STEAM researchers use art and music as communication outlet

Earlier this month, Dr. Debra Reinhart and Catherine Ninah collaborated with the UCF Percussion Studio to host the ICubed STEAM Percussion Recital inspired by the pair's research and modeling of the Food, Energy, and Water (FEW) nexus. While the acronym STEAM may not sound immediately familiar, in fact, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. It is demonstrating STEM through the arts.

During this last semester, the two researchers worked with Dr. Anderson's Percussion class to create world premiere pieces of music that were composed and played by the students. The focus originated from the UCF ICubed Fellowship and Program, which supports undergraduate STEM researchers and their work, in addition to providing art outreach opportunities to share their STEM-related research with fellow artists, photographers, musicians, graphic designers and sculptors. The percussion recital, held on May 3 in UCF's Rehearsal Hall Auditorium, featured sixteen world premieres played using what otherwise would be considered "waste." For instance, large water bottles and a coconut were used as instruments, an old music piece was recycled to reflect the landfill process, and another performance incorporated environmental statistics in the background.

Catherine Ninah, undergraduate student and researcher, explains her research emphasis further: "My research is focused on engineering a sustainable future through analyzing and modeling the Food, Energy and Water (FEW) nexus. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture has set a goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 which through the FEW connection would also impact energy and water outlets. Looking at various universities as target populations and their environmental practices allows me to understand best practices and provide recommendations on how to help reach this goal. In addition, understanding how much food is wasted and modeling the specific pathways enables us to assess the areas of possible improvement."

Aside from the percussion performance, Dr. Reinhart's lab has also collaborated with a photography class to create pieces influenced by the FEW nexus.

Ninah reflected, "The results from [these] collaboration[s] are unbelievable and a pleasure to hear and see. In the process, I learned a lot about percussion and was fascinated. We also have a new group of musical environmentalists who are sharing their work and encouraging an eco friendly future. STEAM work is a rising trend as the benefits and potential audience is great."


Pictured above, FEW nexus photography displayed in the Fall semester through the ICubed Fellowship and Program.


  • (1) Quartet for the End of Trash
  • (2) Compostition
  • (3) One of Four
  • (4) Trashed
  • (5) Compress
  • (6) Impressions on Recycled Wood and Copper
  • (7) Trash Talks Trash
  • (8) Apple in a Major
  • (9) 15
  • (10) Cocolitos
  • (11) Reshaped
  • (12) Burke
  • (13) Tainted
  • (14) Reclamation