Colorful clouds of scented air and test tubes filled with food and drinks were among the experimental exhibits on display last night at the second annual opening celebration for The Laboratory at Harvard.
The Lab, a three-year pilot project, aims to foster innovation by integrating the arts and the sciences. Its reach extends beyond its exhibition space at the Northwest Science Building, with projects that have taken students around the world—from Paris to Cape Town.
The opening event, which featured music, cocktails, and interactive exhibits, was itself an experiment and a “performative, socially interactive way” to present student ideas, according to David A. Edwards, faculty director of The Lab and a professor at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“Education is evolving at the University,” Edwards said.
The event showcased two primary exhibits. The Project on Spatial Sciences—an interdisciplinary effort at the Graduate School of Design developed by bioengineers, artists, and gastronomists—explored the idea of space through smell and taste. Attendees, who walked through scented smoke while sampling food and drinks, were able to experience space through alternate senses.
Korey “Nate” Tucker ’14 said that the experience was like “tasting the air.”
And according to David R. Palmer ’14, some scents were more “oppressive” and “powerful” than others.
Attendees also experimented with Soccket, a soccer ball that generates and stores energy when kicked.
Jessica S. Lin ’09, a former Crimson photo editor and current fellow at The Lab, was one of four Harvard students who designed the project.
“It highlights one of the artistic and scientific purposes of The Lab—to learn by doing,” Lin said.
The Lab serves as a forum for interdisciplinary experimentation and exhibiting the thinking process without fear of failure, according to Suelin Chen, director of The Lab.
“There are not a lot of platforms for that at Harvard,” Chen said. “But sharing your ideas is a way everyone can learn.”
Sharing ideas—or “cultural exhibitionism”—was the topic of a panel discussion that preceded last night’s celebration.
Four scholars from different fields addressed a packed audience on how art and science can be driving forces for communication, emphasizing that exhibits like those found at the Lab have the ability to change how people think.
“Tonight is just a perfect example of how people want to see cool, collaborative things at Harvard,” Lin said.