Summer camp is an experience that only gets better when you bring family and friends along. Take, for example, these two brothers who attended Digital Media Academy’s tech camp at UCLA in 2012.
Koa and Kaipo both spent a week at a brand new kids camp based around science and engineering. DMA’s tech camps support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) skill sets, and that’s great news to parents since the Department of Labor estimates there will be 1.2 million STEM jobs available in the next 5 years.
What isn’t such great news is that there aren’t enough skilled graduates to fill those jobs!
This is where DMA comes in. We help provide kids and teens the tools to make STEM subjects not only interesting but a possible career path. For kids like Koa and Kaipo, they get the real-world experience—and get to show off what they’ve learned to friends and family at the end of the week. We caught up these two aspiring engineers after their DMA summer:
What do you want to be?
Koa: “When I grow up, I might be a drummer, an architect or a designer.”
Kaipo: “Someday I want to be a scientist because I want to create something useful.”
What did you learn at DMA and what did you enjoy about the Adventures in Science & Engineering camp?
Koa: “I learned how circuits work, Bernoulli’s Principle of Flight, and Programming. You know, science and stuff. I also learned cartooning, like how comics are set up and how to create basic animation. Another thing I learned was architecture, where I did stuff like make a bridge out of popsicle sticks and design my dream house on a website.”
Kaipo: “My favorite part was solar energy because we got to learn about how sun beams power solar panels.”
How did DMA inspire you?
Koa: I play with LEGOs (at home) and build on Minecraft®. I got inspired by designing my dream house. I want to be an architect some day.”
Kaipo: “DMA inspired me to be a scientist because I did a lot of fun stuff in science and engineering.”
What was your most memorable camp moment?
Koa: “My favorite moment was when we built solar-powered cars and we learned about solar energy. It was really fun and I especially enjoyed racing the solar cars!”
Kaipo: “My favorite time was when we built water rockets. It was fun to make them and shoot them.”
Are you interested in attending DMA camp this coming summer?
Kaipo: “We want to come back to UCLA.”
What DMA program will you take this time?
Koa: “I want to take the Adventures in Science & Engineering program again.”
Kaipo: “3D Video Game Creation.”
We’re excited that Koa and Kaipo are returning to DMA. Concepts like solar-powered cars and engineering don’t have to be out of reach to kids. In fact, they’re more accessible than ever. DMA offers a variety of STEM-related camps and courses that will inspire the future engineer in your home.
What can you expect from a Digital Media Academy Instructor?
What are the summer camps like?
As a regular instructor for several companies around the San Francisco Bay Area, I believe it is important to ensure that every class I teach is different from the last. Even if I teach 5 consecutive classes on CSS, each class has a completely different set of students, each with different skill levels and interests. In many training centers, often classes really do end up exactly the same. Many instructors I have worked with simply plod along, following the curriculum word by word, line by line. No deviations, and no excitement. Of course, as a student you can ask questions and take advantage of their expertise in the field. But that experience doesn’t make for an interesting class. You may learn the topic, but it’s not fun. Read more
Written by Doug Larsen of the John Lennon Bus
Okay, so I know I’ve joked about this before, but one of my real concerns with life on the road actually is physical fitness and health. Trying to find a hotel with a fitness center or a pool big enough to swim laps in can sometimes be tough, and I have troubles motivating myself to run miles outside.
That’s where Apple came in. They’ve teamed up with Nike Plus to create a really cool combination of music, technology, and running. So how it works is you get some Nike running shoes, an Apple iPod nano, and a chip that goes inside your shoes. It tracks how far you run, and gives you option for your iPod to play music while telling you mile markers you reach, calories you’ve burned, and time left in your run. All your info is posted on the Nike Plus website, and you can challenge friends there. Right now, Seamus and I have a “first to run 50 miles challenge”. I also have a challenge with a teammate from soccer back the University of Miami! So I just thought I’d share that one with everybody, and if you get motivated to start up Nike Plus, let’s get a challenge started!
In the Cartoon Creation class, we’re using Toon Boom Studio to teach animation techniques, this software is very flexible and fun to use.
At the core of all animation are “keyframes”. We find them in other animation applications, video apps, compositing apps, and even audio editing applications. Keyframes are what allow us to move our characters, animate them, change the lighting, move the camera, and make their lips move. Without keyframes, there would be no movement or change. In other words, we’d just be working with still images without keyframes, and that’s not nearly as much fun!
