Escape Velocity

The following was guest-written by Donny Smoot

Children speak to a Ms. Frizzle cosplayer about the Magic School Bus episodes they've seen.

Children speak to a Ms. Frizzle cosplayer about the Magic School Bus episodes they've seen.

Education is vital to our posterity, yet still challenged in our approach to accommodate the varying degrees of learning by which children digest information, specifically in the areas of STEM and the Common Core curriculum. Technical subjects are sometimes too dense for students to comprehend, or are not taught in a way that is enjoyable enough to stick in young wandering minds.

A common struggle many teachers share is the challenge of teaching STEAM (Science, Education, Engineering, Art and Math) related subjects, which stresses the importance of critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills needed for success in a student's career and life. This disconnect in the teaching-learning process is where some kids find it difficult to grasp the technical concepts in a way that empowers them to learn and discover more about these subjects.

Luckily, the Museum of Science Fiction’s three day convention on July 1-3, 2015, Escape Velocity, focused on acquainting participants with every aspect of STEAM education by highlighting how science fiction influences and inspires everyday life. This “micro-futuristic world’s fair” utilized informal learning techniques to teach, “more conceptually challenging academic areas.” Art Way Alliance contributed the Art element of this con through demos and workshops with resounding success.

Contributing to current curriculum, with STEAM curriculum is AWA’s speciality. The workshops Art Way Alliance  hosted for Escape Velocity and gaining feedback on the results reveal how art is alive and well within STEM focused career professions. The following conversations with an AWA artist, student and parent show why partnering with Art Way Alliance is a great program to complement the education system!

One of the few times you can do whatever you want with math. It’s artistic expression.
— Darren Soto

Drawing Characters with STEM:

Darren Soto teaches students to make a character inspired by select words. 

Darren Soto teaches students to make a character inspired by select words. 

The purpose of the class was to create a character based off of STEM themes. Under the instruction of Darren Soto, the class chose to build a character using math elements, creating a female cyborg who is good at statistics and probability. The cyborg’s characteristics emerged from a unique blend of various Sci-Fi influences, as one could hear words like, “Wookie,” “Time Lord,” and “Android” among the shouted recommendations. After establishing the theme, participants then drew what they thought the character would look like and presented their work to the class. Students were amazed to see that simple themes can create awesome characters. They were also impressed to discover that such character design can parlay into a lasting career.

Raina, a young student who loves Dr. Who, enjoyed how the class was structured. “I loved the way the teacher draws things up on the board,” she says, “it really helps others who may not be able to draw well. [...] The classes showed me that different people [can] have different outcomes and that art doesn’t have to look like one specific character or form, that it can look like anything.”


Raina’s mother, Nakeisha Winston, agrees. She discovered Escape Velocity through the Most Valuable Kids Program. As a parent, she believes it is vital that her daughter is exposed to people involved in the arts. Subsequently, seeing Art Way Alliance and their teachers, who have established careers in comics and popular fiction, was a positive thing to see. Nakeisha admits that her daughter sometimes finds it difficult to grasp STEM concepts, but was fully engaged during Darren Soto’s workshop. AWA is helping to introduce students to STEM in an innovative way!

Come back soon for Part 2!