MechE Colloquium: Performing art improvisation techniques for mechanical engineering design teaching and learning


Event details

Date and time 01.12.2020 12:1513:15  
Place and room
Speaker Prof. Simon Henein, Patek Philippe Chair in Micromechanical and Horological Design, EPFL School of Engineering (STI), Institute of Microengineering (IMT)
Category Conferences - Seminars
In 2017 Prof. Henein initiated a new course bridging the Engineering and Humanities faculties at EPFL: Collective Creation: Improvised Arts and Engineering (Improgineering). This year-long course, is part of EPFL’s Social and Human Sciences (SHS) program. It is open to all first-year Master’s students, with classes held once a week throughout the academic year. The course is hosted and supported by the Centre d’art scénique contemporain (ARSENIC) in Lausanne, a well-known incubator of contemporary performing arts. The course examines the creative processes in science, engineering and the performing
arts (dance, music, theatre) and put them in perspective with the design approaches used in engineering.

In 2018, the Improgineering course has been selected as a subject of study by researchers from the Institute of Psychology and Education, University of Neuchâtel (Prof. Kloetzer’s team) who launched the Performing Arts as Pedagogical Tool in Higher Education (ASCOPET) project, in collaboration with Prof. Henein. The observation and analysis of the pedagogical setting of this course covered the entire 2018-2019 academic year. The results of this study show that the use of performing arts in higher education has the potential to transform not only the relationship of the students to themselves, to the others, and to the topic under study, but also to transform the relationship between teachers and students, the relations between artistic and academic institutions, as well as the understanding of the central role of the body in collaborative activities, collective creation, and in particular in mechanical engineering design.

Since obtaining his Ph.D. in Microengineering in 2000 from EPFL, Simon Henein has become a recognised leader in the design of novel mechanisms with sophisticated dynamic properties, dedicated to mechanical watches, surgical instruments, and aerospace applications. His related undergraduate and graduate teaching focuses on micromechanical design, with an emphasis on the creative process. In parallel, he developed a strong interest in improvised arts, particularly in dance instant composition. He participated in numerous workshops led by internationally renowned improvisers, developed his own artistic practice and founded a dance company in 2013. His experience in these two creative disciplines allowed him to identify a powerful synergy: improvisation as an efficient technique for developing collective work approaches, reflexivity, situated knowledge and embodied cognition. Simon Henein is currently Visiting Professor at the Centre for Theatre Studies (CET), Faculty of Arts, University of Lausanne and Associate Professor at EPFL, Head of the
Micromechanical and Horological Design Laboratory INSTANT-LAB, Institute of Microengineering.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free



MechE Colloquium: Performing art improvisation techniques for mechanical engineering design teaching and learning