Archive for the ‘Academics’ Category

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.

Best Metro Area to Find Top Tech Grads

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

You’ve put in your time, studied hard and now with your software engineering degree in hand it’s time to start looking for that first job.

Here’s a list from Entrepreneur.com where companies find the majority of their tech grads.

Did you know that two of the top ten are right here in the Bay Area? Cogswell College grads are lucky enough to be right here in the middle of best place for companies to find those quality tech employees.

Game Studio Class Works with Prairie Rainbow Company

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

This fall the Game Studio Class will roll up its collective sleeves, put on their thinking caps and create a ‘Rainbow Squares’ mobile and pc game for the Prairie Rainbow Company to help elementary school children learn math.

This Oakland California company is operated by George Gagnon, Pre-Engineering Partnerships Director at UC Berkeley and Michelle Collay, Director of the Urban Teacher Leadership program at Cal State East Bay. Prairie Rainbow develops board games and teacher and parent guides to help students learn math. The Rainbow Math Models are designed to engage tactile learners who need to build a physical model, image learners who need to create a representation of  a mental model, and language learners who need to hear, read, or write a number model. Rainbow Math Models are made of wood that is hand cut and painted by home crafts people in the Bay Area of California.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to work with Rainbow Prairie Company to help them move in a new direction by designing a video game that suits the learning needs of their customers,” said Jerome Solomon, head of the Game Design & Development program at Cogswell. “One goal of our Game program is to offer students real-world learning opportunities. This partnership gives students the chance to not only design a math learning game but to test the prototype in local schools.”

This is a big step for Prairie Rainbow Company as it ventures into the realm of using video games to help children master important math and conceptualization skills. Cogswell College is pleased they chose to partner with us to develop this additional learning pathway for its customers.

You can enroll for the class now. Fall 2013 semester starts August 26.

Women in Animation Presentation at Pixar

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Cogswell College students at the Women in Animation San Francisco Pixar Studio event.

On July 16 more than 20 female students attended the Women in Animation San Francisco screening of Monsters University at Pixar Studio. After the movie, everyone at the event had the chance to listen to a panel of talented women who worked in Technical, Artistic and Production roles on the film followed by an audience Q&A session.

Rosalie Wynne, one of the students who attended was impressed by the size of Pixar and the amenities they provide their employees like the dining areas all over the building. “I also enjoyed touring the second floor where they kept their art gallery and had some concept art on display,” she said.

Students Rosalie Wynne and Cara Ricci at Pixar

Rosalie noticed that the panelist had mostly arrived at Pixar in the mid-1990s to early-2000s and were able to work their way up the ranks. She doesn’t think that approach will work now. “Our generation has to have all this schooling and amazing portfolios and reels to be considered for jobs now. I think the days are mostly past when  you can start at the bottom and work your way up into an artist’s position,” she added.

One of the main things the panelists stressed was the importance of being collaborative and to learn to communicate effectively. They said overall, working at Pixar is about being a team player plus learning when to fight for your ideas and when to let them go.

At Cogswell College – in addition to an amazing faculty and curriculum – we provide multiple learning experiences both through on-campus and off-campus events.

Students Amanda Martinez, Ashley Evans, Jennifer Hicks and friends at Pixar.

Rapid Concept Visualization Special Topic Class

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

If you would like to move your design skills into the stratosphere, then consider taking DAA 106: Digital Imaging Concepts. In this class faculty member, Jared Gross who works at Juice Box Games in San Francisco, shows students how to go from loose, freehand sketches to final presentation quickly. The course focuses on rapid sketching techniques using tablets and Photoshop, material and rendering methods, rapid visualization of forms in perspective and portfolio presentation and development ideas.

Students will also gain valuable experience using conceptual tools for creating unique and visually interesting forms for hard-surface models, vehicle designs, environments and characters. The goal is to learn to use digital and traditional media to quickly describe elemental and complex forms and then use these forms in the creation of assets for game and film.

Jared has a degree in transportation design and began his career as a vehicle designer in the automotive industry. He is now following his passion for character design by moving his focus to the game industry.

Visit Cogswell’s website to register.