Pennies and Personal Art Projects (PaPAP)

2019-02-05 (Last edited 2019-02-10)

This semester I’ll be undertaking an Independent Study, or ISR-G, that I’m particularly excited about. What follows is the proposal I submitted:

Pennies and Personal Art Projects

4-Credit ISR-G Plan of Study/Assessment Plan

Robert Wechsler is currently an Artist in Residence at Olin. I’ve already some spent time working with him for the Remaking Education conference, and I think I have a lot to learn from his perspective, experience, and work. This semester I’ll be working with him on a long-running art project involving a penny robot, as well as have opportunities to develop my own projects and style with his advice and critique. His work is generally sculptural, using a variety of mediums that at times intersect with the electromechanical. With a B.A. in Studio Art from UCSB, Robert has a formal training in the arts, as well as several years of experience.

You can view more at his website:


Penny Robot

Robert (with others) has created a robot to identify, align, and cut pennies for use in his art pieces, with the ultimate goal of creating a million-penny cube. It was last used in California, and is currently disassembled.

Goals for this semester include:

  • reassemble, align and test the robot
  • improve documentation
  • improve efficiency and design
  • add functionality to the machine:
    • sorting by color/year
    • partial assembly of pennies
    • identification and parsing of text

Personal Art Projects

Throughout the semester I’ll be working on personal art projects on a roughly 3-week schedule. Each week will involve a check-in with Robert and an iteration, culminating in a final iteration and a critique from Robert. This is loosely based on the format of projects from Mimi Onuoha’s Creative Approaches to Emerging Technologies course. Each exploration will include documentation of my process and a writeup on my website.

Readings and Discussions

On a weekly basis I’ll read a couple recommended readings from Robert and/or the aforementioned Creative Approaches course and discuss them.


For 4 credits of work, 12 hours per week are expected. While some courses separate learning and project work across the semester, this ISR-G will involve multiple concurrent projects.

On a weekly basis this will generally break down as:

  • 6 hours for group work: the penny robot, sculptures, and group projects
  • 4 hours outside working on personal art projects
  • 2 hours in person: critiques, check-ins, and discussions

Assessment Plan

Several deliverables will be available at the end of the semester:

  • the assembled and improved penny machine
  • 3+ personal art projects (w/ documentation and writeups)

These projects will be evaluated with effort-based grading.

Additionally, I’ll write two reflections throughout the semester on my learning and experience from the ISR-G, to be posted on my website.

Assessment Divisions for Grading

  • 50% project deliverables
  • 30% participation
  • 20% reflections

Olin Learning Outcomes

Acquire Knowledge, Skills and Approaches

Build the appropriate breadth and depth of content, techniques and methodologies from diverse fields.

Between the personal art projects, penny robot, and readings, I expect to learn and apply several techniques and framings from the “art world” as well as gain experience in fabrication and electromechanical projects.

Develop and Apply Creativity

Generate novel ideas and approaches, taking into account authentic constraints, that lead to innovative outcomes.

The personal art projects are inherently creative work, and work on the penny machine involves many constraints and is going to require some creative solutions.

Communicate Effectively

Express meaning successfully through oral, written, and visual media and listen actively to comprehend the meaning of others.

Effectively communicating your goals and work as an artist is a difficult task. I’ll gain experience in that through the write-ups and critiques of the personal art projects.

Collaborate Successfully

Create and maintain successful working relationships and identify and resolve interpersonal teaming conflicts to achieve a common goal.

I’ll be working with Robert and a couple other students on the penny machine and any other group projects that come up.

Plan and Execute

Scope, plan and implement projects, maintain accountability for contributions, continuously evaluate progress, navigate uncertainty and adversity, and iterate as needed.

In addition to scoping, planning, and implementing this ISR-G, I’ll be structuring the personal art projects, and we’ll be reevaluating goals and progress on the penny machine continuously.

Become Self-Directed Learners

Identify and address learning needs through setting goals, selecting resources and maintaining self-accountability to develop and support intellectual curiosity.

A lot of this work will be in new technical and arts-related areas for me, so a fair bit of research and learning will be required along the way.

Foster Identity Development

Identify and reflect on key moments in life and connect them to the development of one’s sense of self.

I’ll have the opportunity to explore, learn about, and reflect on creating art - something that I think will lead to a lot of personal development.


While the latter half of the semester is still a little up in the air, the general timeline is below:

    January 2019      
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa  
       1  2  3  4  5  
 6  7  8  9 10 11 12  
13 14 15 16 17 18 19  <-- arrived on campus
20 21 22 23 24 25 26  <-- clear space, penny project review, discuss goals
27 28 29 30 31        <-- welding training, LPB training
   February 2019      
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa  
                1  2  
 3  4  5  6  7  8  9  <-- (now) begin reassembling machine, begin first art
10 11 12 13 14 15 16      project
17 18 19 20 21 22 23  <-- final iteration and critique of first art project
24 25 26 27 28        <-- machine in working, productive state
     March 2019       
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa  
                1  2  
 3  4  5  6  7  8  9  <-- first sprint of machine improvements
10 11 12 13 14 15 16  <-- final iteration and critique of second art project
17 18 19 20 21 22 23  <-- (spring break)
24 25 26 27 28 29 30  <-- second sprint of machine improvements
31                    <-- first reflection

     April 2019       
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa  
    1  2  3  4  5  6  
 7  8  9 10 11 12 13  <-- final iteration and critique of third art project
14 15 16 17 18 19 20  
21 22 23 24 25 26 27  
28 29 30              
      May 2019        
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa  
          1  2  3  4  <-- final iteration and critique of fourth art project
 5  6  7  8  9 10 11  <-- second reflection
12 13 14 15 16 17 18  <-- (expo)
19 20 21 22 23 24 25  
26 27 28 29 30 31