On Bytemarks Cafe this past Wed. September 16, 2015, we got a chance to talk to the new Director of DBEDT (Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism) Luis Salaveria and Georja Skinner, Chief Officer of the Creative Industries Division, about several initiatives including broadband, tech entrepreneurship and energy. But one that caught my attention was related to STEM or a hybrid called STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Although we’ve been covering STEM topics for years, from VEX and First Robotics, Science Olympiad, Science Fair, Sea Perch, GenCyber, etc, this was the first time the A was emphasized in association with a well known brand, Pixar.
Pixar in a Box, a unique partnering between Pixar and Khan Academy, is a new online resource that explores the academic concepts behind Pixar Animation Studios’ creative process. Through a series of video lessons, interactive exercises, and hands-on activities, students will discover how the academic concepts they learn in school enable Pixar filmmakers to create new worlds, animate unique characters and tell stories through animation. Although designed especially for students in middle and high school, these resources are available to learners of all ages, completely free of charge.
According to Georja Skinner, 37 teachers in the Dept of Education have been been selected to incorporate the course material into their classes. Unlike some of the other STEM programs like robotics, which require after school time by the students and teachers, Pixar in a Box will get integrated in the class curriculum. Teachers interested beyond the initial 37 need only contact DBEDT as more teachers will be added as the curriculum grows.
Salaveria feels strongly that the A for Arts incorporated into STEAM is a key differentiator for Hawaii students introducing a creative arts discipline into the technology and engineering pathway. If done correctly could give Hawaii students an edge over traditional STEM learning.
With Pixar in a Box students can learn:
- How combinatorics are used to create crowds, like the swarm of robots in WALL’E.
- How parabolas are used to model environments, like the forest in Brave.
- How weighted averages are used to create characters, like Buzz Lightyear and Woody.
- How linear and cubic interpolation are used to animate characters.
- How trigonometry is used to create the worlds in which Pixar stories take place.
- How simultaneous equations are used to paint all of Pixar’s images.
Pixar in a Box is free and while the first year focuses on math, future Pixar in a Box lessons will explore science, computer science, arts, and humanities. It will be interesting to see how this new curriculum impacts students as they progress through their education and onto their professional ambitions. I will keep an eye and report back on this development.