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Robotics & Manufacturing students compete, help out teams at Autonomous Snowplow Competition

Dunwoody students receive sportsmanship award for fourth year in a row.

While most don’t necessarily relish the idea of snowstorms and clearing driveways…there are some folks who do. And you’ll likely find them at the annual Autonomous Snowplow Competition.

Dunwoody Robotics & Manufacturing students have competed in the Institute of Navigation (ION’s) Autonomous Snowplow Competition, since its inauguration in 2011. Held during the St. Paul Winter Carnival, the event serves as an opportunity for universities, colleges, and the general public to showcase hand-built machines that can independently clear piles of snow without any manual control.

It’s one of the Robotics & Manufacturing student’s favorite and most successful competitions, and the teams have the record to prove it.

Last year, Dunwoody placed 3rd and 5th in the competition.

And this year, Dunwoody earned its highest place to date when Team Wendigo brought home 2nd place and a $4,000 prize.

Dunwoody’s Snow Devils Team closely followed with 5th place and a $700 prize.

But for Dunwoody students, the annual event is about more than just winning. It’s also about sharing their love and knowledge of technology with the judges and spectators—and even the competition itself.

Snowplow Competition about more than just winning

“All that knowledge and experience doesn’t count for much if you don’t find ways to use it,” Automated Systems & Robotics student and Wendigo Team member Jeremy Berg said.

“This event isn’t just about who can take first place—it’s about seeing different ideas for autonomous thinking in action,” Berg added. “These people are our future coworkers and friends, and we want to be the go-to people to lend a hand or solve any issue.”

That mentality has contributed to the College earning the sportsmanship award in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, and again this year, 2018.

Sportsmanship Award has meaningful history

Created by ION in 2012, the sportsmanship award honors the team that exhibited the best sportspersonship throughout the competition.

The award was renamed the Dr. Nattu Natarajan Golden Smile Award just a few years later after University of Michigan-Dearborn professor and competition leader Dr. Narasimhamurthi (Nattu) Natarajan, who passed away from a lung illness on the Saturday morning of the 2016 competition.

The award and its significance means a great deal to Dunwoody.

“I worked with Professor Natu at the competition those first few years,” Robotics & Manufacturing Dean E.J. Daigle said. “And he loved the Dunwoody students and teamwork.

“Many of these teams are traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to compete. As a local team, it is easy for us to pack up extra tools and supplies to help teams make repairs to their vehicles.

“We have made it our mission each year to ensure that every team competes.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

The value of teamwork

Daigle shared that one of the reasons Dunwoody received the award this year is because his students were able to help out Case Western’s Sno-Joke robot, which had completely dead batteries on the last day of the competition.

With no safe or easy way to charge it at the event, the team thought they might be out of luck.

But by using personal jumper cables from Dunwoody students’ cars, “We were able to find a way to parallel their batteries with ours and maintain running the battery chargers at full capacity,” Daigle explained. “This allowed us to charge their machines and our machines at the same time.”

Thanks to the students’ quick thinking, the team, which had originally missed their scheduled run time, was able to compete at the end of the day Sunday—even beating out Dunwoody for fourth place.

The students helped another team in a similar scenario back in 2016.

Daigle recalls that at one point during that competition, a school announced they were going to quit due to technical difficulties when another team suggested they, “find Dunwoody–they can fix anything.”

“To me, that is far more valuable than whatever place you come in,” Daigle said. “I couldn’t be any prouder.”

Learn more about Dunwoody Robotics & Manufacturing.


Gift adds to $10 million in capital investments to transform the Dunwoody campus, including the creation of Otto Bremer Trust Hall 

Minneapolis (January 30, 2018) – Dunwoody College of Technology announced today a $500,000 grant by the Otto Bremer Trust, the latest capital gift from the region’s business and philanthropic communities to support Dunwoody’s effort to meet the challenge of bridging the skills gap in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.

