Archive for the ‘Alumni’ Category

Goodbye to Cogswell

Friday, May 8th, 2015

It passed by in a flash, just like I’d expected it to when I first arrived here. To be honest, some days did drag on especially long—mostly during finals week when I was running on empty and animating furiously at 3 in the morning. Even during the roughest spots of my education here at Cogswell, I always felt blessed that I was doing what I loved and never regretted the amount of work that went into it. Whenever I had doubts, I would remind myself, ‘you could be in nursing school right now,’ and instantly whatever difficult project I was working on didn’t seem so bad anymore. Getting to do what I loved every single day was a luxury that it seems I’d fought my entire life to have.

I definitely learned some important and valuable lessons during my time here. Some I’ve noticed as a bystander, others up close and personally. I’d like to list a few here.

1. Don’t wait for things to change, be proactive and be the change.
One of the biggest problems I’d see around school were plenty of students complaining about their lives or the way things were run. A lot of whining, but very few people taking the time to make a change or coming up with solutions for problems. This may sound harsh, but if people put the same amount of energy into just making things happen rather than constantly expressing dissatisfaction, we’d be in a different place altogether.

2. The connections you make now will carry on to the future.
You know the kids you’re going to school with? Take a good look, because chances are you’ll be working with them later. Don’t be a jerk. Share cookies. Give positive feedback rather than dismissing their efforts at what they’re trying to do. The relationship you’re forming now could be the key to establishing good connections in the industry later.

3. Don’t be arrogant.
Yes, be confident in your work and what you can bring to the table… but please don’t be that person that’s so absorbed in their work that they come off sounding hypercritical and judgmental all the time. Always be willing to take criticism and advice, and be supportive instead of condemning. You’ll be kicking yourself later when you try to get into an industry full of extremely talented people who by contrast are actually willing to listen and learn.

4. Always be willing to work hard.
It will pay off. If you want to be an artist badly enough, a strong work ethic comes automatically. The desire to design or create will overpower the one to veg out and binge-watch the entire series of Doctor Who (just barely) Remember that you are competing against tons of people talented and obsessed with their craft. You just have to be better and even more obsessed!

While it’s exciting to get out into the real world and make things happen, it’s also difficult to leave the school where I’ve spent the last three years of my life. As the building is going to be demolished, it’s sad knowing that everything’s going to be torn down and that the place I’ve practically lived in will no longer exist. Cogswell will continue of course, but this building in particular holds special memories.

To the remaining and future students; work hard, play hard, and I want to see you guys do some great stuff! Go Cogswell!

Sierra Gaston

Google’s Project Tango at Cogswell College

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Recently, a small group from Google visited Cogswell College to teach a class about and demonstrate Project Tango. What is Project Tango exactly? Project Tango is a brand new mobile device that has the ability to navigate the world, similar to us humans. It’s an Android device/platform that has spatial perception, and accomplishes this by using advanced computer vision, image processing, and special vision sensors.

One may think, “That’s all fine and cool, but what does this thing do exactly? And what practical applications can be derived from such a technology?”. To put it simply, what Tango does is continuously scan the surrounding environment as the user walks around with the hand-held device, and then it uses the data it collects to construct a 3D model of the environment. It uses motion tracking to give real time info about it’s motion through 3D space.  It also uses depth sensors for depth perception (allowing for interactions between the real world and the virtual world Tango has built/is building) and it can learn new areas intelligently. If there are any errors with the 3D model it has created, Tango can use visual cues around the space to re-render and fix trouble areas. The potential applications for such a technology includes, but isn’t limited to, new Virtual Reality or AR games and applications, video games, rapid environment generation, and more. The potential is limited only by imagination.

The Cogswell class, which is currently learning to use Unity, was tasked with testing the devices, running an application, and providing feedback as they went along. Google called it a Code Lab event, the purpose of which was to iron out and fix any bugs in the system before this year’s Google I/O conference in roughly two months. Students debugged Google’s sample instructions, tested and ran the code, and followed development environment instructions – all while under the direction of watchful and curious Google engineers. Google had previously tested these devices at nVidia, but were impressed to see that Cogswell students produced better results and provided higher quality feedback.

For the demo, students were each provided with a Tango tablet device, USB cables, a pin code to unlock the devices, and a URL in which they found further instructions. The students booted up their devices and launched a 3D mapping app which tracked their movements. As they moved around the classroom, the students got feedback through interactive mapping, cloud arrays and more. The students then returned to their workstations to continue the demo. The students went through a series of environments to get an app running in Unity, importing that app into their devices, then running that app on their devices as they moved around. Some students continued with the instructions provided to them, whilst others conversed with the Google engineers.

