Dreams animate Eliz. Forward art room at enrichment series
There's been no shortage of cartoon characters, computers or curiosity in the art room at Elizabeth Forward High School this week.
That's where about 24 children in grades four through eight are participating in Dream Factory 101, an instructional program that teaches students how to use computer animation and design programs used in video games and other applications.
The two-week course is part of the district's summer enrichment program and is one of several being offered that teaches digital skills applicable to a number of media platforms.
During a visit to the art room on Thursday, students were figuring out how to connect the design and animation ideas on their computer screens with physical control devices.
Some of the program controllers they had wired into their computers worked on a simple on-off principle. Others were designed to send signals when they were tilted or sensed movement.
“We're going to animate a spaceship,” said fifth-grader Nathan Yurkovich, who was working with a group of boys who rigged a model of a ship made of Lego blocks and tongue depressors with motion sensors.
When their project is complete, Yurkovich and his partners will be able to use the spaceship as a handheld controller for a computer game similar to Asteroids.
“It's a lot of work,” said sixth-grader Noah Stillwagon, who was puzzling out the programming code needed to make that happen.
Two instructors from the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh — Christian Tsu-Raun and Rebecca Grabman — are helping to facilitate the program. They made their way around the art room, stopping at each table to discuss various aspects of each group's project.
“It's about doing crazy stuff and knowing how to do crazy stuff,” is how Tsu-Raun described the course. He said students have been eager to learn and put their knowledge to use, with some continuing to work on projects at home in the evening. Tsu-Raun said the students are at an ideal age to learn, noting, “No one in the world learns faster than an 8-year-old.”
In addition to teaching hands-on design and programming skills, district technology instructor Jeff Stolkovich said the youth are learning how to work in teams and delegate responsibility for the various tasks.
“We want them to experience how a programming team would come together in the real world,” Stolkovich said.
Next week, Stolkovich said students will learn how to use computer-aided drafting programs in conjunction with the school's 3-D printer to make prototype object models out of plastic.
“We're showing them how to go from something that only exists in your mind to an actual physical object,” he said.
Down the hall from the art room in the school's media center, children in first through third grades were participating in another high-tech program called Digital Fun! There, children were using handheld computers to create comic book-styled story boards and animated graphics.
“They're naturals with this,” said Mika Long, who is retiring from her job this year as a district technology teacher. She said the high-tech offerings are part of the district's efforts “to change with the times and the way kids are thinking.”
The district is taking high-tech learning seriously. At a meeting this week, the school board approved a leasing deal with Apple that will outfit every student in the district with a take-home computing device at cost to the district of $550,000 annually.
In recent years the district has used Grable Foundation grants to create gaming instruction programs and facilities at its middle and high schools and to revamp the high school library, outfitting it with digital video and audio studios.
The enrichment program continues through the summer with more high-tech programs and offerings in gardening, cooking, driver's education and SAT preparation.
Course fees are $45 and classes are open to students from outside districts. More information and registration is available online at www.efsd.net.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.