With a growing student population in its School of Engineering and other STEM-related majors as well as the need to better serve an increasingly diverse student body, Dunwoody has embarked on the first phase of an ambitious campus facilities plan. The Otto Bremer Trust investment, combined with other generous donations, will support the transformation of a currently under-utilized gymnasium into a two-story space with a state-of-the-art Learning Commons on the upper floor and a new Welcome Center for students and families on the lower level as well as an open area for community and student gatherings.

In order to recognize the gift, Dunwoody will name a student gathering, collaboration, and study space at the entrance to the Learning Commons as Otto Bremer Trust Hall.

An architectural rendering showing a student study/meeting area just outside the entrance to a learning commons

An architectural rendering showing the location of Otto Bremer Trust hall

“The Otto Bremer Trust’s gift will have a direct impact on our students,” President Rich Wagner said. “We are grateful for the philanthropic support of partners like the Otto Bremer Trust.”

A private, not-for-profit college, Dunwoody relies on charitable contributions to help fund core elements of its academic program, including scholarships, equipment, and new construction like the gymnasium remodel.

“We’ve admired the work that Dunwoody is doing to provide a strong educational curriculum for a wide variety of technical skills,” said Daniel C. Reardon, co-CEO and Trustee, Otto Bremer Trust. “The College understands the changing dynamics of tomorrow’s workforce and is responding with programming to meet those needs.”

As the only private, not-for-profit technical college in the Upper Midwest, Dunwoody is uniquely positioned to expand its more than a century-long track record of supplying the region with graduates who have the technical skills, work ethic, and passion and curiosity for their chosen field to help the region’s employers not only fill their current open positions, but also develop future generations of leaders and entrepreneurs.

About Otto Bremer Trust

Based in St. Paul, Minn., the Otto Bremer Trust is a private charitable trust established in 1944 by founder Otto Bremer, a successful banker and community business leader. OBT owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank and manages a diversified investment portfolio. This mission of OBT is to invest in people, places and opportunities in the Upper Midwest. Since its inception, OBT has invested more than $600 million in organizations throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin.

About Dunwoody College of Technology

Founded in 1914, Dunwoody College of Technology is the only private, not-for-profit technical college in the Upper Midwest. It has provided a hands-on, applied education to more than 200,000 men and women, who in turn have gone on to meaningful and rewarding careers and become outstanding technicians, successful entrepreneurs and industry leaders. Located on the western edge of downtown Minneapolis, Dunwoody offers more than 30 certificate, associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree programs in the areas of Applied Management, Automotive, Computer Technology, Construction Sciences & Building Technology, Design & Graphics Technology, Engineering, Radiologic Technology, Robotics & Manufacturing, and Workforce Training & Continuing Education.



William Morris
Dunwoody College of Technology
612.381.3367 |

Designs for Steger Wilderness Center forge ahead

New class of Architecture students help bring previous design proposals to life

A new group of Architecture students visited the Steger Wilderness Center in August 2017 to prepare for their semester project

In August of 2016, third-year Architecture students were challenged with one of the program’s largest and most innovative projects yet: to design a brand new dining hall for the Steger Wilderness Center.

The venture inspired the program’s first studio course, Dining Wild, led by Architecture Senior Instructor Molly Reichert and wilderness adventurer and Center founder Will Steger.

Dining Wild

Throughout the studio, students spent their semester touring the site, working with local businesses in the culinary industry, and creating design proposals. And in December of 2016, students pitched three different design ideas to Steger.

But, the project didn’t end there. Instead, those three designs were saved for the next class of Architecture students, who were charged with turning their predecessors’ proposals into one final building design.

Same project, new students

“The second semester of Dining Wild was very interesting in that we were not starting from scratch,” Reichert said. “Typically architecture studios start with a clean slate and students can let their ideas run wild over the course of the semester. This semester required a much more rigorous and focused approach to move the design forward and respond to the client’s needs.”

