Between Physics and Theater

Last week, Bryn Mawr Communications interviewed Theater major Samantha Wall’17 about her experience taking welding lessons in the Park Science Machine Shop. Coincidentally, I am having the reverse experience as a Physics major, also class of 2017, taking the Physics Electronics Lab and the Fundamentals of Technical Theater classes this semester.

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Learning to tape the stage floor.

Initially, I had chosen the theater class as a filler class in my schedule already heavy with science classes. I was also interested in the technical aspects of theater because I am usually in the performer’s role as a dancer in the Faculty Dance Program and in club groups. I’ve danced on Goodhart’s stage numerous times and attended multiple performing arts productions, but I didn’t really understand what went into each show behind the scenes.

I did not expect to find such strong connections between the two. The first connection I drew was the similarity in tools used. In theater, I was learning to use drills, staple guns, and table saws. In physics, I was using different types of saws, some precise up to 5 decimal places, to cut and drill a piece of PVC to hold my laser and diode. I later learned that the theater shop is more of a wood shop because they make temporary sets with wood, while the machine shop is a machine shop because they work primarily with metal and plastics. I also noticed how both used their own schematics software. In my Electronics Lab, we used Eagle PCB to outline our circuit diagrams. In theater, they use Vectorworks or AutoCAD to program their lighting circuitry and stage setup. The Park science machine shop uses SolidWorks.

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My bar code scanner work in progress

Both of these classes are not your traditional lecture and exam type classes. All of my physics classes up to this point had involved lots of math and physics theory, so I enjoy the creative hands-on freedom in electronics lab — even if it’s for 8 hours per week. I like to think that these practical tools skills I am learning will also somehow translate into me being a more rounded, capable, [employable?] person.

I hope more students will get the opportunity to find connections between classes in different fields. Bryn Mawr’s upcoming Maker Spaces around campus would make this a reality. The maker spaces, potentially located in Goodhart, Arncliffe, and Park, with headquarters in the Park Machine Shop, would house 3D printers, tool kits, supplies, and DIY workshops to make your wildest dreams come true. This is a collaboration that will bring artists, engineers, scientists, and creative minds together. The future of the liberal arts is NOW! #STEAMforlyfe

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