Published: Mon Nov 30, 2009<After the bricks and mortar are all set in Tennessee Tech University’s newest academic building, it will be time for inspiration and insight to take its own place through the hands of a renowned local artist.
As the opening of the Millard Oakley Center for Teaching and Learning of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics approaches next spring, sculptor Brad Sells is preparing an art piece to capture the attention and imagination of young scientists when they first enter the building.
“Brad and I have talked for several years about him doing a meaningful wood sculpture on the campus of his alma mater, Tennessee Tech University,” said TTU first lady Gloria Bell. “We have both been very excited about what the center will do for our region to excite students from pre-school through college in these fields of study.
Sells’ preliminary design, the Soaring Science Eagle, has already shown Bell how powerful a symbol it will be.
“Its presence and purpose will be intense and awe inspiring,” said Bell. “The eagle's meaning entails the pursuit of knowledge and courage as well as freedom and focused action.”
The Soaring Science Eagle’s body will be carved from a 5-foot diameter red oak tree with the periodic table and the major formulas from physics and mathematics carved into the stylized wings. The feathers of the eagle will be transparent and made of laminated wood. The eagle boasting a 15-foot wingspan, will be suspended in flight with its wings slightly tilted toward the hall and its head and gaze directed at the entrance.
“Since the purpose of this new building is to inspire young people to pursue careers in the sciences,” said Bell, “we think the Soaring Science Eagle will be a visual aid aimed to engage the student and introduce scientific theory.”
Students will be able to come to the Oakley STEM Center for hands-on learning and area teachers will find rewards and support for innovative teaching in the areas of math and science. Several TTU departments are forming partnerships with regional pre-school through 12th-grade programs for professional development and enrichment activities in STEM subjects.
“The eagle will be the WOW factor upon entering the building,” said Bell. “It will be a beautiful work of art and a great example of engineering.”
Ray Morris Hall, now under construction on TTU’s campus at Seventh Street and Stadium Drive, will house the Oakley STEM Center. With an anticipated opening in late spring 2010, the building and the center will serve as a point of collaboration between university faculty members and public school teachers, with area schools being able to use the center for hands-on activities based on real-world challenges such as space exploration, robotics and environmental protection.
To learn more about the center or about supporting STEM education efforts at TTU, contact J. Mark Hutchins at 931-372-3206.>