The success rate of the tests and demos was 100%, much better than other tests that Google had done before. Whenever any of the students would get stuck, they would first work together for a solution, using the Google engineers as a last resort. Working together led all students to success. As the class progressed, the Code Lab event slowly turned into a seminar where students brainstormed potential applications for the technology.  Ideas included a music application for better microphone location/tracking within a room and an app capable of creating 3D sound environments.

All in all, it was a successful demo and everyone walked away with new knowledge – and an amazing experience!

Based on notes from John Duhring’s experience
with additional content and editing by Juan Rubio

Tour with Gree International

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Image source: http://www.bcciconst.com/

Thanks to my attendance at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco last month, I was able to meet the Director of Engineering from Gree mobile. After he helped me with a portfolio review, I asked if it was possible to tour the studio to see how their pipeline worked. During spring break, I was given a personal tour of the facility where their 300+ person team works. I got to see how Gree International functions as a whole and how the artists collaborate with each other.

After signing a nondisclosure form and mentally getting over the fact that their employees get a never-ending supply of snacks, beverages and coffee as well as free meals, I was able to meet with Gree’s Production Artist. She walked me through their pipeline, explained how art reviews were performed, and went over how long it generally takes to create a game. I also learned about their outsourcing and how many artists were actually in the studio.

Near the end of the tour, I was able to get a look at one of the Art Lead’s workspace where he had several characters and environments drafts that the other artists had submitted to him. His job was to maintain consistency in the established art style, so he would do paint-over corrections and send it back to the artists to make the changes.

At the end of the tour, I got a free burrito (yay!) and left more enlightened about the studio and really impressed with the level of work that came out of Gree. I hope to be back one day soon!

Sierra Gaston

Happy Pie Day!

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Happy Pie Day Everyone!! Midterms are over, Spring Break is right around the corner, and as many would agree, pie is delicious. It can be sweet and evoke memories of simpler times like an apple pie with a buttery flaky crust, just like the ones grandma would make. Or it can be hearty and savory, such as a chicken pot pie packed with flavor. There are fruit pies, meat pies, and many more varieties in between: coconut cream or ice cream pie anyone? Whatever your preferred pastry, one can’t help but wonder, where did this scrumptious dish come from and what were the first sorts of pies?

According to historians, pie-making can be traced back to ancient Greece, thought to have been the originators of the crust, who made it by combining water and flour. Meanwhile, the Romans would fill their pies with many different kinds of meats (even mussels and other types of seafood). Meat pies were often part of Roman dessert courses which they called secundae mensae. Fast forward to the first Thanksgiving here in the United States in 1621. Everyone knows that among the various dishes shared between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims, there was pumpkin pie right?

In reality there is no evidence showing that modern day pie, or even early versions of it, was served at the first Thanksgiving. Pilgrims brought a variety of English-style, meat-based recipes with them to the colonies. The first record of pumpkin pie here in the US was in a cookbook from 1675, originating from British spiced and boiled squash; it wasn’t popularized until the early 1800′s. We don’t know what dishes the Pilgrims served at the first Thanksgiving, but primary documents show they cooked with fowl and venison, and inevitably these ingredients found themselves stuffed in between sheets of dough.

The colonists cooked many pies not only because they were tasty, mind you, but because the crusty top would aid in the preservation of food. This would help to keep the filling fresh, particularly during winter months. Were these early American pies bland? Not exactly. Documents show that Pilgrims would use dried fruits, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg to season their meats. As the colonies began to expand, so did the reach of pie. The pie acted as an outlet to showcase local ingredients and, with this, the first American sweet pies began to appear.

A cookbook from 1796 listed a mere three types of sweet pies; one from the late 1800′s listed 8 varieties; and by 1947, the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking listed 65 different kinds of sweet pies. So the saying goes, “There are few things as American as apple pie”, however, like much of America’s pie tradition, the original apple pie recipes hailed from England. These pre-Revolutionary creations were simple, unsweetened apples encased in an edible flour crust. Pies today are a treat eaten around the globe, made with everything from apples to avocados. Pies have come a long way since the heyday of venison and pepper, but whatever the case, there’s surely a pie out there for everyone.

As for me? Kahlua Cream Cheese pie is my favorite. Go out and grab your favorite everybody! Happy Pie Day!

