Engineering a Creative World


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Art and media—few associate these subjects with engineering. Bradley Henke is a senior studying computer science in CU’s College of Engineering. Prior to studying engineering, Henke set his sights on attending art school. “I wanted to study animation and special effects,” Henke said.

He signed up for an animation class at the Colorado Film School, but the class was canceled and he ended up taking a computer science class. Here, he discovered the connection that existed between engineering and art. “I saw that they both could be integrated,” Henke said. Today, he is opting to bridge the gap between the arts and engineering by minoring in Technology, Arts and Media.

Technology, Arts and Media, simply known as TAM, is a program offered by the ATLAS Institute that integrates technology with artistic skills. This program allows students to explore or further develop their creative technology skills. Students from various majors throughout campus are drawn to this program due to its technological relevance in today’s world. “In TAM, there is a technical focus and we emphasize creative development. You get to work on interesting creative projects that you might not be able to have

in a regular engineering course,” explained Ian Hales, a lecturer in the program since the fall of 2004. As we slowly move to a more multidisciplinary job environment, having wider skill sets can make students more competitive in today’s market.

The class dynamics can be very unexpected since you are bringing students from different educational backgrounds, ranging from business majors to studio arts majors. Hales points out that it is effective having this variety of students. For instance, a computer science major can be proficient with a computer program while an English major can provide insight on new approaches to the program. Different approaches in the classroom creates a win-win situation. Hales also points out that, “No one is forced to be here. If they come from the engineering school they are usually here because they want to use TAM as a device for creativity.”

This is the case with Henke. He believes that being in TAM provides him with the opportunity to explore design and the creative aspects of the technical skill-set he has obtained from being in computer science. “The TAM minor allows engineers to explore academic topics that are interesting to them in creative ways. It is not writing a paper, it is exploring creatively. It is a creative outlet to find out different uses for technology,” explained Hales.

Hales also discussed the fact that there is not a large number of engineers in the program. He said, “They are definitely underrepresented. Generally speaking, I probably have one or two students out of a class of twenty.” He also mentioned that out of these small groups of engineers, the majority tend to be computer science majors. Hales discussed courses that would attract engineer majors. One of these classes would be game design, focusing on scripting, designing and programing of games for the Xbox 360. He also mentioned Introduction to Fluid Mechanics class. “The course focuses heavily on fluid dynamics, which is explored though photography,” explained Hales. Other classes include Lego Robotics and a Mobile App course, however these courses come and go.

The program is broken down in to two sections: theTAM minor and the Certificate in Digital Media. The certificate requires a minimum of 12 credit-hours. The Meaning of Information Technology, the first class required, focuses on the history and the role of technology within society. Digital Media One is the second course. This class focuses on Adobe Creative Suite programs as well as other well known programs, and the class is taught through the creation of projects. Two electives are required, one of them being an ATLAS- based course to fulfill the Invention and Practice elective, and the other focusing on Critical Thinking in Technology.

If seeking a minor in Technology, Arts and Media, a student must meet these same requirements along with additional classes. After a student has completed Digital Media One, they move on to Digital Media Two where they are required to complete an application and gain acceptance into the program. This leaves the student with Fundamentals of Digital Design and Capstone.

“A lot of people think that engineering is not artistic, but they miss the fact that we are creative,” Henke said. Many students, engineers and non-engineers, often think of engineering as a left brain type of study. However, engineering is based on problem solving and design whether using science, math or computers as the primary tools that can encompass artistic creation. With the TAM program, a student is able to take an idea that interests them and explore in a deeper and more creative way, intertwining the two concepts.

 

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