Archive for the ‘Academics’ Category

Math Skills are Important But Employers Want More

Monday, November 18th, 2013

There has been a lot of talk over the past few years that employers are having difficulty filling positions due to a lack of applicants with the requisite science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) skills – but there may be one more characteristic they need in employees that is also missing. A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.

According to the article in Business Time, internships make a difference in how prepared a student is to enter the workforce. At Cogswell College we also have a strong focus on providing a project-based education that involves not only learning to work as part of a high-functioning team but also learning to participate in status presentations throughout the project development cycle.

The article concludes that you can’t teach these skills – communication, prioritizing and organizing work, managing projects, how to work in teams and with diverse groups – in a short period of time. We agree, which is why students spend their time at Cogswell acquiring these valuable competences.

Cogswell College is Happy to be the Exception in Educating Software Engineers

Monday, November 4th, 2013

We often hear about the great job prospects for software engineering grads but according to this article in Dark Reading by Gunter Ollmann, many new grads are finding the scope of those jobs limited by their lack of real-world experience. Mr. Ollmann says that the crux of the problem boils down to colleges missing two critical educational opportunities:

  1. In most colleges students predominantly work on individual assignments rather than collaborative projects.
  2. The vast majority of assignments require students to create code from scratch instead of working on code written by someone else.

Project-based learning is a hallmark of a Cogswell College education. Students have numerous opportunities to work in teams of artists, animators, audio specialists and software engineers and gain the experience they need to become a valuable asset to future employers.

Independence High School After School Program

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Faculty,Tony Dias, helps students with the day's lesson. Tony graduated from Independence High.

Cogswell College and Independence High School have teamed up to introduce high school students to the exciting opportunities that blending art and technology opens to them. Over the course of 10 weeks students choose either digital painting or audio desktop production for the first 5 weeks and software engineering or video game design for the final 5 weeks.

“The goal of this program is to get students excited about something they might initially think is boring,” says Abraham Chacko, executive director of admissions and facilitator for the after school program at Cogswell College. “These are kids from the Silicon Valley,” Chacko continues. “When they hear the word ‘engineering,’ they think ‘I don’t want to have a job like my parents,’ but when you mention Disney, Pixar or video games and the job opportunities associated with them, they become excited about learning programming and engineering skills.”

Faculty, Reid Winfrey, offers design tips to students on the day's lesson.

The demand for skilled engineers in the U.S. continues to grow, with engineering degree holders experiencing some of the best job prospects in the country straight out of college. Jack Aiello is a Project Lead The Way trained instructor who teaches Introduction Engineering Design at Independence High, and is coordinator of the pre-engineering program, Space Technology Engineering Academy Magnet (STEAM). He serves as the faculty facilitator for the after-school program, in partnership with Chacko and uses a project-based, individualized teaching method similar to Cogswell’s.

“The ability to connect and engage our students in Cogswell’s environment is incredible,” says Aiello. “Running a class with 25 students working in a project-based environment is more advantageous than a traditional teaching model with lectures or video presentations at the front of a classroom of 35 or more students. The hands-on computer and audio equipment, programming tools and Industry experienced instructors available at Cogswell allow our students an exciting peek into the real world of the digital creative arts. At the end of each of our two hour weekly sessions at Cogswell, the students walk away with a feeling of accomplishment and pride for what they have created. They are enthusiastic and look forward to coming back next week.  Our students are on the consumer side of the ‘Digital Divide’, many from immigrant families that use technology, social media and video games, but don’t know how to leverage the technology to create something NEW; such as designing a video game, making an animated movie, or producing their own music. ”

Learn more in this news item.

Cogswell Students Selected for Disney Animation Inspire Day

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

L. to R., Robert Mariazeta, Steven Chitwood, Alondra Paco, Colton Fetters and Michael Sardi

On Wednesday, October 3, Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California is hosting its 5th Annual Disney Animation Inspire Day and five talented Cogswell College students will be among the select few invited to participate. The students taking part in the day-long event are: Steven Chitwood, Colton Fetters, Robert Mariazeta, Michael Sardi and Alondra Paco. The group includes two technical artists and three animators.