Students meet with Will Steger to flesh out building plans

With help from Steger, the new group of students spent their fall semester combining and refining last year’s schematic designs.

“It was good to have a starting point,” Architecture Student Jacob Larson said. “And working with Will is really interesting.

“You know what he likes and you can incorporate that into the design,” he said. “Working with your client is really helpful because you get that clear feedback.”

The process

To ensure their final design would remain environmentally friendly as well as respond to the chilly site conditions of northern Minnesota, students spent several days visiting and exploring the build site. They also received helpful information and building tips from industry professionals.

Architecture students learn from a SIPA representative in class lecture

Last semester, Marvin Windows and the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) presented on sustainable methods of building and how windows and Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) can contribute to a more efficient construction schedule.

Mechanical Engineer Craig Tarr—who specializes in alternative energy—also shared what mechanical systems and appliances were most efficient and ecologically sound.

Students even enlisted help from Dunwoody’s Surveying & Civil Engineering Technology program. Last spring, Surveying students surveyed the Center grounds to provide the Architecture students with necessary site information to help move the project forward.

The result

Using this information, students worked in separate groups, each tackling different pieces of the final building documents. Groups included a Drawing and Renderings team, a Material and Product Specifications team, and a Physical Model team.

Students present final proposal to Steger and his team

Students then combined their findings and suggestions into one ideal construction plan. This plan was then proposed to—and immediately approved by—Steger and his team late last month.

The Center is expected to break ground later this year.

“It was fun working on a project that is actually going to be built,” Larson said. “It’s an experience I won’t forget!”

Read more about the students’ semester experience by visiting their class news blog.

See the final design proposal.

Dunwoody College of Technology 2017 Fall Semester Dean’s List

Congratulations to the following students who have been named to Dunwoody College of Technology’s fall 2017 semester dean’s list.

The students listed received this honor by achieving a 3.5 (or higher) grade point average during the fall 2017 semester (overall g.p.a. is not considered when calculating the semester dean’s list). To be considered, students must also have been full-time, which means they  took a minimum of 12 credits during the semester. For questions about the dean’s list, please contact the Registrar’s Office at

