Renowned Brooklyn artist Chico MacMurtrie, Director of Amorphic Robot Works, will lead a team of U-M students from a wide range of disciplines to create "Border Crosser," a lightweight, large-scale robotic sculpture, as well as the autonomous vehicle which transports it. Apply.

The students will be responsible for all aspects of the project, from design to deployment, culminating in the launch of the Border Crosser live as part of several public performances on both North and Central Campus, crossing our own campus “borders.” Culminating events will take place on campus on February 14 through 16. This inflatable sculpture, several stories high, will eventually be deployed at the border between the US and Mexico.

Visionary in its scope, the work symbolizes the humanities in action, and the empowerment that can be achieved through working together, overcoming obstacles and divides, and discovering creative solutions. It is the unique combination of our differences, our collective humanity that extends our reach towards brave new futures. (Watch a video showing the first trial run of a Border Crosser sculpture.)

Open to undergraduate and graduate students in the Schools of Engineering (including Michigan Robotics), Information, Architecture, Art and Design, and Literature Science & the Arts. It is preferable that students possess two relevant skills listed below from different skill sets, and are actively interested in learning others. However, all qualified candidates with strong enthusiasm and relevant experience are encouraged to apply and will be included in our review of applicants. Students will be trained in the engineering lab at the Wilson Student Team Project Center on North Campus, as well as acquire new skills for the duration of the course.

Skill sets of value to this project include:

  • Metal or fabric construction

  • CNC machining (experience with this equipment in the school setting)

  • Welding aluminum and/or steel

  • Manual machining

  • Working on motor controls

  • Building of structures or sculptures

  • Inflatable technology/systems

  • Processing high tensile fabric (sewing skills)

  • General fabrication and assembly skills

  • Experience programming Arduino and Raspberry Pi or experimentation with Ableton Live, Midi, MaxMSP, Pure Data(PD), and other open source software tools for multimedia production

  • CAD, Solid Works or Rhino

  • Robotics Electronics - computer programming or animation simulation - programming of autonomous vehicles

The team will work together intensely for five weeks at the Wilson Center. The workload is a minimum of 10 hours per week for the duration of the project (5-7 weeks). A kickoff meeting in mid-January will launch the workshop/course. Specific times the students will work in the Wilson Center /course time will be customized in teams based on student class schedules and availability. Interested students should try to keep a 3.5 hour block open between 10 am and 8 pm, 3 days per week in their course schedule.  Course enrollment/registration will be through instructor permission for all students who are admitted in January 2018. Students will receive course credit, Pass/Fail.  The instructor of record will be the visiting artist, Chico MacMurtrie.

To apply for inclusion in this very special and timely project, or with any questions, send an email to bordercrossers@umich.edu. Indicate your particular skills, interest, and why you should be part of the team/course. Application deadline is Monday, November 20, 9 am sharp. The project committee will review and determine the final team members. Students will be notified by the end of November.

Sponsored by the U-M Institute for the Humanities, a unit in the College of Literature, Science & the Arts, in collaboration with the Wilson Project Center and Michigan Robotics in the College of Engineering, Stamps School of Art and Design, Taubman School of Architecture, Arts Engine, and the School of Information.

Chico MacMurtrie