For the first time Inspire Day attendees were chosen through an online application process that required them to submit an application, resume, demo reel and letter of recommendation from their faculty. If they had a website, the application asked for links to that as well. Since the application period fell during Cogswell’s break between the summer and fall terms, students who applied had to scramble to get everything in on time.

“For me it was pretty last minute,” said Michael Sardi, “but I had some good 3D work from the Animation in Game class and the Intro to Animation class, some clay models from Sculpture class and some 2D work from an animation project that Robert and I are working on so was able to put my reel together.”

Alondra Paco and Robert Mariazeta faced the same issue. Alondra had a rough reel ready but had to come into campus during the break so she could access Premier Pro in our computer labs.

Steven Chitwood and Colton Fetters had both worked on the most recent film from Cogswell’s Project X animation studio class so were able to populate their demo reels half with material from the film and half with projects they had worked on in various classes. As the two technical artists, Colton focused on compositing and lighting skills while Steven focused on visual effects work.

The group is taking an early morning flight to Burbank tomorrow morning so they will be at Disney by 9:00AM.  During the day students will get a behind-the-scenes look at how Disney films are made, have their demo reel critiqued by industry professionals and a lucky few may be invited to apply for either an internship or job.

They fly back home later that evening and though we know they will be tired – we’re sure that the Disney experience will inspire them! Good luck and we can’t wait to hear how your day went.

Cogswell College: A Microcosm of Silicon Valley

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

While many regions around the world have access to talented artists and engineers, groundbreaking marketers, infusions of capital and excellent universities – what is it that makes Silicon Valley so special and difficult to reproduce elsewhere?

It’s not in the water but it does seem to be in the air we breathe. We operate differently in the Silicon Valley and have a very different mindset about how to do business. Words often used to describe this unique area include: entrepreneurial, passionate, future-focused, collaborative, high-energy, innovative, creative, techy, team-oriented and willingness to take a chance.

In an article published in the Washington Post, author Victor Hwang, identifies a key element that is often overlooked. Other regions “focus primarily on its ingredients — its obvious assets, like venture capital, skilled workers and universities. What they have largely ignored is its recipe — the social interactions that turn those ingredients into vibrant companies.”

He goes on to state, “arguably, the most important factor in its success has been the formation of a unique culture — one that allows people with diverse skills, who often don’t know each other, to mix and match: collaborating and trusting in ways that people in other cultures don’t. It is not simply creative destruction, as many observers say. More importantly, it is a process of creative reassembly, as people join forces on temporary projects and then recirculate and recombine for other projects later.”

Cogswell College, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is a true microcosm of Silicon Valley. Within our walls a true collaborative spirit exists. Students, faculty, alumni and external ventures dive into projects and work together to give them life thus gaining valuable collaboration and teamwork competencies. The groups formed bring a diversity of talents, skills, life experiences and perspectives to the task at hand plus an eagerness to learn and desire to create something extraordinary.

Visitors to our campus respond to the natural curiosity and energy permeating Cogswell’s classrooms and labs as teams tackle whatever challenge is in front of them. Whether you are a student in our Undergraduate program or Master’s program Cogswell encourages its students to create, innovate and apply what they have learned in a project-based curriculum that focuses on delivering market-ready products. Students learn to work on teams that mirror real development teams consisting of artists, animators, audio experts and project managers – with software engineering at its core.

