Students at The Evergreen State College brought some of the Renaissance Man’s technical drawings to life during a 10-week “Marvelous Machines: Building Leonardo’s Inventions” evening course that wrapped up Thursday.
The hands-on class combined history and art with raw materials, welders, saws and other power tools.
“It’s actually Renaissance engineering,” said faculty member Daryl Morgan, who team-taught the program with Bob Woods. “This combines both wood and metal technologies and craft.”
Students in the class worked in small groups to create machines or engineering concepts inspired by da Vinci’s sketches, such as a lifting crane, a file maker, a differential gear, a catapult and a set of articulated wings.
“The guy was an engineering master in his time, and still today,” said senior Bradley Switzer, 33, of Lacey. “A lot of his drawings and engineering concepts still apply.”
Wood and metal shop experience was not required for the course. In fact, several of the students said it was the first time they had ever been around power tools.
“At first it was really intimidating,” said Jen Stevens, 23, a marine zoology student. “But now I’m feeling really good about it.”
Morgan said even though the college is equipped with some of the latest high-tech machines, some of the designs required tools and handwork that would have been used during da Vinci’s lifetime, and that was a bonus.
“We really emphasize old world stuff, old techniques, hand tools – the tried-and-true traditions,” he said. “By working with old (techniques) safely, you’re a better user of the new technology.”
A huge part of the learning came in the form of problem solving, said Evergreen senior Curtis Cupach, 22. Many of da Vinci’s sketches were more concept than plan, and they didn’t include a lot of details. Some of the projects involved quite a bit of trial and error.
“You learn that some things don’t fit like they do on paper,” Cupoch said with a laugh.
Still, he said the class gave him a better appreciation of da Vinci’s work, especially his contributions to mathematics and science.
“He was not a human being – he was something else,” Cupoch said. “A man made out of legend.”firstname.lastname@example.org 360-754-5433 www.theolympian.com/edblog