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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

MLab hosts sculpture contest

The MLab, funded jointly by the Grinnell Area Arts Council and the Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership, hosts many opportunities for students and community members. Photo by Shabana Gupta.

This month, the Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership is hosting the Kinetic Sculpture Challenge. Competitors will work in groups of at least two to build sculptures including a component which physically moves. The challenge is open to community members as well as students and will culminate in a public display and judging of the participants’ sculptures at Central Park on Saturday, April 27.

The event is one of several run by the Wilson Center to engage students interested in increasing their skills as leaders and innovators. The Wilson Center is directed by Professor Monty Roper, anthropology, and advised by other faculty members and students. The Wilson Center also hosts events such as HackGC, Pioneer Weekend and TEDx GrinnellCollege.

“We want opportunities for students to try and fail and retry in contexts in which your grade is not on the line. … Developing leadership skills and innovation skills requires trial and error and failure and learning and iteration. … It’s fun. It’s a chance to work in teams and teamwork we always promote as well, and you’re not going to get in trouble if things go terribly wrong. In fact you’ll probably learn something,” Roper said.

The Kinetic Sculpture Challenge was held in the spring of 2017 as well, but did not take place last year. The event was revived in part due to the recent opening of the Maker Lab downtown, which is operated both by the Grinnell Area Arts Council and the Wilson Center. At the Maker Lab, also known as the MLab, equipment such as vinyl and laser cutters, 3D printers, sewing machines and a variety of other design tools can be used completely free of charge. Roper hopes that increased accessibility to the MLab’s technology will encourage not only participation and exploration of a wider variety of creative elements used in the sculptures.

Also new to the challenge this year is its openness to all members of the community regardless of their affiliation with the College. Specifically, publicity for the event has involved engaging middle and high school students in Grinnell.

Participants who register online by April 21 and bring their sculptures to the judging on April 27 can also be reimbursed for up to $200 worth of supplies. Three judges will evaluate the sculptures, with the winner earning a prize of $500. Roper encouraged participation regardless of how successful these attempts may be in executing ideas.

“People should register if they want to participate. If they try and fail, okay. Bring it down and show us what you tried to do. We’ll still reimburse you if it didn’t work out. … Sometimes it’s fun to hear that it didn’t quite work the way you wanted, but it’s fun to see what you were thinking about and what you came up with, so I hope people aren’t shy to participate because they’re worried it won’t all come together. Just give it a shot and give it what you’ve got,” Roper said.

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