History of creativity class mixes technology, fine arts


    By Elizabeth Carlston

    Seeing the struggle of interaction among technology students and fine arts students, Brent Strong, a professor in the School of Technology, decided to create a class that would integrate both sets of students.

    “There”s a barrier,” Strong said. “People in our college were not participating as fully in the BYU community as they should be.”

    Strong said a lot of engineers needed an example of somebody who loved the humanities, before they would love the subject. He developed a unique way to bring those who study the subjects together.

    “It occurred to me that creativity is the thing that is common to fine arts and engineering and really to everybody who wants to be successful because creativity brings progress and growth, and our country is built on creativity.”

    Strong teaches a civilization course that binds art, literature and science together with creativity.

    “I want to develop a lab that helps people unlock their creativity,” he said. “I want to nurture it in individuals and help them explore it. I want to show how technical creativity and artistic creativity are really just the same thing expressed in different ways. Maybe we will break down those barriers. That is my hope.”

    For a class assignment, Strong has his civilization class develop a project to display for Creativity Day. The projects will be presented Wednesday April 9 in the Crabtree Building.

    In his civilization class, Strong dresses up like the people members of his class are studying.

    “I usually dress up for concepts that are difficult to understand and that may go against the standards that are typical in the LDS world, like Machiavelli or Karl Marx,” Strong said. “When I dress up like that person, then I can sell Machiavelli”s ideas. That is hard on students; I don”t think I can do it that well unless I am dressed up.”

    Machiavelli said the most important thing for a society is stability, Strong said. If there is no stability, everything else falls apart. That stability has to come from stable leadership, and that”s more important than everything else in society.

    “A lot of people in the class bought it,” Strong said. “If you make that wrong first assumption, that the most important thing is stability, then you will buy communism, you will buy dictators, you will buy Saddam Hussein, you will buy Satan if you make that assumption. And a lot of people bought it.”

    Strong said our decisions should be made based on principles.

    “Is there a principle that is so fundamental that everybody buys into that principle? We need to decide.”

    Strong also teaches plastics.

    “I try to take complicated subjects and make them simple,” Strong said. “Plastics is pretty complex. Most students get only one course at the undergrad level. The real trick to something like plastics is to preserve the real reason for things, at a level that is rigorous but understandable.”

    Strong said about one-third of BYU students will go to work in plastics because students can get good jobs almost automatically. He is currently working on half a dozen research projects, three of which are patented by BYU. His work includes discovering new processes and new ways of making plastics get better properties.

    “We are developing a process and some changes in the materials that will allow polyethylene to bind to another plastic called acrylic,” Strong said. “When you get that bond, you will get a shiny surface. We conceived the idea for the plastic about four months ago and already have companies looking at it.”

    Strong is also working on individual projects such as the cleaning assistant”s kangaroo cart.

    “We thought about it and then used the resources here at BYU to make this little model, and then we are in the midst of going up to a full-scale model, the design, figure out the right plastic, method the right way of doing the manufacturing of it,” Strong said. “I have people, probably one a week, who call me up and ask me to help them with either new products or problems.”

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