Keyframes simplify animation by allowing us to modify our drawing over time, instead of manually drawing every single frame individually. Animating with keyframes is kind of like cutting out your character from paper and pushing him around the table. He moves smoothly, and you can reuse objects you have already drawn. The alternative is frame-by-frame animation; this is like making a flip-book, and redrawing the character on every page.
We also cover frame-by-frame animation. This is how they made the classic Disney cartoons. Toon Boom Studio has an onion-skinning feature built in to help with this kind of animation. It outlines the drawing from the previous frame, which gives you a good reference for the position of the next frame’s drawing. Unfortunately, animators didn’t have it this easy back in the ’70s!
Toon Boom Studio has many powerful drawing tools built in. Even things like shading are easy to manage. In the picture below, the darker shading on the left side of her face was created with the shading tool. Adding shadows for characters is as easy as dragging and dropping a shadow in. The shadows even automatically update. Once we put the shadows in, we don’t have to worry about them anymore. We can even draw with gradients, instead of plain colors. Check out the star in her hair. It’s a smooth ramp from orange to yellow, and gives the character a subtle touch of realism.
Toon Boom Studio has a lip-syncing engine built in. This lets us record an audio track and sync the lips of our characters to fit our recorded dialog. Toon Boom Studio takes the monotony out of lip-syncing. We get to make the character speak with our voice, and the software does the tedious part of the process for us! That’s pretty exciting!
One of the most exciting things about Toon Boom Studio is its compatibility with file formats that animators already use. We can import Adobe Illustrator vector files, Flash .swf’s, all kinds of raster image formats, video formats, and sound formats. This means that we can use almost any source material that we can find to animate. Do you know any artists who use Adobe Illustrator? You can bring their work right into Toon Boom Studio, with no loss in quality, and no conversions!
And even more exciting is the export formats. Believe it or not, the projects you create in our course can be exported to Adobe Flash files! Flash is the industry standard for animations on the internet, so this is extremely exciting. This means that everyone with the Flash player installed can view your animation. (98% of computers with internet have Flash installed, so that’s a big deal!) You can put your animations online for the world to see, or to share with friends and family! You can also export your animations to video, for use in a DVD, or a video project.
I’m very excited to see this Cartoon Creation class offered this summer. We get to create dynamic and rich animations that we can share with anyone and everyone, and our animations will play on almost any computer. It’s a blast!
Hi! I’m Ben Jaffe, one of the instructors for Digital Media Academy’s Adventures Program. I want to give you a closer look at Adobe Photoshop CS4. We use Photoshop for image creation and modification in our Web Design class.
Photoshop is the industry standard for image manipulation and creation. It’s even become a verb! “That looks Photoshopped!” Usually we use that term to describe photographs that look like they have been modified. Photoshop is good for many other purposes too. In this case, we’re looking at a simple header for a website that we’ve created in Photoshop.
A header goes at the top of your website. Often, it is an image that includes elements related to the site. For example, if we are making a site about different kinds of ducks, we might make the header image look like a pond and put ducks in it!
On the far left of the above image, we can see our tools stacked vertically. We cover all the tools, but focus on the most important ones. On the right, we have several panes where we can modify the image in different ways. There are also pop-up windows that you can access in various ways, shown below.
This can all seem very overwhelming. Photoshop is an extremely deep application, which is why it is the standard for image manipulation in several industries (film, photography, print, etc). As complex as it is, with the proper guidance, it can be easy to learn even for young children. It’s much like a car. For example, you don’t need to know how to change the oil or replace the tires in order to get gas at a gas station. And you don’t need to know how to install a spark plug in order to change the oil. As with most things, people learn Photoshop modularly, piece by piece.
There are always different ways to accomplish things in Photoshop. Everyone I know takes a slightly different approach. We teach the kids several techniques for getting different effects, and with guidance from us, we let them take the route that is most fun for them. Your child can learn basic and some intermediate techniques in Photoshop, create graphics for an incredible website, build the website, and add animation, all in a week at DMA!
I hope to see you this summer!
When I think back to the first game system to enter the scene, the Atari System in the 1980s, the games were fairly gender neutral. I never got one as a kid, because my dad thought my sister and I would play too much and that it would hurt our eyes. But my cool aunt and uncle, who were much younger than my dad, would let us borrow theirs for a week at time. The first time we had an Atari System in the house, it was my mom who stayed up all night playing Pac-man.
I remember fondly the first home video games – Pac-man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Asteriods and Centipede. I remember my cousins making me cry when they wouldn’t let me play Frogger. And I remember that it didn’t matter whether you were a boy or a girl – Atari games had the power to draw in both audiences.
