STEAM secrets at St. Peter Claver College

Jaco Roeloffs
Feb 29, 2024
3 min read
The sculpture "TAKE FLIGHT" at St. Peter Claver College

I was commissioned by St. Peter Claver College in 2020 to create a sculpture to complement their new administration building. The theme was to create a sculpture that communicates growth, welcome, belonging and joy. The end result was the 5.5m tall Aluminium sculpture "Take Flight".

The Role of Art in STEAM

The inclusion of Art in the traditional STEM framework transforms it into STEAM, adding a layer of innovation, creativity, and critical thinking. Art encourages divergent thinking—a way of finding multiple solutions to a problem, which is essential for innovation.

Sculptures, in particular, play a role within STEAM education. They can serve as powerful visual aids that make abstract concepts more tangible. For instance, sculptures can embody principles of geometry, physics, and engineering, offering students a three-dimensional representation of concepts that might be difficult to grasp through textbooks alone.

By engaging with sculptures, students can explore the physical manifestations of mathematical theories, understand the structural integrity behind engineering, and appreciate the aesthetic considerations that intersect with functional design.

STEAM elements in the sculpture "Take Flight"

Engineering and Physics

The sculpture is very tall, 5.5m. To reach that height we needed a sound base that was to be made from steel with reinforcement with small triangles around the base (gussets). We also had to make sure the Aluminium was strong enough to withstand the wind loads.


With the base made from Steel and the sculpture from Aluminium, meant that we needed to insulate the two metals from each other. With steel and aluminium touching, where moisture is present an electrical circuit is created and causes corrosion. To solve the problem, a special plastic sleeve was created to separate the two metals. The plastic was a special marine plastic called "acetal".


We used 3D modelling and special computer aided design to help us make a part that would space the Rosewood seeds in the spiral form along the aluminium cylinder.


We made a special formula that would space our Rosewood seeds along the Aluminium tube and also rotate each seed the exact amount to form the flight path inspired by a real seed falling.

The creation process

I worked with the school to embody the intended message into the sculpture and at the same time create a unique contemporary statement sculpture for the school. "The sculpture projects that The College is the tree, sharing the concept of belonging and equality for all students, nurturing them until the season when they are ready to take flight. The flight path shows that although all students are offered equal opportunities, they are individuals, like each seed, and will spread out through their flight to find their own place to grow."

Reflections and results

Former principal, Terry Finan, highlighted the impact that introducing art and sculpture has had on the educational experience at St. Peter Claver College. Reflecting on Robyn Ewing's insights in "The Arts and Australian Education: Realising Potential," Finan pointed out how the arts spark our imagination and broaden learning across various subjects.


Consider sculptures that do more, they tell stories or conceal secrets and opening up learning opportunities. This method turns education into an adventure that's more engaging, inclusive, and full of meaning for everyone. Keep an eye out for my next piece on blending ciphers with this approach, turning education into a journey of discovery.


Sousa, D. A., & Pilecki, T. (2013). STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts.

Corwin. Ewing, R. (2010). The Arts and Australian Education: Realising Potential. Australian Education Review, 58, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

Manufacturing Partners

Ingot Foundry and Marine Engineering, G.James

Illustration showing how the steel and aluminium are fully insulated from each other.
The sculpture went through a surface finishing process and was coloured using an electrochemical process that converts a metal surface into a decorative, anodic oxide finish called Anodising
The special "Jig" made to space the Rosewood seeds to form the spiral path.
The early stages of the fabrication of the spiral.
The finished sculpture "Take Flight"

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