Summer Workshops support increasing interest in informatics

The School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI hosts Summer Workshops each year informatics logoas a way to introduce informatics and computing to area high school students and provide them the opportunity to discover their interests in technology in a variety of ways.

This year’s workshops were held June 8 through July 24 and included new sessions to engage junior high students as well, with exciting results. The workshops, taught by faculty and students in the school, covered topics in Media Arts and Science, Informatics, and Bioinformatics.

“Informatics and computing is prevalent in so many different fields including health and life sciences. So we wanted to include workshops for junior high students to introduce them to informatics and computing and allow them to explore, and also include something for high school students that have an interest in science as well as technology,” said Angela Madden, high school specialist for the School. “With the new changes, registration doubled from last year and more registered for multiple workshops, which shows how the interest in informatics is growing.”

The workshops offered hands-on experience on everything ranging from game design, 3D animation and app development for smartphones to exploring a human genome.

Students were able to work and become familiar with the latest technology, production equipment, and software during class sessions.

At the end of each workshop, students gave a project presentation. Those in the bioinformatics workshop did a team presentation that detailed their research and provided data visualization of their findings, giving students real world experience. “Presentation skills are important to have not only when preparing for college, but for a career too,” said Brian Benedict, Director of Career Services for the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI.

Each workshop was Monday through Friday, with class sessions going from 8: 30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Classes were open to any student entering, currently enrolled in, or graduating from grades 7-12.

The workshop series is scheduled annually mid-June through the end of July.

Media Arts & Science Students and Faculty Go Behind the Scenes of Pixar During Trip to San Francisco

Zeb Wood and Travis Faas, both lecturers in the media arts and science (MAS) program informatics logoin the School of Informatics and Computing, along with 11 students, recently traveled to San Francisco, California as part the Game Developers Conference (GDC).

The GDC, now in its 29th year, has grown from the informal gathering of a small group of developers to what it is today hosting over 24,000 game development professionals, and being the primary forum for those involved in the development of interactive games, to gather and exchange ideas and shape the future of the industry. The conference featured over 400 lectures, panels, tutorials and round-table discussions.

The group was able to tour the Pixar grounds and learn about production operations. They learned about work flow and volume, working on several films at once, as well as pre-production art and the life of studio artists – Everything from eating habits, workouts, yoga, to what it’s like on-the-job.

After the tour, they were able to have dinner and some one-on-one conversation with Tai. “When you watch a Pixar movie, it is normal to dream of one day working there, but to meet someone who was once a student just like me, that is actually working there, it’s like meeting a famous actor. Being able to spend time with him, getting his insight and knowing that he took the time to share his experience with us was one of the best memories of the trip,” said Shannon.

IU School of Informatics and Computing develops massive multiplayer game for Gen Con

When Gen Con opens its doors in Indianapolis, a massive multiplayer alternate reality game created by 40 Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis students and six faculty will be center stage.

The game, “Return of Aetheria: A game by the Media Arts and Science program at the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI,” uses video mapping and projectors that will create a large crystalline display; stereoscopic 3-D; a smartphone app; the entire convention center as a play area; and costumed actors portraying characters.

“Return of Aetheria” was developed as a result of an educational partnership between the Media Arts and Science program and Gen Con, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world. Known for introducing revolutionary gaming to the public, the annual convention has taken place in Indianapolis since 2003, attracting 40,000 visitors in 2012. Gen Con 2013 takes place Aug. 15 to 18 at the Indianapolis Convention Center.

The IUPUI students and faculty worked eight months on the project, crafting a game based on the theme of an epic quest to restore magic to the world. The app will guide players through various quests.

As quests are completed, players will see the results on the large crystalline display in real time through video mapping projectors. As the game continues, more and more dramatic events will appear on the crystalline structure and surrounding space.

The Media Arts and Science program has partnered with several businesses — including Mayfair Games, one of the largest board games companies in the world — to offer players $3,000 worth of prizes.

“We are combining several unique levels of technology and game design to create this experience,” said Mathew Powers, a lecturer in the IUPUI Media Arts and Science program and the project’s leader. “This has never been attempted before at this level, and we will demonstrate what the heck we can do, because I think we do some amazing things here.”

The partnership between Gen Con and the Media Arts and Science program brings together an event committed to the advancement of play and gaming and an academic program dedicated to the creation and production of games, Powers said.

Since the partnership was established last year, the Media Arts and Science program has added two classes, one on pre-production and the other on production of games, Powers said. While students learn how to create games, he said, perhaps most importantly they gain what potential employers want: the real-world experience of actually doing it.

The project has involved 3-D and 2=D artists, video mapping, animators, computer programmers, and narrators and actors who will be costumed and role playing as part of the game.

“We are blurring the lines between reality and the game through the use of cutting-edge technology,” Powers said. “Having the entire convention center space act as our play area will bring an uncanny gaming experience to all our players.”

Three students and a faculty member will don costumes and play game characters. They are student Robert Lastinger as Ah K’in, the Fire Champion; student Brittnee Thompson as Irisi, the Air Champion; professor Albert William as Espir, the Spirit Champion; and student Elspeth Eastman as a mystery character.

Faculty who have assisted with the project are Todd Shelton and Travis Faas, who worked on programming; Albert William, who worked on 3-D; Thomas Lewis, who worked on video/media; and Joseph Defazio, director of the school’s Media Arts and Science program.

Other students and students who graduated who contributed to the project are Brittney Conway, who has been the project’s dedicated assistant; Adam Glasscock, video mapping expert; and Kathryn Steele, art lead.

Powers plans to have students add on to the game each year, creating new versions for display at other conventions.