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(Via UConn Today) Coding, Creating, and Changing the World

UConn DMD Web/Interactive Media Student, Reaj Uddin at the Stamford campus. (Contributed photo)

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Coding, Creating, and Changing the World

How the Stamford Startup Studio and the Werth Institute helped one student discover the innovator within

 

Reaj Uddin ‘23 (SFA) remembers studying for a school competition in the seventh grade to try to win $25.

“It was a social studies competition where whoever knows most of the countries in the world gets $25,” he says. “And I studied for like two days in a row, just to know all the countries in the world, just to get that $25 and impress my mom, to make her happy.”

Uddin came close to winning the competition, but ultimately fell just short.

He did not, however, fall short this past October when he brought his idea for a product to help streamline in-home recycling to a pitch night for Get Seeded, a program offered by UConn’s Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, or CCEI.

He won $1,000 through the pitch night to start developing his company, called EnviGreen Recycling. His original idea was to create a system for sorting, scanning, and crushing recyclables in the home to not only encourage more recycling, but to make the process easier for families like his.

Uddin and his family immigrated to Stamford from Bangladesh in 2009. The youngest of four sons, he was about 10 years old when they arrived in the United States – he had little formal education and spoke no English. He attended remedial schools to learn English before entering public elementary school in Stamford.

In high school, Uddin took a course on web development and found that writing code and building programs appealed to him.

“I didn’t know what to do with my life in high school,” he says. “Then I took this web development course, and it actually made sense to me. I was getting it really quickly and my teachers said, ‘you know, you should try doing this in the future.’ With coding, you can create solutions in almost any field – health, financial services, education technology – and it’s black and white, it’s either coded correctly or incorrectly. You can’t change that, and I actually like that kind of concept.”

Initially, Uddin didn’t plan on attending UConn, or any other college or university, to pursue a career as a developer. He instead looked at trade schools and enrolled in a 24-month training boot camp program.

But he ultimately changed plans at his parents’ urging and dropped out of the boot camp. He applied, and was accepted, into the School of Fine Arts Digital Media and Design Department’s Web/Interactive Media Design program at UConn Stamford.

“My parents insisted – you’re the only child in our family that has one chance to go to college and make something of yourself,” he says. “My other brothers, they finished high school, but didn’t attend any college. My parents wanted me to be the first one, to change the family, in a way. And bringing them here, having them here, I just don’t want them to work as much they did before. I want to provide for them.”

As a sophomore at UConn, he took an advanced web development course where he learned about using APIs – application programming interfaces, a type of protocol for building and integrating app software – and started using them to build his own apps, a process he found he enjoyed.

One of his apps, still a work in progress, uses Spotify API to develop a playlist based on a listener’s emotions – tell the app if you’re feeling happy or angry, and it will build a playlist to compliment your mood.

“I’m trying to improve it by having the camera on, and it will detect your face and, using AI, know what kind of emotions you’re having,” he says, “and with that emotion, create playlists without you having to type it in. You know, sometimes you don’t know what you’re feeling.”

Uddin was part of a small group of students selected for an augmented reality class; the group worked together to create a virtual reality education platform to help student learn about human DNA – it was his first experience building a program in virtual reality.

He is also a member of the inaugural cohort of UConn’s Stamford Startup Studio, a one-year co-op style educational experience offered through the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, where he’s worked with his teammates to build a prototype web application to help make planning weekend activities an easier and better experience for friends and family groups. This semester, he’s been training an AI model as part of the development of the app, called WKNDR.

Uddin and two fellow Startup Studio cohort members are also working to design a computer keyboard that creates electricity while a user types through use of piezoelectric crystals.

“When you press on the keys, the crystals crush and form mechanical energy or electric current,” he says, “which can be stored and then can be used to charge your phone, laptops, anything you want.”

A exterior panoramic view of the Stamford Campus on Oct. 9, 2020. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

It’s a huge shift for Uddin, who describes himself as an introvert and says he’s never thought of himself as an entrepreneur.