With the ability to assemble multidisciplinary teams from within its programs of study, Cogswell College is uniquely positioned to deliver market-ready projects to partner companies and organizations. A sampling of projects we have collaborated on include:

  • Interactive Logo Designs – Cogswell’s Sound Design class developed new logo treatments for Cogswell (seen at the end of the video posted below) and for two different external partner organizations.
  • Interactive Book – Using the latest industry-standard technology, students are working under faculty guidance to create an artistically stunning interactive book (or whatever text Thomas approves).
  • Mobile game – Prairie Rainbow develops table top games to help younger students learn math concepts. Cogswell students are developing a mobile game version of the company’s Rainbow Squares learning tool.

Cogswell also encourages it students to develop their own projects through and supports their efforts. Original student development projects include: game development, operating student store, 3D printing and audio theater projects.

One of the things that sets Silicon Valley apart from other tech development centers, is the sharing of ideas and expertise. Few days go by without an opportunity to attend meetups, salons, hackathons, live/work houses, clubs and industry-specific events. Most have an open door policy – if you are interested in whatever the topic, stop by to learn and network. There is an accessibility to successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley unavailable in other tech regions largely fostered by the area’s culture of sharing knowledge with the next generation of entrepreneurs.

At Cogswell College we bring all the pieces together in one place. Our students have the opportunity to collaborate with other students who possess a diverse range of skills and interests on projects, they have access to Silicon Valley thought leaders and a long history of innovation and cutting-edge education. Cogswell College truly is a microcosm of Silicon Valley.

Check out this video to learn more about how Cogswell mirrors the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Puzzle Game Project Class Gets Underway

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

In a recent Skype call on a large monitor at the front of the classroom, George Gagnon, Founder of Prairie Rainbow Company, met with students and faculty for an introductory session to clarify parameters for the project and to present the concepts the two student teams developed in a 48 hour turnaround.

The eleven students enrolled in the class were divided into two teams and tasked with creating a video game version of the Rainbow Squares table top game. Rainbow Squares is a puzzle game designed for elementary, secondary or adult learners to use as an individual or group learning tool. The game consists of six squares, each made up of three different rainbow-colored pieces. Each of these pieces can be used to form other squares using two, four, five or six pieces or can be used to learn addition and fractions.

“Rainbow Math Models are designed to engage students and let them learn through the method that is best for them,” said George. “Feelings learners get to build a physical model, image learners can create a visual model, while language learners have the chance to hear, read, or write a number model,” added George.  “I think by offering Rainbow Squares as a virtual learning tool, more students will have access to the learning method that works for them.”

After students introduced themselves, a representative from each team outlined the concepts they were considering for the game design.

The Red Team started with general ideas and then branched out. They thought it was important for the video game to represent the physical game since the product has been so successful. The team’s goal is to make students want to play the game over and over. They also discussed implementing different levels for different shapes such as one level to focus on manipulating squares, another for pentagons and another for triangles. Other ideas involved creating a limited moves mode or an addition mode with each block being assigned a numerical value. The team would also like to explore a multiplayer option.

The Blue Team first wanted to know if George would prefer a more structural approach to presenting the concepts of addition and fractions or would he consider a more spatial representation of the math concepts through graphs or perhaps as weights on a scale. Would he like the final game to be more session-based play or individual play? If he would like a more structural approach to teaching the concepts, then they are thinking about a more traditional approach with something like Tetris.

“I love the creativity the teams have put into the process. I’m excited about what I’ve heard today and can’t wait to see the finished products,” said George.

Creating Interactive Books: An Interview with Author, Roxie Munro

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Since one of Cogswell College’s newest project-based class involves creating interactive books, we thought it would be fun to hear from someone in the industry. In this interview in Digital Book World, Beth Bacon talks to children’s author and illustrator, Roxie Munro.

During the interview, Roxie shares her thoughts and lessons learned when converting from traditional children’s book author to interactive children’s stories. Roxie talks about making the transition from children’s books to apps, the most difficult thing about this new form of storytelling, the future of children’s books and what advice she has for other creative people in this industry.

Can’t wait to see what our Interactive Studio class creates!

