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Once a week, a classroom in Anderson Hall is transformed into a makeshift lab. Desks are pushed together to make lab tables, miscellaneous supplies are strewn across them and students hunch over their respective stations, at work. This semester, the UF Honors Program debuted an exciting course for those with an interest in engineering and a passion for history. Engineering the Renaissance (IDH 2931) is a three-credit course taught by Mary Watt and Mark Law. It blends the humanities and sciences in order to give students an understanding of the technological innovations that occurred throughout the European Renaissance and the history behind what motivated engineers of the time. Law cited the book Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages by Joseph Gies and Frances Gies as the inspiration for creating the course and he uses the class as a chance to explore the “impact of technology on society and vice versa.” Law and Watt are a dynamic duo as they teach the class, creating an environment that is interactive and exciting. Watt’s background is in the humanities,
while Law is an engineer. Listening to their lectures, it is clear that the pair is passionate about the subject matter. The professors really care about getting their students interested as well. During one class meeting a week, Law and Watt give lectures, while the other class meeting gives students the opportunity to explore the concepts that they have learned by doing group projects. They work together to carry out experiments, and they seem to have a great time while doing it. The course is energetic, interactive and informative. The class tends to attract both students who plan on majoring in engineering and students who want to pursue the humanities. Honors freshman Saher Kidwai decided to take the class because despite being an aerospace and mechanical engineering major, she considers herself to be a history buff. She hasn’t regretted her decision to take the class one bit. She loves learning about the progression of technology that took place during the Renaissance. “If you love history and engineering, this is the best class for you,” Kidwai advises.
Honors freshman Julia Silliman, a biology major with a passion for Renaissance art, is also currently enrolled in the class. She said the class is best for diverse students. “Prior to taking this class I had less of an understanding of how technological advancement and art go hand in hand,” she admits. “I now realize that without one the other wouldn’t exist.” No prior knowledge of the subjects discussed is necessary to take Engineering the Renaissance and it is open to any student, regardless of his or her major. “[It is] an introduction to both disciplines, so it gives the students a chance to get a taste of how things work,” Law explains. Law and Watt have found a middle ground between engineering and history, creating a course that has something to offer anyone, regardless of where his or her interests lie. For those interested, the course will be available again next fall. Written by Madison Hindo Photo by Brandan Birsic Designed by Amanda Lindeman
Engineering the Renaissance students collaborate on experiments in class in order to fully understand the course material.