“It’s been such a great experience to watch Reaj grow and really transform throughout the past two semesters,” says Tara Watrous ‘18 (CLAS), the Werth Institute’s Head of Entrepreneurial Transformation and the co-founder and director of the Stamford Startup Studio. “What does life-transformative education look like at Werth? It looks like Reaj! His success story is the reason the Werth Institute works to create authentic life-transformative education experiences. It has been so rewarding to see him flourish.”

Uddin took his recycling startup concept through Traction, a CCEI program designed to help UConn-affiliates build their business model and engage in customer discovery, and he’s currently participating in Accelerate UConn. The concept has pivoted from an in-home product to a solution more broadly aimed at meeting the recycling needs of colleges and universities.

“Coming in, he was not as confident and secure in his abilities, and now he’s going to be interning at a startup in New York City, and he’s working on his own venture,” says Watrous. “He’s pushed himself out of his comfort zone, and I think he’s a great example of what students can achieve when they take the risk and push themselves out their comfort zone.”

For all of his growing success, Uddin hasn’t forgotten his roots – he interviewed for the Stamford Startup Studio while on a visit home to Bangladesh, and he says he hopes to use his entrepreneurial pursuits to contribute to a healthy and sustainable world, particularly for developing countries.

“I want to be a part of a company that contributes to greater change,” he says. “I want to be a part of making the world better than what it is right now.”

He credits the Stamford Startup Studio with helping him develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and for helping him build a network of supportive mentors, advisors, and friends as he sets out on his new ventures.

And though he doesn’t always tell his family members about the projects he’s working on – “they wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about,” he explains – he also credits his family, especially his eldest brother, who he says helped him to have a greater vision for his family and inspired him to think beyond what he thought he might be capable of.

“Back in my home, in Bangladesh, we weren’t as fortunate as we are now. We didn’t live in the most lavish home,” Uddin says. “Part of the American dream includes the opportunity for prosperity and success and making a better version of yourself. My brother managed to thrive towards greater social mobility for our family. He built a new house for us back home and truly motivated me to want to make great achievements. When we went back to Bangladesh to see the house for the first time last year, my parents were in tears. We never imagined that we would have a house like this.”

He continued, “It was very inspirational to see him go through all that. I feel he taught me how to connect with people in a good way and make them make them feel valued. I think that’s the most valuable thing that anyone can do – surround yourself with people you love and take care of them.”


To learn more about entrepreneurial education and opportunities offered through the Werth Institute, visit 
entrepreneurship.uconn.edu.

For more information about venture support opportunities like Get Seeded, Traction, and Accelerate UConn, visit CCEI.uconn.edu.

 

Original Article via UConn Today: https://today.uconn.edu/2022/03/coding-creating-and-changing-the-world/ 

(via UConn Today) App Supporting Archival Research Continues Development with Community Partnerships

App Supporting Archival Research Continues Development with Community Partnerships

Sourcery aims to provide a one-stop shop for archival document sharing between collecting institutions and researchers.

Sourcery’s interface.

Archivists hold in trust centuries of documents and artifacts that historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and more use to uncover new knowledge and understand our collective past.

But all too often, archivists and researchers are navigating workflows, processes, and institutional needs that make it challenging to  communicate effectively. This makes it difficult for archivists to manage document requests and for researchers to get a hold of the materials they need.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $805,000 to the UConn team behind Sourcery, a software designed to simplify archival document requests.

This new funding will allow the team to develop Sourcery with input from partners at diverse collecting institutions. The team will work with the Hartford Public Library, Northeastern University, UConn Archives and Special Collections, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Tom Scheinfeldt, associate professor of history, and Brian Daley assistant professor-in-residence in the Department of Digital Media and Design, co-invented Sourcery in 2020 with the support of Greenhouse Studios.

