Florida Poly Engineering Students Add New Dimension to Dance

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A team of Florida Polytechnic University students is using technology to transform the beauty and grace of dance movements into digital art.

Florida Polytechnic University students monitor biosensor data generated by the movements of a Florida Dance Theatre dancer in early March.

Jaimie Davis, an electrical engineering student at Florida Polytechnic University, monitors biosensor data generated by the movements of Florida Dance Theatre dancer Katrina Ogden in early March.

We wanted to take the arts and STEM and combine them in this amazing way.

A team of Florida Polytechnic University students is using technology to convert the beauty and grace of dance into an innovative, stunning work of art. Junior Jaimie Davis and 2020 master’s graduate Matthew Giallourakis are collaborating with Florida Dance Theatre to transform dancers’ movements into digital art.

Davis sewed lightweight biosensors into sleeves for a dancer’s arm. The sensors collect biometric data such as acceleration, muscle activity, and cardiovascular activity. The data is then transmitted to Davis’ computer where they’re displayed as line tracings, similar to the waves on an electrocardiogram display, and then it’s immediately processed by Giallourakis and converted in real time into colorful fractals that can be projected onto a screen.

“We wanted to take the arts and STEM and combine them in this amazing way,” said Davis, an electrical engineering student from Fort Myers, Florida. “It’s become more than I ever thought it could be.”

“Fractals are already known for being a good combination of art and science, so I thought it was a perfect medium for taking an artform, processing it into scientific data, and bringing it back into another form of art,” added Giallourakis, who is completing his master’s degree in electrical engineering.

The effort stemmed from a discussion between Jermaine Thornton, the executive director at Florida Dance Theatre, and Victoria Lowe, adjunct professor of art appreciation at Florida Poly. Project organizers planned to unveil it during a demonstration in March and a performance in June, but COVID-19 restrictions have postponed the events.

Thornton said the project, funded by a state grant to Florida Dance Theatre, will eventually be converted into a lecture demonstration for students in Polk County Schools.

“One of my goals is that we would not only be known as a place for arts and entertainment,” Thornton said. “We want to show it’s OK if we start tapping into things like science, technology, engineering, and math.”

For the most recent university news, visit Florida Poly News.

About Florida Polytechnic University:
Florida Polytechnic University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and is a member of the State University System of Florida. It is the only state university dedicated exclusively to STEM and offers ABET accredited degrees. Florida Poly is a powerful economic engine within the state of Florida, blending applied research with industry partnerships to give students an academically rigorous education with real-world relevance. Connect with Florida Poly online at http://www.floridapoly.edu.

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