Adams Samuel
Ambrozich Thomas
Anderson Benjamin
Anderson Jacob
Anderson Peter
Anjorin Phillip
Artmann Hailey
Bares Tyler
Barkley Paul
Bates Kelly
Beaudet Jacob
Beck Tylor
Becker Ikaria
Becker Spencer
Beery Kyle
Benson-Devine Jacob
Berg Jeremy
Besch Grant
Beutel Timothy
Binek John
Biros Hannah
Black Nathan
Bliss Kyle
Bluhm Kazimir
Boehm Andrew
Boehm Joshua
Boesch Kelly
Boie Erik
Booth Adam
Bornt Nicholas
Brakke Daniel
Brenner Garrett
Brooks Chad
Brown Kyle
Brown Robert
Brownson Alex
Bruels Troy
Brummer Brandon
Bur Megan
Burns Lucas
Cao Christopher
Carlson Deanna
Carlson Nicholas
Carver Peter
Cassidy Brandt
Cassidy Paul
Cervantes Alexander
Cha Melysia
Chan Jeremy
Charpentier Cole
Christner Samantha
Clark Daniel
Coffin Nathan
Columbus Shan
Connoy Paul
Crist Charles
Curtis Isaiah
Dagenais Braydon
Dahlquist Aaron
Dallman James
Davis Drew
Davis Michael
Day Derek
Deneweth Blake
Devriendt Bradley
Dick Alexa
Dillie Kyle
DiLoreto Mark
Donovan Bailey
Dubiel Sirena
Dumbravanu Vasile
Eastep Andrew
Eckes Christopher
Eisele Dylon
El Hmamsi Adam
Epperhart Patrick
Erickson Travis
Ericson Andrew
Eskelson Ginell
Fahey Kaela
Fanslow Jared
Faraone Dale
Farris Alexander
Fesser Brandon
Finkelson Samuel
Fischer Paige
Fish Tyler
Fjerstad Benjamin
Flaherty Connor
Frantti Bret
Frederick Hans
Friendshuh Carissa
Friendshuh Dustin
Gallaway Russell
Genzler Michael
Gilbert Joseph
Gildemeister Daniel
Gillund Kurt
Godeke Luke
Gohl Adam
Goldschmidt Brandon
Groshens Zackery
Grzeskowiak Jason
Gustafson Davis
Guzik Nicholas
Haak Samantha
Hackman Matthew
Hall Erik
Halloran Keven
Hanlon Daniel
Hansen Brandon
Hanson Margaret
Hart Jessica
Hartzler Alexander
Haugh Matthew
Hauser Logan
Hawks Anthony
Hays Caleb
Heitman Robert
Heldt Samantha
Hellem Anders
Henninger Justin
Her Doua
Herber Logan
Hibbs Andrew
High Anina
Hilgers Alec
Hill Joshua
Hill Tiara
Hiniker William
Hokkanen Spencer
Holst Courtney
Holt Dustin
Hong Peter
Huber Adam
Huberty Kyle
Huckeba Nathan
Humphrey Katherine
Huset Samuel
Ibach Luke
Ike Tanner
Inamagua Marcos
Inhofer Ty
Irey Joseph
Jara Freddy
Jensen David
Jensen Henry
Jeske John
Jeske John
Jocelyn Jeremy
Johnson Andrew
Johnson Eric
Johnson Jacob
Jones Aaron
Kavanagh Weslee
Kazlouski Ilya
Kegler Erica
Kelliher John
Kelly Stephen
Kieger Michael
Kiely Jackson
Kij Jan
Kirkegaard Ian
Knaak Jeremy
Kohman Steven
Kolander Caleb
Kopp Erin
Kruse Quinn
Kuchta Benjamin
Kuehnel Ethan
Kurtti Sydney Jo
Lang Marshall
Larsen Benjamin
Lauer Katherine
Lauer Samuel
Lawson Paul
Le Jacqueline
Le Ngoc Khanh
Leahy Marc
LeFevre Dakota
Levitt Matthew
Lindahl Austin
Lindahl Eli
Lofgren Chad
Loge Adam
Lohrbach Max
Luangrath Bennieco
Lucero-Sassine Michaela
Lueck Tyler
Luft Maxwell
Machtemes Joseph
Magnuson Joseph
Magnuson Scott
Mahoney Daniel
Maier Dana
Malinak Cody