Juan Rubio

Blue Sky presentation at San Jose State

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Image from fashions.toprate10.com

The Shrunkenheadman Animation Club at San Jose State is a pretty remarkable group. Many people at Cogswell might not be aware that Jeff Jackson, Cogswell’s storyboarding and drawing animation teacher, actually came from San Jose State and started the Shrunkenheadman club. Being a particularly large club, comprised of both illustration and animation departments, there is a very strong sense of community and kinship. They have a track record of hosting some impressive speakers/presenters, and last Thursday was no exception. Blue Sky representatives came to SJSU to give a presentation about their studio, including Matt Munn, Lead Animator.

Munn showed work from his early days as an animator (which visibly proved EVERYONE has a starting point) and gave some helpful advice. What stood out the most for me was the advice to “follow your heart.” As a previous nursing major, this really resonated with me. I’d left everything to go to art school because, in my heart, I felt passionate about animation and creating things. As graduation approaches and I reflect back, I don’t regret my decision; I’m glad I made the dive into animation.

I feel that both Cogswell and the animation department of San Jose State could learn from each other, and I hope to encourage networking and connections between the two. After all, we have the potential to be future co-workers so why not create professional relationships now!

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell College Students Develop and Create 3D Animatable Rigs for 12 Unique Digital Characters

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

This article was originally featured on the Creative Planet Network website, it was published on 2-23-2015, and is credited to Cogswell College.

Sunnyvale, CA, February 23, 2015 ­­

Cogswell College, a leading educational institution offering a unique curriculum fusing Digital Art, Engineering and Entrepreneurship, has announced that students within its Digital Art & Animation program have developed and created 3D animatable rigs depicting 12 original digital characters, through the program’s in-house character project: “Avatarah.”

To download these 3D rigs, visit: http://www.cogswell.edu/modeling-rigs/project-avatarah-free rigs.php

ALSO: For “Avatarah” support, requests and comments, please
Email: avatarah.cogswell@gmail.com

The first character from “Avatarah,” “Cogswell the Dragon,” has just been released via open source data to the general public. A few of the additional 11 original characters will be
exclusively for usage by Cogswell College students, but the school does plan to release a
number of additional character 3D rigs in the near future, in efforts to draw the general public back to the Cogswell College website for download. Students around the world regularly seek interesting rigs to download, so that they can use them within their own portfolios as they animate original content based on these rigs.

The new 3D animatable rigs from Cogswell College are of the highest quality, and are
expected to stand out in the middle of the vast world of “freebie” rigs available online. In
addition to the first character, “Cogswell the Dragon,” additional characters from Cogswell will include “Toothy” the Saber toothed tiger, “Snowy” the dog and “Thunder” the horse, “Chippy” the squirrel, “Chubby” the rabbit, “Flappy” the bird, and several others.

Jonali Bhattacharyya, Assistant Professor with Cogswell College’s Digital Art & Animation
program, and formerly with noted game companies Secret Level and Factor5, spearheads the Cogswell student­ developed 3D animatable rigs project in concert with game industry
professional Sergio Sykes. Sykes, currently with EMOTIV and formerly with Massive Black, is involved with the Cogswell program as an industry rigging artist and Adjunct Faculty Member. Regarding this program, Bhattacharyya said, “For the past year or so, there has been a constant demand for exciting new 3D animation rigs that can be accessed online. Our goal with project ‘Avatarah’ is to have Cogswell students create an identity of their own within the rapidly exploding world of animation. Our initial 12 characters have all been designed, modeled, textured and rigged by Cogswell College students. This is a huge platform by which our students can really start to get their names out there!”

ABOUT COGSWELL COLLEGE:

Designed as a “fiercely collaborative, living laboratory,” Cogswell College is located in the heart of the legendary Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California. The school is a WASC accredited, four ­year institution of higher education with a specialized curriculum that fuses digital arts, audio technology, game design, engineering and entrepreneurship.

Numerous alumni of Cogswell College have secured prominent positions within the entertainment, video game, technology, computer, animation, and motion graphics industries throughout California and beyond. Several of these alumni have established careers with such high profile companies as Activision, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Electronic Arts, Pixar, and Microsoft Game Studio. Many other alumni have launched their own creative ventures.

Recent Cogswell alumni were members of the Academy Award-­winning production teams which worked on the blockbuster films “Frozen” and “Life of Pi.” Some of the other well­ known consumer projects to which Cogswell alumni have contributed include the feature films “The Boxtrolls” and “The Avengers,” and the popular video games “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4″ and “Battlefield Hardline.”

Additionally, animated short films conceived and produced by Cogswell students have gone
on to win prestigious awards, including those presented by the California International
Animation Festival, the Colorado Film Festival, the Oregon Film Festival, the Miami Film
Festival, the Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival, the San Jose Short Film Festival, and
Canada’s International Film Festival.

Cogswell College is located at 1175 Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, California, 94089. For more information, please call 1-­800­-264-­7955 or visit: http://www.cogswell.edu/

Congratulations to everyone who worked on the project, I look forward to seeing what Cogswell’s students can pull off with these original rigs. Well Done!

Juan Rubio

Tour at Zynga

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Image source: www.adweek.com

There were dogs everywhere. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise to me after seeing the huge dog logo on the massive building, but it still caught me off guard in a pleasant way. Zynga also gave off this sense of happiness—just walking in, I could tell that the people employed by Zynga were pretty content with their environment. For those of you who don’t know, Zynga happens to be one of the largest and best-known mobile and social gaming companies in the bay area– you’ve probably also seen a few games of theirs on Facebook.

A group of four people and myself from Cogswell got the chance to visit Zynga from Women in Games International, a group formed for the purpose of providing women with support and opportunities in the game industry. While there, we got a tour of the studio, which included the exercise room, bar (yes, there’s a full bar) the candy room, and the Farmville rooms!

After the tour, we got to enjoy some h’ordeuvres and listen to a panel given by women leaders at Zynga. Some of them had been in the industry for quite some time, and a few originally hadn’t had any intention of going into games. Yet another one actually played WOW as a side hobby. (Yes!)

It was amazing to see Zynga up close. It was clear to see the passion that they had for their work. We also got to do a lot of great networking, and meet people working in the heart of the mobile game industry. It was an amazing opportunity!

Sierra Gaston

Jodediah Holmes and GXDev Award Winning Game Patchwork

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015


Q:Tell me about you. What’s your name? What school do you go to? What is your degree program? Frosh/Soph/Jr./Sr.? Are you a part of any clubs?

A:Hello! I am Jodediah Holems. You may recognize me from my personal brands: pajama pants and hubcap backpack. I am the Game Development Club president at Cogswell College, where I organize teams, give lectures, hold workshops, and kindle the growth of my fellow game friends. I am aspiring to become a professional weirdo, but at the moment I am only part-time. At Cogswell I’m under the Digital Media Management degree, and I’m a junior.

Q: What was the competition that you entered? How many participants were there (if you know)?

A: I recently participated in GXDev: Everyone Create’s Games, a 24 hour game jam put on by the GaymerX organizers. I’d say there were around 30 developers in attendance, figured from the ~10 games made by teams of less than 5 (there were two solo teams, I was one). The goal was to make a game in 24 hours from the theme “the stories that aren’t told.”

Q: What did you win???

A: I won in 2 categories: Strangest Game and Judge’s Pick. I got two lovely glass bricks, a DVD, and some other nifty digital gifts as a reward! I also got to feel very excited for a whole week. I still can’t handle it.

Q:Tell me about your game. What is it called? How does it play? What is the goal? How long did it take you to make? Did you create it by yourself or with friends?

A: My game is called PATCHWORK, and it’s a bit of a game soup. The official genre is “Tetris-Jenga-word-search-diary-entry-collect-a-thon”, and it is played with two people, two devices that can run an .html file, and ten painted pieces. One player builds a balancing building, searches for words, and enters found words into their device to read a selection of secret stories. The other player is in control of certain parts of the process, answering questions and assisting the player in such a way as to bend the outcome of the game to their will. Nobody knows how many secret stories there actually are, but it doesn’t matter. Some people choose to stop playing after the stories make them cry or laugh or feel.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for the game? Is it based on anything?

A: My local art gallery was putting on a project where members of the community could buy oddly shaped wooden blocks, paint them, and bring them back to form one giant puzzle mural. I noticed that they were Tetris shapes and remembered that I was going to a game jam, so I asked if I could have a whole bunch. I walked out with ten. These pieces whispered “Hey, I really want to be in a game,” so I planned to fulfill their dreams. This merged with a couple of other ideas I had, those being:

  1. I really want to make a game that is played a little bit in a Gamemaker file, a little bit in a Twine file, a little bit in physical space, and maybe also over email or something.
  2. Oh yeah, this is a queer game jam! I should write the letters S, E, I, A, L, B, and N all over the backs of the tetris tiles. Someone may unwittingly spell LESBIANS. That would be humor.
    Those ideas all came together in a gallon pot for 45 minutes on medium-high heat, and emerged as PATCHWORK. They were all inspired by certain Big Ideas I’ve observed across games and games academia, but otherwise there were no direct inspirations.