Cogswell Announces the Appointment of Dr. Zachi Baharav to Lead Engineering Program

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Dr. Zachi Baharav joined the Cogswell College faculty on August 1 as Director of Engineering, Director of the Master’s program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the Executive Director of the Cogswell Idea & Innovation Lab. Dr. Baharav is a Silicon Valley innovator who brings a rich background in research and applied engineering, most recently with Corning West Technology Center.

Dr. Baharav envisions an engineering department that brings the artistic flavor of Cogswell to tangible products, drawing on the cultural strength of Cogswell’s animation, game and audio programs. A Silicon Valley resident for 14 years, Dr. Baharav plans to use his familiarity with local industry to engage engineering students with real-life applications by collaborating with local Silicon Valley groups. These relationships will also contribute immensely to the Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship program. A focal point for combining all this will be the Idea and Innovation Lab, where undergraduates from all of Cogswell’s degree programs benefit from the skill, talent and creativity of each other as they build their ventures or work on corporate projects.

“Engineering is the process of bringing science into practical applications. It is the perfect tool to bring various abstract artistic ideas to fruition and make them work,” says Dr. Baharav. “It’s important to give undergraduates the chance to solve specific problems and bring things to completion. We are focusing on making things practical and relevant, without sacrificing the theoretical base. One of Cogswell’s advantages is that it is small and nimble—allowing its students greater flexibility to engage collaboratively with other departments—while being set in the incredibly creative environment of Silicon Valley.”

According to Dr. Baharav, art and engineering are highly complementary disciplines. “We have moved from functional-centered products to design-centered products,” says Dr. Baharav, “In the past, engineers determined the functionality of the product, which in turn drove the design. These days, the designers determine the look and feel of a product, and engineers need to make it work. As we move forward, people are looking for personalized devices. Artistic, personal expression in your own device is coming, be it in the external design or in the content you watch – and this is exactly the intersection of Art and Engineering.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Baharav’s high-profile Silicon Valley background and engineering expertise to Cogswell,” says Dr. Deborah Snyder, provost and chief academic officer at Cogswell. “The energy and creativity he brings to the engineering program will incorporate the world of mobile, consumer electronics and big data visualization into our curriculum. Also under Dr. Baharav’s guidance, graduate students will work on their own innovations and ideas and create their own business plans before taking their product to market.”

Dr. Baharav holds more than 30 patents in diverse areas ranging from printing to millimeter wave imaging, from digital cameras to touch sensing, and others. Many of those were used in products. He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Consumer Electronics Society. He previously worked at HP/Agilent and Synaptics.

Circuit-Bend Electronic Toys into Sonic Monsters

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Cogswell students with a laser harp they built

Tinkering with electronic audio gadgets seems to be in the DNA of most audio engineers or sound designers. The mindset seems to be – this is good, but I’ll bet I can make it better. Experimentation is a key characteristic of this group. This article in eMusician, examines the process of circuit bending.

The term “circuit bending” was coined in 1992 when Reed Ghazala began publishing a series of articles in the Experimental Musical Instruments Quarterly Journal titled “Circuit Bending and Living Instruments.” Circuit bending describes the modification of an electronic sound device beyond the designer’s intentions, adding new sonic and functional possibilities.

At Cogswell College our Digital Audio Technology students are encouraged to experiment as they participate in a full-range of hands on projects.

Math for Video Game Developer Tutorial

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Cogswell students in physics class learning important math concepts

For those thinking about becoming a video game programmer, here’s a weekly instructional YouTube series that shows you how to use math to make your games. Every Thursday you’ll learn how to implement one game design, starting from the underlying mathematical concept and ending with its C++ implementation.

As part of Cogswell College’s Game Design & Development degree program, you have the opportunity to gain in-depth, hands-on experience learning and using both the math and physics you will need to enter the video game industry. Our curriculum focuses on giving you the fundamental skills and then applying them in a project-based educational environment.

Whether you are more interested in the art side or the engineering side of game, our degree program gives you the tools you need to be successful.