About PLUG-IN: Bridging the Gaps

The primary aim of the project, PLUG-IN, was to establish an Interdisciplinary Design Team (IDT) of Arts & Science colleagues from different Departments within Loughborough University. The remit of the IDT was to investigate effective ways of breaking down subject barriers and explore the potential for effective collaborative practice. The original concept was to connect Loughborough University's world renowned expertise in Sports with London 2012. The IDT decided to explore this topic through examining ways that arts and science research might stimulate 3-dimensional forms: utilising pioneering digital technologies and traditional methods of making: relating prototype outcomes to Culture & Sport.

At first, collaboration rather than specific outcomes was central to the Bridging the Gaps project. It was important to get different departments to work together and establish a sustainable dialogue that could be carried forward long after the project date had closed. This approach also promoted the concept of sharing knowledge across subject boundaries and how this knowledge could be applied to research that stimulated fresh ways of thinking.

Breaking down subject barriers was addressed through formal and informal meetings from project inception. It meant looking at ways that the budget and timetable (June 29th 2012) could be synthesised in a way that stimulated multi-department activity across specific areas of research excellence. The budget to facilitate two research assistants, Matt Price, and Abby Patterson, was extended to accommodate two research collaborators, Michael Shaw and Jo Berry, both with historical links to LU and a studio practice immersed in cross-cultural, arts & science synergies.

(Left to Right) Matt Price, Abby Patterson, John Atkin

(Left to Right) Matt Price, Abby Patterson, John Atkin

Shaw worked alongside Paul Kelly (Chemistry), Phill Dickens (Mechanical Engineering), Guy Bingham (Design School) and Matt Price, (Research Assistant - John Atkin) to look at how Sports Science-related human movement could be captured using the MoIon Capture suite in the Design School. Shaw’s research had already explored human movement via dance related activities: IDT discussion prompted the idea of interrogating via MOCAP the carefully choreographed movements of the discuss thrower, the shot putter and the hammer thrower into 3D CAD software that could stimulate a multiplicity of approaches to understanding movement & energy.

Shaw also organised and led a workshop for students wishing to understand how sophisticated software systems (such as MAYA) can be used to explore cross disciplinary ideas for art, design, engineering & sciences, based on his own AHRC Research Fellowship, completed at Loughborough University 2008.

Shaw's blog about his research practice and methodologies fed into the process that the IDT had already established in the early phase of the project. Berry also shared a blog which tracked the progress of her work and how it built on cross-departmental practice. Her chief goals were to explore how Chemistry, Materials Research and Printmaking could be synthesised in novel ways that addressed her own research history, as well as the objectives of the Bridging the Gaps project.