In my opinion, more current systems, like the Nintendo DS, the Sony PlayStation systems or the XBOX, and the games that go with them, have not had the same gender-neutral appeal. As a girl, I do not find myself drawn to the most recent NFL Madden game or the latest battlefield simulation. While I know many boys (and grown men) who find re-enacting WWII to be quite enjoyable, it just does not have the same appeal to me. Those who have studied the content of video games more closely have argued that compared to boys, girls “encounter fewer powerful, active female role models in computer games or software.” Because these systems and games dominated the market for many years, it makes sense that girls who spent most of their impressionable years with these systems on the market would be less drawn to a course on video game creation.
The latest game system to enter the market, the ever-popular Nintendo Wii, has the potential, I believe, to swing the market back to video games being gender neutral. I see more and more girls drawn to the more physically active games that are popular with the game system, such as Wii Sports and Rockband, just to name a few. One of the dads in our office was actually just telling me this morning how his two girls (ages 9 and 6) find Wii Sports (especially bowling and tennis) to be engaging, whereas they did not have much interest in earlier game systems.
So perhaps as more girls take an interest in video games with the newer game systems,we will see the percentage of girls in these classes rise. We are also starting to see more well-designed video games that are engaging to a female audience. I recently came upon a article from KidConfidence with some specific game suggestions for girls. Click here to check it out.
As for me, when the Atari left our house for the last time, I took a twenty-year hiatus from video game playing, except for the very occasional attempt to please the video game loving people in my life. I did find myself enjoying RockBand for several hours on one recent occasion. Who knows … maybe this older gal will find her way back into the video game world.
One of the best parts about DMA’s Adventures (ages 8-12) Web Course is the software we use. We teach the kids how to use Adobe Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver. We use Photoshop to create and modify graphics, and we take some of these graphics into Adobe Flash to add movement to them. Finally, we use Dreamweaver to build a full website and upload it so they can share it with friends and family.
We see Flash files everywhere on the web. YouTube uses a flash player, and most web banners and online games are created with Flash. Dreamweaver is used to build and manage websites of almost any scale. Photoshop is used for image modification and preparation. Virtually every image in every print publication has been modified with Photoshop. It is even used to prepare graphics for videos!
Our students learn how to use the same tools that the pros use. Photoshop, Flash, and Dreamweaver are the industry standards for graphics, animation, and site design. After taking our course, many students continue using the software to create websites and media. Middle schools and high schools often have a few licenses of the software. Knowing these applications gives anyone a distinct advantage in the job market.
When I first learned about Photoshop, I was in 9th grade. I took a multimedia class, and we covered Photoshop in moderate detail. There suddenly were so many possibilities open to me, and so many fun projects to work on. I impressed my family by creating realistic-looking photo compositions, and eventually made my way into video. Now, I do graphics, animation, video and audio work as a profession. It only took that brief introduction to pique my interest. The seed was planted. But the job I enjoy most is teaching, because in every class, there is a chance that one kid might latch onto what I teach them, and blossom.
I hope to see you this summer at DMA!
On the surface, the Game Design class may look somewhat straightforward. But it’s much more than simply creating fun games with our students. In our classes, we also teach important programming concepts, which can be the foundation for a future programming career.
Game Building can be frustrating for somebody who has never done it before. As games become more and more complex, the instructors are there to help them understand how to build their games well. Programmers call it “extensibility.” Here’s an example of how students encounter this in DMA’s Adventures Game Design class:
A few days into the week, we usually start working on an RPG game. The player controls a character who interacts with bystanders in the game to get information or collect items. The students quickly discover how frustrating it is to program actions for every single bystander in the game individually. The same goes for other objects in the game, such as allies, enemies, keys, coins, and projectiles. It’s much easier to group them together, and make a rule saying, “Whenever the character talks to any bystander, run this action.”
Extensibility is not the only programming concept that we teach to the kids. They learn the importance of game planning, bug testing, and proper pacing to effectively meet deadlines. They also develop an understanding of variables, and an introductory understanding of object-oriented programming. Instead of lecturing to the students, we let them discover and understand the concepts by themselves, with guidance.
Most importantly, we teach the kids programming concepts without them even realizing it! If they pursue a career in computer science or game design, they will already understand the importance of extensibility, testing, planning, and pacing. Though it may seem like just another fun summer course, every student gets much more out of it – skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
See you in the Summer!