Honors College community constructs mosaic comprised of thousands of bottle caps to cap off a year of serious play

Olivia Robinson stands in front of the large, colorful mosaic she created using different bottle caps.
Olivia Robinson with her mosaic entitled “Honoring Eastern’s Elementals.”

YPSILANTI — A colorful mosaic comprised of thousands of bottle caps stands as a testament to the power of community, innovation, and creativity in the Honors College

The bottle-cap project began with a conversation between Honors College Dean, Ann Eisenberg and Honors Faculty Fellow, Aaron Liepman in the summer of 2022. In keeping with the Honors College's 2022-2023 theme of “Serious Play,” Eisenberg asked Liepman, who is well known in southeast Michigan for his Lego mosaics, if he would be willing to spearhead an Honors College Lego build night. 

 “What if instead,” Liepman suggested, “we have the Honors College collaborate on a mosaic out of bottle caps? I’ve always wanted to try building a bottle-cap mosaic.” This suggestion ended up giving birth to a year-long project that developed quickly once Honors Associate Dean Megan Moore took the reins as the leader of the project. 

During the early fall of 2022, the EMU Honors College held a design contest where applicants were encouraged to develop a design that captured the Honors College's mission, values, and community. As an incentive, the winner of the contest would receive a $500 award and the opportunity for their vision to be brought to life and displayed in the Honors College Auditorium. 

The winner of the bottle-cap design competition was Olivia Robinson for her work entitled, “Honoring Eastern’s Elementals.” When asked what inspired her design, Robinson replied, “When I enrolled in EMU’s Honors Astronomy course, I immediately became inspired by a celestial fact I learned in our first lecture: Our universe continues to expand. This accelerating growth process prompted my desire to portray the Honors College through this image. Our community exemplifies the qualities of a galaxy: in constant innovative motion and expanding its impact far beyond its initial scope.”

Moore and Liepman modified Robinson’s original design slightly to make the creation work as a mosaic. Liepman adapted the artwork, using Photoshop for color adaptation and Brikaizer to create printouts of the pattern that a team of assemblers would need to follow. More than 55 students and staff members collected more than 18,000 bottle caps, approximately 7,000 of which ended up in the final mosaic. Student volunteers also worked with Dr. Moore to count, sort, clean, paint, and glue the caps. Larkin Pence, Instrument Technician II in the Department of Biology and a member of The Honors College from 1989 to 1993, stepped in to help Moore construct the frame for the 8’ x 8’ wall hanging. The medallions that graduates receive upon graduating from the Honors College anchor each of the four corners of the frame.

Robinson explained the symbolism behind each of the artistic elements of her design. “Using a galaxy’s spiral arms, I illustrated five representations of pillars that govern The Honors College. For responsibility and integrity, a thunderbolt and lightning signify the leadership we are expected to take by raising our voices and flashing light on necessary subjects. A climbing tree depicts our love and appreciation for lifelong learning. For inclusiveness, a rainbow honors our myriad of identities and experiences. Mountains and valleys depict students’ journeys to attain excellence in academic and personal pursuits. Lastly, two clasped hands depict the empathy, respect, and connection we have with our fellow students, professors, and staff. All elements create a natural space of innovation, leadership, and compassion.”

Almost a year to the day after calling for bottle-cap designs and donations, the mosaic now hangs in the EMU Honors College Auditorium. Members of the EMU community are invited to visit the Honors College and view the collaborative work.

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 14,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

October 11, 2023

Written by:
Brooke Whittaker

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher