Jacob Riddle Mentors Coeur D’Alene Tribal Game Design Interns
By: Max Ciot
For the second summer in a row the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Department of Education collaborated alongside Washington State University to host a paid internship program targeted towards youth tribal members. The program lasted for three weeks and was designed to give youth the important skills and the academic footing they need in order to become future leaders within the Coeur D’Alene (CDA) Tribe. There were three internship tracks interns could choose from: (1) Game Design and Coding, (2) Photography, or (3) Arts & Animation.
Tony Brave was the lead for the Game Design and Coding track within the internship program. He worked closely alongside Michelle ReBecca who supervised and was in support of the track from the CDA Department of Education and DTC faculty member Jacob Riddle. In Brave’s words, Jacob “Enriched the program with his expertise and experience with game design software and coding.” The group used an open source game creation/editing program called Bitsy. Jacob focused on how he could expand the possibilities of each platform they worked on by using coding and how they code use these platforms to teach it.
The internship group was small and diverse and reacted in different ways to content within the program, resonating individually with different skills and lessons they learned. As stated by Brave, what they hoped was for the interns to come away with “not just the skills of working with one game making tool or another, but the belief in themselves that they can be successful if they just put in the effort, as well as the importance of communication.”
The mentors within the Game Design and Coding internship track recall the growth the interns showed in the program, as well as their ability to adapt in an environment that guides their growth. For example, one intern during his first iteration of his game articulated that he felt it was not very good. After one of the feedback sessions the internship hosted it was clear that his game provided a numerous amount of quirky and fun elements such as a time travelling cat and a possible murder mystery. At the end of feedback sessions such as these, the intern commonly seem to be glowing with pride and an increased sense of confidence. His game was initially a mere two rooms, but after getting feedback, he’d added multiple rooms. He had even created a maze through which the character had to navigate through a series of caves with only the light of a candle. In addition, Easter eggs were hidden throughout the game that conveyed the positive message of “anything is possible” which, according to Brave, is the type of message the program hoped to impart in the next generation of Native youth.
Dallas Hobbs is the 2021 DTC Outstanding Senior &
Is Named One of the Top Ten Seniors at WSU
By: Max Ciot
Every year, one award is given out by the Digital Technology and Culture program to a graduating senior that shines above and beyond and exemplifies in the DTC program. The recipient of this year’s award is Dallas Hobbs.
Not only is Dallas double majoring in DTC and Fine Arts, but he has also managed to maintain a 3.8 GPA at WSU while simultaneously being on the WSU Football team and WSU Track and Field Team. Additionally, he is a co-founder and member of the Black Student Athlete Association and an up-and-coming activist on a national level. Dallas has a strong presence in the online world as well, where he receives commissions to do various design projects including album covers for music artists. These are just a few of the many examples of how Dallas shines in the DTC program with his strong presence and multitude of achievements.
Double majoring in DTC and Fine Arts while maintaining a high GPA was often-times difficult for Dallas. Even so, he has always had outstanding time-management and planning skills. In addition, his majors did not feel like work to him most of the time, as the work assigned was something he enjoyed to do. Originally, Dallas was not planning to major in the DTC program. He was, however, interested in graphic design and planning to come to WSU for Football. After talking to various people, one common recommendation was the DTC program, which he figured was close enough to what he wanted to do. “It was not a major I was fully expecting, but I got more out of it than I was hoping,” says Dallas. He also wants to mention that the professors in the DTC and Fine Arts department were spectacular, he was able to learn a lot from them, and was “grateful to share a classroom with his professors and fellow students.”
According to DTC faculty Ruth Gregory, Dallas “represents the unique combination of social justice and digital creativity that are central to the Digital Technology Program.” In fact, Dallas, as a part of the We are United program he began pushing the Pac-12 to standardize their health and safety protocols for college athletes. After the imminent storm of COVID-19 blowing through the United States, Dallas had concerns that the right protocols were not being put into place. He decided that there was something he needed to do to represent his fellow athletes and state their demands. This something was an infographic, which, after being finalized, spread across social media in a flash of lightning, Even more than that, Dallas picked up skills from the DTC program in Data Analysis and was able to create spreadsheets for his teams that players used to track peer responses to a survey.
Dallas was also one of this year’s recipients of a Top Ten Senior Award in Athletics from the WSU Alumni Association; a first for the Digital Technology and Culture Program. Every year, ten seniors who demonstrate excellence receive an award in one of the following categories: academics, athletics, campus involvement, community service, or visual & performing arts. Dallas was nominated by WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun.
Dallas’s plans after graduating are “right now kind of all over the place.” While he did want to go into sports design originally, he is beginning to look into different graphic design fields if he isn’t able to reach the NFL with his skills. One thing Dallas would also really like to accomplish in the future is to create a safe-space platform for athletes, students, and the younger generation in general where groups of diverse people can come together and collaborate to “create change for what is going wrong.”
While Dallas may be unsure of his exact plans for the future, DTC faculty and staff know he’ll make a positive impact. In the Outstanding Senior nomination letter Ruth Gregory stated: “the DTC faculty are constantly in awe of Dallas’ diverse array of talents and his unwavering generosity towards others. We know that no matter where he goes, that he will be a valuable and thoughtful contributor.”
Kyle Kopta made his way to the top on the Tri-Cities’ WSU Campus this year. Not only is Kyle the recipient of the DTC Distinguished Scholar award for the campus, but he is also one of the 2021 WSU Alumni Association’s Top Ten Seniors in the category of Visual & Performing Arts. To top it off, he was also named the WSU Tri-Cities Student Employee of the Year.
Dedicated to making the world and his campus a better place, Kyle often advocates for the less fortunate. During his Junior year he was a part of Associated Students of Washington State University Tri-Cities and earned the organization’s Perseverance Award for Excellent Work. Kyle plans, delivers, markets, and advocates for a range of university events such as those that focus on LGBT issues, diversity, equity, and more. “He is a student that goes above and beyond in every area, often without recognition,” says Maegan Murray, Director of Marketing and Communication at WSU Tri-Cities, who was one of the people who nominated Kyle for the Top Ten Senior award.
Kyle is a leader and serves his fellow students and faculty by encouraging and helping them when he can. In the classroom and outside of it, Kyle goes above and beyond and invests dozens of hours practicing his design skills, and ensuring that his projects and work surmount typical expectations and top up to professional standards. Frequently, students and faculty members seek out Kyle to create design pieces to advertise campus events. He also helps other students develop their design-work and find answers to their problems with, according to his supervisor Monique Van Sant, a “smile on his face and a can do attitude.”
In high school, Kyle took an interest in art and design and ended up graduating with a certificate in multimedia arts, and later an associate of arts degree in Visual Arts from Blue Mountain Community College. Kyle was then attracted to the multi-disciplinary nature of the DTC program as it would allow him to explore all of his options as an artist, rather than being stuck to a rigid structure like other programs.
Kyle did encounter some difficulties adjusting to distance learning initially. Working from his bedroom and not being able to bounce ideas off of peers began to have a negative effect on his creative output. He missed the invigorating feeling of working side by side with others, which made him appreciate the inspiration he can get from his surroundings and others. He became inspired by Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” which compelled him to create some projects that related to his idea of alienation, the disconnect between mind and body, and existential anxiety. This included creating a collection of abstract self-portraits, and a 3D printed bug-human hybrid.
Kyle is a first generation college student and has held a 4.0 GPA while serving in various capacities on the Tri-Cities campus. Previously, he was a student graphic designer through the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities and is now a Teaching Assistant and Tutor through the DTC program. In addition, he is an intern with the WSU Tri-Cities’ Marketing and Communication Office. Kyle also practices as the campus photographer, even for high profile events with Chancellor Sandra Haynes. Besides his roles as an intern and student on the Tri-Cities campus, he is also on the art committee for the Washington State Art Commission where he oversees the Washington State Art Collection and helps the organization allocate grant opportunities. Kyle also collaborates with local artists for WSU installation work.
One of Kyle’s favourite projects he has worked on is when he helped put together the Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition at the end of every semester. Kyle says that the students at WSU Tri-Cities are creating innovative, thoughtful, and impactful work, and it is a pleasure to be able to amplify their voices in any way he can.
After finding a passion for marketing, Kyle would like to continue to work with it in the future as it allows him to work with design, photography, and video simultaneously. He would further like to continue working in a higher-education setting as well, as collaborating with various groups of people on different projects is important to him and the college setting allows him to do such. In addition, he would like to contribute to the local Tri-Cities art scene in any way he can. Growing up in Hermiston, Oregon, there was virtually no art presence in the community, and to him, fostering a tight-knit artist community in the Tri-Cities would be amazing. This would include curating some in-person gallery shows.
At SURCA, WSU students can present their work or research to a panel of judges and showcase what they are working on. During the awarding process, judges have a rubric, and highest scores during the judging process based on this rubric will receive either the top-level Crimson award or the secondary-level Gray award. Judgement is based on the content of the work, its relation to previous research, its contemporary relevance, the process of its creation, and the methodology the creator used. Each undergraduate researcher has a mentor whom which they work with in order to go through the process of their research and presentation.
Kelsey, mentored by Communication faculty, Dr. Amanda Boyd, was awarded a Gray award for her research proposal on “Helping Washington State University Faculty and Staff Support and Respond to Students in Distress.” Her research focused around figuring out how to help WSU faculty and staff support and respond to students struggling with their mental health. She also focused on how comfortable WSU staff feel on helping students in distress and how to receive support to further help students if further assistance is required.
During her research, Kelsey sent out surveys to elicit responses from Edward R. Murrow College of Communication faculty and staff members. She asked questions such as what they already knew, what resources they were familiar with, and if they felt equipped to help students. Kelsey recently got her results back and is diligently figuring out how her next step on how to analyze her data. She will also have to present her findings to the Edward. R. Murrow College of Communication leadership board. This will enable the department to study their results and use them to figure out what steps to implement to help students in distress.
Throughout her time in the DTC program, Kelsey has also geared her projects towards mental health. One example of such project is her Fall of 2019 animation short film, The First Step. Kelsey and another student, Lilly Williams created this short to portray what goes on in the minds of two characters that are dealing with anxiety. The short animation also shows us that, even when support is received, that is not the end of anxiety.
Kelsey is currently a senior in the Digital Technology and Culture program and will graduate in May. Her goal for the future is to make an impact on the mental health community. She would like to make informational videos on mental health for the general public. Kelsey believes everyone should learn about mental health as it is something that everyone is impacted by, and she would wish to make information on mental health more accessible. Her pursuit in her goal is so passionate that she is okay with not using her skills gained in the DTC program towards impacting communities as she would like to work in this field no matter the job.
Congratulations on your award, Kelsey, and best of luck in your future endeavors!
Nazua Idris spoke about the social and racial justice focus that was used in the Fall 2020 version of DTC 101 at the English Graduate Organization (EGO) Colloquium on February 24th, 2021. Every semester at the EGO meetings there are several panels where the members invite faculty and graduate students to speak about a particular topic. The theme this year was Social Justice Pedagogy.
Idris, Elle Fournier, Ruth Gregory, and Kathryn Manis collaborated on the Fall 2020 DTC 101 syllabi after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer knelt on a man’s neck until he died in May 2020. George Floyd’s death ignited protests and calls for social justice all over the world, and even more so (albeit with less attention) after the death of Breonna Taylor, an African-American medical worker shot in her sleep during a botched raid on the wrong address. In the United States, racial and social inequality, especially in the relation to police brutality are a common tale and the DTC 101 instructors wanted to connect the Black Lives Matter movement to digital technology.
After gathering the previous DTC 101 syllabi, Idris, Fournier, Gregory, and Manis decided that they would work together and revamp it to reflect contemporary issues with racial justice and technology. At the time, the DTC program was also drafting their Black Lives Matter statement, which was also a source of inspiration for the thematic shift in 101. Idris worked on the Social Media module, Fournier worked on the Data Analysis module, Gregory worked on the Design Thinking and Social Justice essay, and Manis worked on the Digital Curation module.
The implementation of this class was not entirely free of hurdles, however. While designing the course went smoothly due to the variety of real time topics that were happening during Summer and Fall of 2020, these topics were still difficult, especially to first-year college students. In Indris’ class, she tried to create an environment where all would be free to share their ideas without feeling that their ideas were unpopular or did not matter. While some students did respectfully state that they felt targeted, Idris always made sure to ask “What could we have said or done differently in order to not make you feel this way?” Feedback was regularly requested as well, and any feedback that was received went into updating the course in order to make it more inclusive so that nobody would feel targeted or left out.
Manis had a good point when speaking on this topic: “As teachers, it isn’t our imperative to persuade anyone about any particular political views, and we unfortunately live in a moment where questions about equity have become heavily politicized. Discrimination isn’t a political issue, it’s a social one, and so it takes care to convey to students, some of whom may have experienced the kinds of inequities we’re discussing and many of whom haven’t, that there are important and meaningful conversations to be had surrounding DTC and social and racial justice.” Gregory noted that in several of the final essays for her section students mentioned that they had never heard the terms “social justice” or “racial justice.”
In Manis’ words, Social Justice Pedagogy “is an approach to teaching that intentionally highlights how the subject of study relates to questions and issues of equity. So, in that way, you’re not just learning about the subject, but you’re also learning about how that subject (in this case, an introduction to Digital Technology and Culture) works in a broader cultural context that includes inequity, bias, and discrimination.” As Fournier said, “Technology is always political at some level. It’s important to understand that tension, but also to find ways to move forward.”
During the first week of class, students read an article by Peggy McIntosh about the privileges she has as a white woman has called “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” The article was turned into a survey with yes or no questions to help students understand their own privilege. Many students came to realize that there are things they did not personally consider a privilege – like having a wide variety of band aids that matched their skin color or being able to be around people of their race most of the time – were not afforded to all racial groups. Another project example that Fournier mentioned involves asking students to investigate Google search results surrounding groups that they identify with inspired by “Algorithms of Oppression” by Safiya Noble. In this project they can see how search engine algorithms can narrate identities and deconstruct how that happens.
There was also an interesting project that Manis designed whereby students were able to create their own digital exhibition with the goal of getting students to think about how they select artifacts for exhibitions and archives and describe and contextualize them. These objects tell stories about whose histories, voices, and perspectives are valued, and what biases are deeply ingrained in our society. The project was inspired by Fred Wilson’s “Mining the Museum” piece of curatorial activism and included recommendations for archival description from Archives for Black Lives. It also asks students to think critically about the presumed objectivity of a museum, an archive, or a digital history. Manis even shot a video with Mark O’English and Gale O’Hara (who are librarians in the Museum Archives and Special Collections – MASC) called “Visit to the Archives” in which they recontextualized some of the artifacts in the archives that brought the issues of social and racial justice closer to home for the students.
Overall, the Fall 2020 DTC 101 syllabus is greatly helpful in informing new students of the issues within Social and Racial Justice and technology that define the entirity of the DTC program. Many students greatly appreciated the course content, and the opportunity to talk about subjects they may not have focused on in past classes or high school. Idris notes that it was also great cooperating with her colleagues from different research areas as they all brought different expertise and perspectives into building the course, which also made it more diverse.
Kevin Vandermeer is a 2018 Digital Technology and Culture Alumni currently working as a Production Specialist at Nintendo of America. As a Production Specialist, some of Kevin’s responsibilities include working with a team of talented multimedia professionals and ensuring that their processes, workflows, and tools are optimized and allow them to complete their duties in a functional way. Some of his specific duties include writing/updating process documentation, creating interactive tools/guides, organizing/storing multimedia files, checking and delivering final multimedia files, optimizing asset management & project management tools, researching new tools, and assisting Nintendo livestreams.
One of his favorite projects he helps on is the Indie World Showcase. These are virtual presentations that highlight independent, or “indie” games, which will launch on Nintendo Switch. According to Kevin, there are always many unique and creative games developed by passionate indie developers. The showcases spotlight and amplify their hard work, which Kevin loves. These indie games also give the Nintendo Switch a “rich and constantly expanding library of unique games.”
But this isn’t his first position in the game industry. Kevin brings a wealth of experience to his work.
Before starting at Nintendo, he worked many multimedia jobs, including as a Creative Producer at the Roblox Corporation. He started that job while he was still working toward his bachelor’s degree in Digital Technology and Culture. In this role, he managed a team of contract and employee artists, as well as all licensing and creative production workflows. Kevin is very proud of a digital sticker book that he created based off of community games in Roblox that he helped manage and produce.
Prior to getting hired at Roblox, Kevin had been very involved with the product. He even co-developed a small community game on the platform with a friend. Roblox is a platform where millions of people can gather into and create 3D worlds. For his game on the Roblox platform, Kevin helped create 2D & 3D game assets and UI/UX elements, as well as served as a pseudo-community manager. After he was hired at Roblox, he stepped down from being involved in Roblox community games, but to date, his game has racked in about 25 million plays.
Kevin was embarrassed of his work on the Roblox game he helped develop. Thinking he had wasted his time on this project, he didn’t list it on his resumé. It wasn’t until Kevin talked to a mentor of his that he realized that passion projects such as his game were valuable and legitimate experiences that should be mentioned and listed on resumés. They are things to be proud of! He realized that, in fact, he had grown and honed his skills in marketing, community management, and game development without even realizing it.
Now a Production Specialist at Nintendo of America, in his words, “it is a dream come true” and a place where he can work with a team filled to the brim with some of the most talented and passionate creative minds he has ever encountered. Kevin says that “The teams at Nintendo of America are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about their work, and the culture feels like a big family.”
During his time at Washington State University, working with Nintendo was not a thought that crossed his mind. He had a few jobs he kept his eye on while studying, but found trouble imagining himself taking on those roles. Kevin has some valuable advice for those who may also be uncertain: “Over the years, I’ve learned that you don’t need a clear picture in your mind for where you want to work, you just need an idea to act on and that gets the ball rolling for you from there. Doors close and open all the time for you, and I always tell people that those closed doors are just as valuable as the open ones. They give you the grounds upon which to learn and grow and further yourself. They help in guiding your choices on what career feels right for you and what career you feel right for.”
Ruth Gregory recognized as the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Member by WSU Provost
By: Max Ciot
On February 24th, 2020 DTC Director of Undergraduate Studies Ruth Gregory (far left in the photo above) was honored in the Provost’s Featured Faculty Virtual Recognition event which recognized one outstanding faculty member per college for their significant and exemplary contributions to WSU.
In the words of Todd Butler, the Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences: “Ruth is more than just one of our most technologically savvy faculty at heart she is an educator in the best and deepest sense of the word someone who is dedicated to not only her field and her craft but also and more importantly to the students and community.”
Ruth is now in her sixth year in the DTC program and grateful to have found a home at WSU. “It is a joy to teach in a program like Digital Technology and Culture” and the WSU community is more supportive than any other University community she has been a part of in the past. Not only does Ruth bring her powerful and up-to-date expertise to the courses she teaches, but she also serves as the DTC program’s Director of Undergraduate Studies and Chairs the Curriculum Committee. In the past, Ruth has advised the Digital Media Club, led the DTC internship program, and even organized a spring seminar on video games called “Multiplayer: Critical Perspectives on Video Games and Online Environments” that coincided with the 2017-2018 common reading book Ready Player One.
Most recently, Ruth collaborated with the United Way of Whitman County and Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, to provide students with an opportunity to use the multimedia skills they’ve developed in DTC to benefit the local community. This continues Ruth’s work providing students with service-learning opportunities in courses. To date she’s collaborated with over 15 different regional nonprofits in her course partnerships.
Truly committed to the program and the students she teaches, she “meets students where they are and at the same time inspires them to imagine all of the things they could be,” and works towards allowing the expansion and further accessibility of the program and its opportunities to students of all backgrounds. Ruth regularly advocates for students who may not have as many resources or privileges and mentors LGBTQI+ students and students of color.
In the eyes of DTC Director Dr. Kim Christen, “Ruth’s work inside and outside the classroom brings into sharp view what practicing inclusion and a fierce commitment to access looks like on the ground. I’m honored to be Ruth’s colleague and to recognize her as a featured faculty member.”
Miranda Hansen is a Digital Technology and Culture alumna who is currently working at Campfire Data Analytics. Before securing her current position she worked as an SEO Contractor for CDK Global. During the pandemic, she got laid off and started a 9-month long job search to find another position, which she says was a difficult time.
To document her struggle to find a new position Miranda wrote an article which talks about her time job hunting for her LinkedIn profile. In this article she states that at first she saw her job loss as an opportunity to find something that suited her, but as the months passed, summoning enthusiasm to continuously start applications over and over again from scratch became exhausting. The interview process for her current job was much more understanding, and she says that she started to feel more like a person again. She thanks Campfire Data Analytics for asking her who she thought could be rather than taking her resume at face-value. She is also grateful for her support system made up of her family and friends that helped her get through this difficult time. To encourage others in their own searches Miranda concluded her post stating that: “If anyone out there is feeling like they can relate a little too much to this post, all I can say is don’t give up hope. You got this.”
Data analytics was not a job she considered while she was at WSU. Miranda’s previous experience related more to marketing, despite having some data analytics elements at times. However, while she was applying for jobs she thought: “why not?” Despite it not being one of her previous considerations, it ended up being a good fit for her interests in analytical thinking and investigative problem solving.
Currently she is working hard making dashboards of analytics data for different clients. These dashboards help companies such as Starbucks and Microsoft figure out how many people are visiting their websites, get more brand name recognition, analyze data to help companies reach customers, and hold onto customers so they keep coming back to their brand rather than another choice.
In the DTC program she says she has acquired a diverse set of skills that helped her transition from a career in marketing to data analytics without being intimidated by the unfamiliar territory.
Outside of work, Miranda keeps busy with her many personal projects. One of her favorite projects was when she worked on a project called ARscape which is software that allows people to draw something and press a button to extrude it into a 3D image visible on their camera. You can check out more about Miranda’s projects on her personal website.
Ayanna Mendoza is a DTC Alumna currently working as a Brand Design Specialist at Pullman Regional Hospital. She originally interviewed for the position right before she graduated in May 2020. However, due to COVID-19 pandemic she was not able to immediately start. She instead moved to Boise while she waited to start her position at the hospital and then was graciously able to accept and continue the position remotely.
Ayanna has always been an artistic person that has wanted to do graphic design and digital art as a career choice. While she was working her way towards a bachelor’s degree in DTC, Ayanna started contemplating a more traditional career at the end of her sophomore year and explored nursing. She even earned her certification to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Although this increased her appreciation for healthcare workers, Ayanna is a creative at heart and missed the collaborative environment and expression in the DTC program. This made her realize that nursing was not the career for her, so by her senior year she made her way back to the DTC program.
Ayanna’s position at the hospital also feels serendipitous. Ayanna grew up in Pullman and was even born at Pullman Regional Hospital (technically Pullman Memorial Hospital which has now evolved into the WSU Health & Wellness Center before it expanded to the current location and underwent the name change). It is also where she worked during her time as a CNA. While her work on the marketing team is very different, her previous experience as a CNA is what led her back to the organization. Ayanna loves working at Pullman Regional Hospital and states that the organization and people she works with are amazing and that the work culture is wonderful.
As a Brand and Design specialist, Ayanna is on a small team for external relations. She assists in marketing efforts to provide visual assets for both print and digital means that support internal departments and their clinic network, social media, their website and blog, and community outreach efforts. Alongside this Ayanna ensures all content is on-brand and cohesive and collaborates with other members of her team for larger marketing campaigns and strategy development. This was and wasn’t a job that Ayanna thought about doing during her time at WSU. She always wanted to explore the marketing aspect of design, and while she loved her hometown and the family she leaves behind, she also always wanted to venture out of Pullman as she loves big cities. Currently working remotely from Boise, she states her gratitude for being able to keep one foot, and a piece of her heart, in Pullman.
During her time as a Brand and Design specialist, Ayanna has already worked on quite a few projects. One of her favorite projects is the Birth Control E-Book print publication that she was able to work on. Her team worked with one of the Physician Assistants, Teresa Tomaszewski, to develop content on birth control and the types of birth controls that are available. Ayanna says that women’s healthcare is a passion of hers, and also one of the reasons why she briefly pursued nursing. Through this project she was able to join her passion for women’s healthcare with her creative passion in order to create a visual representation of relevant, reliable, and accessible information.
Recently, Ayanna’s team also started investing some of the budget into digital ad design. Throughout their efforts, they have been able to expand their subscribers significantly. She is very proud of this as the digital community and content her team, and providers, have created directly respond to the community’s needs and interests and deserve so much recognition.
Another project Ayanna is currently working on is a print publication that is published biannually She enjoys the more traditional design work as well- there is nothing like having something tangible to hold onto and see “fresh off the press”!
For more information on Ayanna and to see more of her work, check out her personal portfolio.
Aidan Aumell Develops AR/VR Field Trip to Kamiak Butte
By: Max Ciot
Aidan Aumell had the opportunity to work as an intern at an Augmented Reality (AR) program this past summer called “Simply Augmented” as well as working previously at WSU Virtual Reality Research Lab. This sparked his interest in AR and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences, specifically in how it can be used in educational settings, especially environmental education.
Aidan took SOE 300: Natural Resource Ecology in the Spring Semester of 2020 taught by Dr. William E. Schlosser, known to his students as Dr. Bill. Typically every semester there is an in-person class field trip to Kamiak Butte County Park. Unfortunately, Aidan was in one of the last groups of students to visit the park prior to the start of the global pandemic in Spring of 2020. Aidan shared his ideas with Dr. Schlosser about integrating 360 videos, AR, and VR into the environmental education system prior to the start of the pandemic. However, when it began, they started actively collaborating on creating an accessible virtual field trip for future students of the class to experience.
Previously, Aidan had some interesting AR related experiences in his internship work at Simply Augmented that helped him prepare for his work on the Kamiak Butte project. For example, Smithsonian Museum released artifacts to the public domain. For his internship he downloaded 3D models from the Smithsonian website, adjusted the size and height of the 3D models, and placed them into Simply Augmented’s personal augmented reality software program. The program allows you to load 3D models into it and have an augmented reality experience with them. He also wrote blog posts with lesson plans, and descriptions of the objects which could be used as an activity by teachers during social distancing.
Aidan believes that AR and VR can provide students and teachers alike with a unique experience. He states that it is a “very educational tool that is under utilized in classrooms due to it being very new” and can see the implementation of it more in the future due to social distancing, and the accessibility it provides in the current pandemic. The reason Aidan and Dr. Bill created this virtual field trip was to substitute the real field trip from a distance, they plan to continue using this virtual field trip along with the real one when COVID ends.
The AR/VR field trip to Kamiak Butte consists of an interactive tour that includes 360 videos (filmed by Aidan himself), drone videos (recorded by doctoral environmental science student, Danny Auchieb), wildlife photography (managed by an Environmental Science Teaching Assistant that is enthusiastic about wildlife photography, Dylan Koopmans) and narration (by Dr. Bill). Aidan created the virtual field trip with an e-learning software Adobe Captivate to build interactive tour of Kamiak Butte.
Aidan organized the project and collaborated with team members Madison Kilkenny, Tholen Blasko, Emily Barrier, Austin Aumell, Danny Auerbach, Dylan Koopman, and Dr. Bill to launch the project.
In the virtual field trip interface, viewers teleport to various locations within Kamiak Butte to learn about the ecology, geology, and cultural and tribal significance related to the butte. In various butte locations viewers click on icons to bring up text, narrated videos, drone videos, and even change the season within a VR view.
Tree data is represented visually throughout the virtual field trip, showing physical site characteristics, tree species, size, height, and population density. Viewers record this data as it is processed to discover how trees capture atmospheric carbon molecules to sequester carbon in roots, stems, and foliage. Students have discovered how much carbon is sequestered in individual trees, how much is contained in each species, and how much is sequestered in the entire forest. Viewers place meaning on assertions about the carbon sequestration in the forests they visit, even in the virtual reality interface.
Aidan also developed an open source website to host the field trip along with the VR/AR experiences and more. Due to his previous web-design experience, he was able to create this website nearly from scratch. Students are able to access the virtual field trip using not only VR headsets, but also through desktop computers and mobile devices. Aidan developed a 3D map of Kamiak Butte’s topography for students to view in augmented reality as well. You can view the website here.
Aidan also has a handful of projects he is hoping to work on within the next few years, however, he still has a way to go on his Kamiak Butte project. Aidan is currently filming at three locations in Kamiak Butte every month for a year in order to show seasonal change shown here. Furthermore, he has talked about working with local tribes and the school of medicine to incorporate diverse information about into the project as well. Furthermore, he has talked about working on more projects with various classes at WSU, local tribes, and small local businesses.
Once the Kamiak Butte project is done, it’s effect on Aidan’s life trajectory will continue to solidify. During this project Dr. Bill inspired Aidan to go to graduate school. Aidan applied and will be starting in the Spring. He will be pursing a masters degree in education curriculum and instruction and hopes to keep developing more AR/VR experiences for educational settings at WSU. He will also be working at the VR2GO LAB with Dr. Don McMahon in graduate school. Aidan dreams of using his Digital Technology and Culture background and his newly gained knowledge in the master’s educational program to create VR/AR experiences for students across the globe. He hopefully wants to continue working in the education realm and aligning AR/VR experiences in already-established curriculum.