Georgia Tech Sending Two Teams to the 2022 ACCelerate Festival in Washington, D.C.

Shared on behalf of Arts at Georgia Tech:

Georgia Institute of Technology students, faculty, and staff are proudly taking part in the 2022 ACCelerate Festival, a celebration of creative exploration and innovative research happening at the intersection of science, engineering, arts, and design. Featuring teams from universities and colleges across the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Smithsonian Institution, the Festival promotes cutting-edge creative work from a new generation of thinkers. This year’s event, to be held April 8 – 10, 2022, will be the third time the ACC institutions have gathered in DC, and Georgia Tech is honored to have been represented at each Festival to date.


“The ACCelerate Festival is an opportunity to showcase the incredible possibilities that await us at the intersection of art and technology,” said Georgia Tech Provost Steve McLaughlin. “We are proud to once again send teams from Georgia Tech and participate alongside our ACC peers. The arts have an undeniable power to teach, heal, and transform us, and this festival gives great visibility and a new way to experience the innovative and impactful education and research that is taking place on our campuses each day.”

The two Georgia Tech teams participating in the 2022 ACCelerate Festival come from the School of Architecture at the College of Design, and the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Georgia Tech’s participation in ACCelerate is managed by Georgia Tech Arts, a department in the Division of Student Engagement and Well-Being.

Walking in the Footsteps of History

On March 7, 1965, at the south side of Edmund Pettus Bridge, armed State Troopers attacked peaceful civil rights activists attempting to march to the state capital of Montgomery in an incident that became known as Bloody Sunday. Despite access to vivid archival material, little interpretation addresses the physical context and experiential timeline. To digitally record this significant civil rights site and to make the specific context of the event more experientially engaging to the public, this project’s multidisciplinary team of designers, architectural historians, civil rights historians, cultural resource managers, and construction technology specialists are pairing collected 3D digital data of Selma’s extant structures with digital reconstructions to recreate the site.

By melding the physical and virtual, Walking in the Footsteps of History presents a broader understanding of the events of 1965 in and around Selma through enhanced historic interpretation by animating famous photographs through immersive visualization, creating interactive digital platforms for exploring fragile archival content such as the Good Samaritan Hospital logbook, and affording virtual tours where visitors can safely explore the Bloody Sunday conflict site that is bordered by a busy highway.

The team is led by Danielle Willkens, assistant professor, School of Architecture, who commented “This project has encompassed more than 6 years’ work with civil rights foot soldiers and their descendants with the intention of enabling visitors to translate the visceral experience to an understanding of the tenets of what was being advocated for - voting rights and civil rights – in the 1960’s through present time.”

Participating staff include Aaron Shackleford, director of Georgia Tech Arts. Georgia Tech student researchers include Simran Bajaj, Thomas Bray, Sydnee Henry, Carly Langsdorf, Sean Li, Sakshi Nanda, So Min Park, Patricia J. Rangel, Aishwarya Somasundaram, Christian Waweru, and Eden Wright. This project is the result of an ongoing collaboration with Junshan Liu, associate professor at Auburn University's McWhorter School of Building Science and Georgia Tech Visiting Scholar and the Auburn University team including faculty (R. Burt, K. Hébert, and E. Gaddis) and students (C. Brown, A. Davis, M. Gibbs, and S. Page). The team is currently completing a Historic Structures Report on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, sponsored by a National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grant.

Visit the ACCelerate website for more information about the team’s work and exhibition.

Heart Sense

“How can the very creation, rendering, and experiencing of biological data contribute to a more nuanced understanding of our bodies?” This is the question at the heart of this project. Heart Sense is a series of installations that visualize biometric data such as heart rate and breath as participants engage in a variety of listening and viewing activities. Our bodies are often conceived as separate autonomous entities, disjoint from the physical and social environments that they inhabit while in fact we are deeply connected with the material and social world around us.

The first installation tracks a participant’s heart rate, galvanic skin response, and breathing as they watch a short, emotionally engaging video. This data input produces flower-like visualizations that illustrate the physiological responses. The second installation engages the social dimension of embodiment through the mediation of the physical environment. Participants are invited to sit around a table and are given headphones to listen to music.

A floral visualization representing the collective heart rates of the participants will be projected onto the table, the size and the colors of each petal shifting with changes in each participant’s body. The visualization showcases how our bodies come into relation with each other and are in and of the environment, as they respond to our surrounding conditions even when we are not aware of it.

The team is led by Nassim Parvin, associate professor, School of Literature, Media, and Communication, who states “This project has catalyzed interdisciplinary collaboration across natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and it has been a privilege to work with talented students in imaginative world-building.”

Participating faculty include Lewis Wheaton, associate professor, Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech, and Anne Pollock, previously associate professor of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech and now professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at King's College London. The interdisciplinary team includes post-doctoral researcher Aditya Anupam alongside Georgia Tech student researchers Pooja Casula, Shubhangi Gupta, Sylvia Janicki, Michelle Ramirez, and Mohsin Yousufi.

Visit the ACCelerate website for more information about the team’s work and exhibition.

Visit the LMC website for detailed Heart Sense documentation and Heart Sense demonstration.

Working at the Intersection of Art, Learning, and Research

“The faculty and students at Georgia Tech have embraced the role of art and creativity as a way to engage with people and share their research with a wide audience,” said Georgia Tech Arts Director Aaron Shackelford. He explains that Georgia Tech Arts selected each project because of the way they bring together art, learning and research. “Both projects show what happens when you bring art and creativity into every step of the process,” he notes, “and the results are these innovative approaches to conducting important work that can be experienced by anyone visiting the Smithsonian.” Each project also supports the well-being of the community. “Heart Sense invites us to have a better understanding of our own bodies, while Walking in the Footsteps of History pushes us to have a better understanding of our nation’s history. Both are important for cultivating the well-being of our community, which is a central goal for Georgia Tech as a whole and one of the most important benefits of the arts.”

ACCelerate is programmed by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology and the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Hosted at the National Museum of American History, the multi-day festival is free and open to the public. The 2022 Festival features 24 projects from 12 ACC schools; the most recent Festival drew public attendance of more than 30,000.

For more information about the 2022 ACCelerate Festival, visit their website.