Mandt Kerry
Markie David
Marshall Zachary
Masemer Joshua
McConnell William
McCoy Nicholas
McDaniel Justin
McGinn Patrick
McKenzie Emilie
McNamer Patrick
Mellen Aleksander
Messer Kyle
Metzmaker Ana
Miller Charles
Miller Connor
Miller Mark
Mitchell Nicholas
Molenaar Michael
Moore Bradley
Moore Fonta
Moyer Sean
Mrdjenovich Maranda
Murphy Conor
Naslund Zachary
Negaard Kai
Nelson Celina
Nelson Nathaniel
Nelson Olivia
Nguyen Stephanie
Njankenji McBonn
Northway Travis
Nursuwito Bambang
O’Brien Brandon
Olson Jesse
Olson Steven
Oluwalowo Benjamin
O’Neil William
Ontiri Obed
Opatz Jack
Orenge Gaudencia
Orzechowski Matthew
Osborne Corin
Ostendorf Joshua
Osterbauer Mitchell
Ottum Eric
Pacella LaRissa
Palmer Isaac
Parker Henry
Parson Kristopher
Parsons Jorden
Paschke Taylor
Pearson Joshua
Peraza Karina
Peterson Hailey
Peterson Nolan
Petrie Kristofer
Phommachanh Ty
Pierce Robert
Pilon Luke
Pollard Rachel
Posterick Donald
Prestegaard Andrew
Prohaska Benjamin
Pysher Mitchell
Quicksell Kevin
Rastall Austin
Reed Kathryn
Regenscheid Steven
Remer James
Rendon Josue
Resch Keith
Reynolds Kyle
Rice David
Rivas Elizabeth
Rivers Abigail
Robinson Blake
Rodewald Madelyn
Rodriguez Marcos
Rodriguez Roberto
Roen Bryan
Rogers Joshua
Rohm Mariah
Rolfe Michael
Ronn Kaycee
Rosenberger Timothy
Rugarabamu Jesca
Rush Anthony
Rylander Jacob
Salazar Alonso
Salcido Alejandro
Sandigo Ian
Sandquist Braxton
Sangiovanni Michael
Santiago Otero Amylee
Sapp Justin
Schafer Matthew
Schafer Taylor
Schmitt Karla
Schoephoerster Marshall
Schon Matthew
Schrader Brett
Schreder Kyle
Schumacher Brianna
Sconberg Kenneth
Sebesta Taylor
Seviola Tyler
Shaw Madison
Shell Dakota
Sherry Kyle
Shoemaker Ethan
Siddiqui Hajira
Sikes Connor
Sin Aung
Sipprell Kenneth
Sithiphanh Khamphin
Skildum Nicholas
Smeaton Kyle
Smith Jacob
Smith Lafe
Smith Luke
Smoter Devyn
Snow Brayden
Snyder Matthew
Solberg Brandon
Stanley Alexander
Stegora-Peterson Colin
Steinbach Daniel
Stellburg Daniel
Stellmach Colin
Stewart Steven
Stolp Craig
Strand Joseph
Strickland Benjamin
Sulheim Nicholas
Sullivan Michael
Swarm Eric
Swenson Jennifer
Swenson Zachary
Tait Samantha
Teipel Holly
Thao Koua
Thao Pheng
Thelen Ryan
Thene Brianna
Thomasen Miles
Thompson Anthony
Thompson Jane
Thor Jonathan
Thorp Travis
Towne Peter
Trembulak Timothy
Trofimovich Ruvim
Twiggs Elliot
Tygeson Jerry
Unger Andrew
Unterberger Keith
Vaaj Viviane
Valley Jesse
Van Cleave Noah
Vang Austin
VanRoekel Garrett
Villalobos Marcos
Wadman Sean
Wagner Terrence
Walker Sebastian
Waller Justin
Wanek Christian
Warner Trent
Weeks John
Welle Timothy
Wessel Jacob
Westphal Vailia
Witchger Christopher
Witt Hunter
Wright Isaac
Xiong Cheenou
Xiong Jewell
Xiong Joshua
Xiong Kenneth
Yang Julie
Yardley Shoshana
Zeglin Justin
Zehnder Sarah
Zenk Adam


