Archive for the ‘Academics’ Category

Backstage Lists Six Great Digital Art Schools

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Student team working in Studio E where they are creating a short animation based on a story along with an interactive book version for mobile platforms to deepen the reader’s experience and further immerse them in the story.

An article in Backstage advises actors that developing their ability to create content is a must.  Cogswell College is one of the 6 schools the publication recommends.

With Cogswell’s focus on collaboration and project-based learning, plus strong programs in animation, audio and digital media management, the College is a great fit for performance artists wanting to build their content creation toolkit.

An Interview with Tim Heath, New Director of Cogswell’s Project X Studio

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Tim Heath, Director of Cogswell's Project X Studio

Question:  Tell us a little about your background.

Tim:  I earned my Bachelor degree in Business Administration and an Art Minor from James Madison University. After graduation I was in marketing planning to focus on the creative side of advertising but when I did an internship at an advertising agency in Richmond, Virginia, I felt more comfortable with the production side of things – posting commercials and doing a little bit of effects work.  After graduation this led me to a company that was doing this kind of work. They were all Silicon Graphics – really expensive machines and state-of-the art software – but it was for government entities, three letter words basically, and while really interesting work but with security clearances none of my work was going to see the light of day. I met my future wife in college and she was from New York. My goal was to get into film or television and more opportunities existed in New York so we moved up there.

Question:  So how did you move from advertising to film?

Tim:  I did some freelance work for ABC and eventually landed a job with Post Perfect, a big post-production house. Still all the film work was mostly being done in California and I figured that was where I eventually wanted to end up. However, life doesn’t always go in a straight line. I got my first film-gig job with Square Pictures in Hawaii where I was Lead Animator for “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.” When that studio closed, I got my chance to move to California. I got a job with Electronic Arts as Animation Supervisor.

Question:  That’s still not film work, so how did this help you achieve your goal?

Tim:  Well, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was the first feature film I worked on; I then worked on a short film for the Wachowski Brothers’ Animatrix series before Square Pictures closed. It’s also when they were trying to do a lot of film work in video games, trying to push the technology in games themselves and trying to push storytelling in games. I have game credits for Lord of the Rings and The Godfather.

Question:  When did you get your film break?

Tim:  From Electronic Arts, I had the opportunity to go to ILM and work on “Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest,” as one of the senior animators but it was a huge crew. So I just kind of came in and did my shots and it was a great experience because that’s exactly the kind of movie I wanted to work on when I first got into the mix. Back when I saw Jurassic Park, I thought, “That’s what I want to do. I want to work at ILM.”

Question:  Why did you leave ILM?

Tim:  After that show, one of the short films I had made entitled, Lagerheads, while I was on my own caught the attention of some guys at Nvidia. They we remaking some rendering software and asked me to come on board to make short films for them using their rendering software.  To me that was like the dream job part two where you go in and you get to make whatever you want, within reason, whatever you want and plus I was with some of the brightest guys in the industry doing rendering. That’s what I would like to eventually do at AMD where I am now – to make short films.

Question:  So what made you decide to teach at Cogswell College?

Tim:  It hasn’t gone that way just yet at my day job but I have this bug of still wanting to make short films and the chance to do that is one of the reasons that brought me to Cogswell.

Question:  Tell us about your work with the Project X Studio at Cogswell.

Tim:  As you know, this will be the fourth film to come out of Project X. Two did quite well in the film festival circuit and the third, “Driven” is just getting started but I’m sure it will do well too. I’m working with a team of about 18 students right now and I think we’re going to be able to get something really nice done. The goal is to have the film ready by early 2015 – about 1 year from now. The students are all very eager to work hard to make something incredible. While I brought a story, I’m also involving the students in helping develop the story. I brought the characters and an outline of what I think we can accomplish. Right now we’re going over story beats and revising it. We have a little story team of four or five of the students and we’re pounding it out and adding things and taking things out and making it better together as a group. I’m also not the only faculty who is mentoring students. David Perry is animation lead, Kong Vang is lead concept design and Rob Garcia is overseeing the pipeline, rigging and modeling issues. Richard Schimpf is consulting on the story development. Finally Julius Dobos will lead the audio portion of the film when we get to that point but we’ve consulted with him to give him a frame of reference for the eventual music and sound effects we’re going to need. I’d like to utilize all the great talent we have at Cogswell.

Question:  So what is it like to be a student working in the Project X Studio?

Tim:  Even though we just got started, you don’t walk past the Project X room without seeing people in there working and diving into it. Because we are using different software than previous films, they’re learning new software.  We’re rendering with V-Ray and composting with Nuke. They’re also learning fur technology. The goal is to push the look of the film we are making.

Question:  Any other plans for the project?

Tim:  As we develop the story and are a little further into the production pipeline, I’d like to be more open about the project and let everyone know what we are doing. I think it would be fun for everyone on campus watch it develop. Maybe we can even put up a production blog so people can follow our progress.

Question:  Any final thoughts?

Tim:  I’ve led teams of animators but never led a team of students so this is really exciting for me. I want us to learn from each other and produce a film that we will all be proud of. Given the amazing work done by students in the past, I think we will create something incredible together.

Learn more about our Digital Art & Animation degree program.

The Art of Teamwork

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Collaboration is a work you hear all the time. It’s become a buzz word but its meaning has become diluted through constant use.

Here at Cogswell College we don’t just say it, we do it. In our Digital Art & Animation degree program students develop the fundamentals of design, form and stretching their imaginations but they also focus on building their team work skills. Our project-based learning environment helps them understand what it means to work with other for a common goal.

In this short video, student Katie Fortune, describes her experience not only developing her talent but what it’s like to work on a project with other students.

“They will ask me about my artistic opinion sometimes and I’m really honored when they do because there are some really artistic, creative people on my team.”

Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Cogswell’s curriculum has a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and helping our students develop the skills they need to build a successful enterprise.  The College offers a degree in Digital Media Management and focuses on entrepreneurial thought, customer discovery, project management and business practices within the expanding marketplace of digital media.

One of the skills that receives lots of attention is how to market your startup. We found this helpful slideshare presentation that walks you through the basics. The offers tips for choosing a market, defining keywords, setting core metrics, choosing social media networks, creating social media content, measuring against benchmarks and much more.

Click here to learn more about our Digital Media Management program.

What Does it Take to Bring a Software Engineering Idea to Life

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Ed Hartwig & Zach Childers

You have an idea for a great – or at least intriguing – software project but how do you get started? This short video featuring an animatronic dragon’s head project designed by two Cogswell students offers insight into the development stage.

The project started over the summer as part of a special projects class in conjunction with San Jose’s TechShop. Zach and Ed wanted to build something that would resonate with the Cogswell community and be an inspiration for getting artists and engineers to collaborate.

While they still have a way to go before their prototype becomes the finished piece they envision, they have a solid plan in place to reach their goal.

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.