Posted on July 6, 2010 at 11:01 AM
Tuesday, Jul 6 at 11:02 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A conservative think tank has targeted a research project at UNC-Charlotte, naming it one of the worst stimulus projects in North Carolina, but is it really such a waste of money?
The project is called “Dance Draw.”
UNCC dance students wear wireless computer mice on their chests and wrists to “draw” abstract geometric shapes on a computer screen.
Dance Draw won more than $750,000 in federal stimulus money.
Brian Balfour with the conservative Civitas Institute called it questionable.
“I think it’s an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” he told NewsChannel 36.
“I have to say I resent that,” said UNCC Computer Scientist Celine Latulipe. “I don’t think of this as wasteful at all.”
Dance Draw drew fire because of the number of jobs it reportedly created, one and a half.
“That same amount of money could have funded sixteen school teacher jobs,” said Balfour.
But, Latulipe says they are funding education and more than one and a half jobs.
“We’re funding students, we’re funding artists, and we’re funding technologists,” she said. “We’re doing research that’s going to lead to new technologies and software.”
The money is spread over three years and Latulipe points out the university takes 44% overhead.
Dance Draw won funding not as dance, not an arts grant, but as computer science research through the National Science Foundation.
“We are learning things every time we do one of these performances and that is feeding back into software development,” said Latulipe.
It's easy to mock a government grant for dance students to put computer mice in their sports bras.
“[It’s] good for campus, good for students, good for the Charlotte community,” emphasizes Latulipe.
It's also worth noting that philosophically the Civitas Institute doesn't believe in government funding for any science.
“If that is the future of technology, if that's where we're headed, then I think that private investors would line up behind that rather than basically using government force to extract taxpayer dollars to subsidize such projects,” said Balfour.
The playwright Oscar Wilde wrote, “A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
It’s easy to calculate the price of dance draw, much harder to figure its value.