Please contact the Registrar’s Office at if you have a question about eligibility. Please note that publication of awards/honors is considered to be directory information. For questions about directory information, please contact the Registrar’s Office. You can also find information regarding qualifications for the Dean’s List, as well as our directory information policy in the Catalog/Student Handbook, which is published on our website.

Employee Spotlight: Anjana Parua, Automated Systems & Robotics Instructor

Where did you grow up?

I grew up mostly in western parts of India in a state called Gujarat. My father had a transferable job; therefore, we lived in different states in India such as New Delhi, Rajasthan.

Where did you attend college? What is your degree in?

I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Gujarat University, India. I have a Master’s in Instrumentation and Control Engineering (Electrical Sciences).

How long have you been working in Dunwoody?

It’s been exactly 6 months, and I am already feeling at home.

Why did you decide to work in Dunwoody?

I always wanted to work at a prestigious institute with strong values and in an environment that promotes diversity. Dunwoody was on the top of my list when I moved to Minnesota and was looking for a job in the academic field. I instantly could connect myself with the courses offered in the Automated Systems & Robotics program. I am very excited to be part of this institution.

What is your favorite part about working at Dunwoody?

The warm and caring nature of people here in Dunwoody.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

One of the reasons I wanted to be a part of the teaching field is to keep exploring new ideas and innovative ways to solve existing problems as well as to see how students grow their skills bit by bit in every lecture they take.

I enjoy the inquisitive nature of students, which provokes them to develop new ideas and solutions to life’s problems. It gives me immense satisfaction when I can help students to nurture their ideas.

What did you do prior to teaching at Dunwoody? Why did you choose the career path you did?

Prior to Dunwoody, I was teaching in India at the BMS College of Engineering in Karnataka, India. Let’s say I was born to be a teacher/educator! Teaching gives me inner peace. When I teach I am the happiest person alive!

What do you enjoy about the Automated System & Robotics industry?

I enjoy programming and instrumentation, which can automate any system to make life simpler.

What are few of your hobbies?

I love to travel a lot and explore different cultures—food and cuisines especially. Dancing and painting relaxes me a lot too. Learning new languages is also one of my newfound hobbies!

What are you most excited for in 2018?

I will be teaching a course in Industrial Robotics (FANUC) during spring semester 2018, and I’m really excited about it.

What is the most beautiful spot you have ever travelled to?

The most beautiful place I have been is Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which is one of the union territories in India. I enjoyed snorkeling in turquoise water and the silence all around me.

Please provide 2-3 fun facts about yourself
  1. I am multi lingual. I know 5 different Indian languages (English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Kannada!).
  2. I am big fan of the TV series ‘The Office (US)’ and ‘Firefly’.
  3. I am a big Tomb Raider video game fan.

Q&A with a Dunwoody Architectural Drafting & Estimating Alum

Dunwoody alumni are innovators, entrepreneurs, top technicians, and skilled workers.  

Here is a quick Q&A with just one!

Brenda Sherrod, ’92 Architectural Drafting & Estimating
Drafter, Cross Architects

Q. Where is the weirdest place you have ever met a fellow alum?

A. I ran into some of my classmates at a Christmas party in the early 90s for a roof insulation firm and have one on my Facebook friend list. I moved to the Dallas, Texas area in 1995, so I haven’t had the opportunity to run into many.

Q.  Has there been a moment in your career when you thought “My job is awesome!” and what was that moment?

A. The first time I was able to visit a site for a project I worked on. It was a retail strip center in San Antonio, Texas, and I could see where the contractor had followed my drawings and where he had deviated. It was so nice to be able to connect their work to mine.

Q. What would your classmates be surprised to know about you now?

A. I am married with three kids — 13, 11 and 11 (yes, twins) — and that I went into “retirement” for 11 years. I went back to work a year ago, and I love it!

Q. What is your favorite memory of Dunwoody?

A. My summer job of creating an as-built CAD file of the Dunwoody Campus. I had to begin with the original blueprints and then climb everywhere with a tape measure and sketch. When I had to print anything, I would send it to the pen plotter and leave for an hour. Plotters have come a long way in 25 years! It was an amazing summer.

Employee Spotlight: Alicia Stoe, Assistant Director of Financial Aid

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on a large farm north of Roseau, MN, just a few miles from the Canadian border.

Where did you attend college? What is your degree in?

I have a Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of North Dakota. I double majored in Marketing and Management. I also have a Masters of Business Administration from Metropolitan State University.

How long have you been working at Dunwoody? 

I’ve been at Dunwoody for almost 6 years.

Why did you decide to work at Dunwoody? 

I decided to work at Dunwoody because of the rich history and networks the college has. Every time I told someone I applied to Dunwoody, they not only knew the name but also had some kind of story (my uncle went there, my cousin went there, etc.).

What is your favorite part about working at Dunwoody? 

