of helmet,” Duffy explained. “And I was surprised we were actually able to make it look this good.”

Avatar was the inspiration for another project, specifically a scene featuring the Tree of Souls.

In an ideal world, said Katasha Nail Dasilva, “the room would be black,” making the lights in the tree and as well as those illuminating the eyes of the animals drawn on the cardboard wall behind it, really stand out.

The tree itself was made of wire with papier mâché and ribbon serving as the dangling willow branches.

“It took a lot of time but it was fun,” said Aubrey Pelz.

Also in on the project were Alex Lascher-Posner and Hayden Russell.

Each of the groups, staged around the Da Vinci library, would explain their project and answer questions to panelists who passed by, including teacher Ronneberg, who asked them assorted hypotheticals: “If you did this… what would happen?”

This is the third year Ronneberg has used the electric art project as part of his physics curriculum.

“The level each year has stepped up,” he said, “because I have samples to show them. The level this year is pretty wild.”

“I love the art. It gets kids committed to an idea and then they have to figure out the electronics to realize their artistic vision. It brings in kids that wouldn’t normally get involved.”

Panelists provide feedback, vote for their favorites and the best will be included in an all-Da Vinci art show in May.

Some students, Ronneberg said, will work for hours and hours on their project, so much so that he wonders if he should set limits.

“But they’re so happy and excited about it,” he said.

One group very excited about their project was the creators of “The Louvre.”

Complete with the glass pyramid on top and floors of handmade artwork below, the students even gave it their own spin.

“The Louvre pyramid actually lights up but we didn’t want to just use bulbs,” said Lola Davis. “We wanted to give it its own flair.”

So they went with steel wool, which would they would burn inside the pyramid.

Thoroughly enjoying their piece were the boys who made “A Visual Symphony.”

Tom Bergamaschi, Alan Hersch, Rowan McGuire and Nicholas Seban rigged a piano keyboard up to a lightboard so playing songs resulted in patterns of lights.

“We’re very pleased with the way it turned out,” said Bergamaschi.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at or (530) 747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy



Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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