Q: What programming did you do for the game? What languages did you use?

A: I do not know programming. I made the digital portion of this game in Twine, a program for making text-based choose your own adventure-type games. It is very easy to learn, I’d recommend you check out out! http://twinery.org

Q: What advice would you give to another student trying to enter a gaming, or game creation competition?

A: Do it. Participate in as many events as possible. Meet people. Run through every door.

Q: There’s something really intoxicating about games that have physical and virtual elements. Do you think there’s particular power in combining elements of both?

A: All digital games have physical elements, which is something I don’t think a lot of people think about. Your hands are always going to be interacting with a mouse, keyboard, controller, or other contraption. A really easy way to make a game that genuinely surprises people is to have that in mind, intentionally forming a physical something that isn’t a mouse, keyboard, or typical controller. It’s so easy to make something unlike anything your audience has ever seen, and that’s incredibly powerful!

Q: Here’s where I get super arty on you — do you think our lives are more physical or virtual? Or is the difference unimportant?

A: Ahhh, that’s a great question! When I hear “are our lives more physical or virtual,” I immediately connect physical to body and virtual to mind. There have definitely been times where I think “bodies are handcuffing my spirit to the earth. I’d be so much happier if I wasn’t weighed down with needing to sleep, eat, exercise, and perform for people. I just want to be a brain.” There are also times when I’m upset with my brain and feel the opposite feelings, but that happens less often.

The internet, as it exists on phones and computers and wires in our homes, very much fuels the idea of bodies as inconveniences. Chairs, mice, keyboards, controllers, and screens don’t respect our bodies. What is the point of the rest of me when I can lead a happy connected existence as a brain, a couple of fingers, and a pair of eyes? That’s why I think games with designed physical components are so powerful. Even if they still only require your brain, fingers, and eyes, doing it in a way that is new and interesting lets you know that someone out there respects your fingers. Someone out there understands the terrible sameness your fingers have to deal with every day. Someone out there wants you to experience your body in a world designed for your mind.

Q: What are your aspirations for the future?

A: I would very much like to ascend to the next mortal plane, but in the meantime I will make games and art and friends. Dismantle capitalism!

Watch a short clip of Patchwork on Vine at: Patchwork

Cogswell Alumni Mixer

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

On Saturday, April 11th, something pretty exciting will be happening here at Cogswell.

In an effort to create stronger connections between alumni, students and the school, Cogswell will be hosting a mixer event honoring our past students and future graduates. So what can we expect to see at this event?

In addition to having the opportunity to connect with alumni working in the industry from all degree concentrations, students can attend a panel at which graduates will speak about their experiences since leaving the school. All attendees will also have the option to showcase their portfolios and demo reels during the event. (Since this is also this last semester we’ll be in the old building, we will have a pretty fun activity that might involving writing all over the walls—more details on that later!)

Students, be sure to polish those portfolios up pretty well—we will have alumni attending this event who might be interested in hiring!

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell Alumni Work at Impressive Companies

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Recently, I’ve been researching Cogswell graduates to add to a contact list for an alumni reunion. I was pleasantly surprised and amazed at some of the names that cropped up—not only were there an impressive number of graduates working in the industry, quite a few held job titles like Lead Animator, CEO, Art Director, and even more still owned their own companies. Previous to doing this research, I’d had no idea they existed; and I thought I’d share their job titles as a resource to other Cogswell students.

In the Los Angeles and Bay Area regions, we have a number of alumni working at Disney, DreamWorks, EA, Sony Animation, Cryptic, Activision and other large, well known studios.  They are storyboard artists, technical artists, designers, animators, layout artists, riggers and hold tons of other positions. I was blown away to learn that, among others, one of our alumni is a Lead Animator at EA games. In addition, we also have alumni with positions such as: Art Director at Sony Animation Entertainment; Lead Lighter/Compositor at DreamWorks, Lead/Senior designer at Crystal Dynamics; Vice President of Production at Toonbox Entertainment; President/CEO at Logigear; Broadcast Designer at NBC; Supervising Engineer at Warner Brothers; and the list goes on. Alumni from all degree programs are talented leaders.

We are a very small college, and yet it seems we have a very large amount of alumni in comparison holding impressive positions within the industry. Most students aren’t even aware of the credits that our graduates hold. Personally, I feel like Cogswell College is a bit of a hidden gem in the Silicon Valley—not everyone knows that we’re here, but those who do find Cogswell know that they have stumbled across something unique.

~ Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College