My favorite part about working at Dunwoody is meeting with students and knowing I was able to answer their questions or give them information that helps finance their education.

I also like figuring out ways to make our software work better and be more efficient for our office.

What is your favorite memory of working at Dunwoody?

My favorite memory at Dunwoody is from a couple of years ago, when a student came in to my office to ask about a scholarship he received. The student wanted to make sure that he didn’t read any information wrong, because the scholarship was large enough to cover the balance he had for his last semester—a semester that he had no idea how he was going to pay for. His gratitude and happiness was overwhelming.

What are a few of your hobbies?

I’m an avid reader, and I love going to bookstores to find new authors and random books. I also have to say house projects because now that I have a house—most of my time is spent working on it!

Do you have any pets?

I don’t currently have any pets of my own, but my parents have a chocolate lab that I’m very attached to. She’s almost a year old.

Where is your favorite place in the Twin Cities?

My favorite place in the cities is the St. Anthony Main area. I like walking down by the river on the old cobblestones.

What is your favorite annual holiday or tradition?

I love Christmas Eve night. After the rest of the family leaves for the night, my parents, brothers, and I have our own little Christmas. We open presents from each other and watch old movies.

What is your favorite band or song?

Mumford and Sons. It’s hard to pick an individual song that’s my favorite, but “Little Lion Man” would be high on the list.

Fun facts:
  1. I’m afraid of heights, but I’ve gone skydiving twice and plan to go more in the future.
  2. I’m a huge sports fan. The Twins are my favorite, and I go to spring training whenever I can. I have a collection of 13 autographs so far.
  3. Growing up on a farm, I literally did learn how to drive a tractor before a car and many other clichés. When I was about 10 years old, I also exhibited my goats at the county fair. I won a blue ribbon to bring them to the state fair, but I was too scared of the coming to the cities to do it!

Mia debuts divining rod for art discovery designed by Architecture’s Molly Reichert

Photo of a person holding the divining rod, a plastic u-shaped device with a circle of led lights in the center, near a landscape painting

The Divining Rod in action in one of Mia’s galleries (photo courtesy of Mia)

When Architecture faculty member Molly Reichert teamed up with engineer Ben Arcand to enter Minneapolis Institute of Art’s 3M Arts and Technology Award last year, they came up with a concept that was simple and elegant: a divining rod to guide visitors through the museum galleries in a unique, interesting way.

But once they won the award, they realized that now they had to actually build it. That took many prototypes (with some of the concepts 3D-printed in Dunwoody’s Materials, Mechanics,& Metrology Lab); recruiting additional team members to help with the software and fabrication; and lots of testing and debugging.

The Divining Rod team (left to right): Max Hoagland, hardware/software designer and programmer; co-creators Ben Arcand and Molly Reichert; and Blaine Garrett, algorithm programmer and designer. (photo courtesy of Mia)

The divining rod project came together in the end and debuted late last month. It features a u-shaped plastic casing that senses your location and displays lights that show you which direction to go in order to find an initial work of art. Once you’ve arrived at the artwork, you scan the label next to it and press a plus or minus button on the rod. Your reaction then interacts with a recommendation algorithm and guides you to a different piece of art it thinks you will like. Every interaction with the divining rod helps the recommendation algorithm it uses personalizes your museum experience further. It also helps the algorithm continue to learn and get better as a recommendation engine.

“The Divining Rods Project has a lot of potential for further development and could be used in a variety of contexts,” Reichert said. “We’re hoping that the collected data can be used to create new projects that augment the museum visitor experience.”

The divining rod project can be experienced at the museum on weekends and most Thursday and Friday evening (click here for a full schedule).

Read more about the product development process on the Mia Divining Rods project blog.

2017 3M Art and Technology Competition

There’s still time to submit your ideas for the 2017 version of the awards. Ideas are due by December 1, 2017. Find out more at the competition website and submit your ideas here.