Sourcery improves the workflow of archivists and librarians by providing a centralized platform for document requests.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, accessing documents at other institutions is a challenge for researchers as they would either need to travel or navigate confusing online request systems. Existing document request systems often result in duplicate requests or multiple archivists working on the same task. Additionally, each institution has their own system for submitting requests, which can be difficult when researchers are trying to navigate multiple processes.

“Sourcery is kind of a middle layer between these closely intertwined but not always very well-communicating groups,” Scheinfeldt says.

With Sourcery, researchers simply log in and submit the citation information for the document they need. If the request is more complex, they can enter a live chat with an archivist in the app.

“We want to make sure the labor of archivists isn’t invisible,” Carly Wanner-Hyde, design technologist at Greenhouse Studios and project lead of Sourcery, says.

With this grant, Sourcery will work with each partner to address specific concerns. For example, the Folger Library deals with rare documents of the English Renaissance and early modern period. Sourcery can help archivists digitize and prioritize cataloguing order of materials so they don’t need to physically handle these fragile documents as often.

The Boston Globe donated their photo morgue to Northeastern’s archives. Soon, whenever the Globe needs an archival photograph, they will use Sourcery to request them.

“Historical research doesn’t happen without archivists and there wouldn’t be much of a role for archivists without historical research,” Scheinfeldt says. “Providing better channels of exchange between the two will improve the work of both.”

Sourcery allows archives to see all active requests on a simple dashboard and manage the requests from there. It also provides archivists with useful data about what documents are being requested, what kind of research they are supporting, and more. Normally, archivists need to collect this data manually.

With Sourcery, researchers can see all their active and past requests on the platform, making it easy to track the status of a request or view previously requested documents.

“One of our big goals now is to make Sourcery a tool for archivists and institutions as much as it’s been a tool for researchers,” Wanner-Hyde says.

Sourcery also integrates with existing systems archivists and researchers use such as ArchivesSpace and Zotero.

Over the next few years, the team will visit conferences of historians and other relevant disciplines to gather community input about Sourcery’s functionality and how to make it more useful to them.

“It’s important to us that this is a product developed by universities for academic researchers,” Scheinfeldt says. “And it’s important for is that we build it with the input of the community. It’s really a community product.”

To learn more about Sourcery, visit sourceryapp.org. If you would like to join us in our testing phase, visit sourceryapp.org/join-us.

 

See original story via UConn Today: https://today.uconn.edu/2022/02/app-supporting-archival-research-continue-development-with-community-partnerships/ 

(Via UConn Today) DMD Professor’s Historically Themed Video Game Receives Industry Accolades

A Virginia mansion burned by the British during the Revolutionary War provides the setting of Professor James Coltrain’s award-winning “Blackhaven” game (contributed photo).

The historically themed video game “Blackhaven” from Digital Media & Design assistan professor James Coltrain has grabbed international praise and industry-wide attention for its narrative structure that centers on the efforts of a fictional plantation-turned-museum that attempts to cover up its past.

Three months after its July release, “Blackhaven” was one of only 47 official selections and garnered two nominations at the prestigious IndieCade Festival for best Narrative and best Impact Game, going home with an unexpected juried award for best Innovation in Experience Design.

IndieCade – described by Time magazine as the “Sundance of Indie Games”– works year-round to support independent video game developers and their pursuits, culminating with its two-day awards festival.

In giving “Blackhaven” one of their top awards, judges commended the game for allowing players to unveil “layers of personal and national history that help make pointed realizations about modern life and its roots in the past.” They also noted that “the game creates a surprising new experience by delicately balancing its detailed aesthetics and unobtrusive mechanics around this simple narrative that ties each element together into a surprising and exciting new experience.”

Coltrain was excited to see the game be received so positively noting, “Blackhaven is a slower, quieter game drawing from real historical documents, and so it’s really exciting to see it get this kind of attention.”

“Blackhaven” is the first release from Coltrain’s Historiated Games. He collaborated with students and faculty at Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically Black institution. A student script team under the direction of Shearon Roberts, an Xavier associate professor of mass communications, helped craft the game’s protagonist, Kendra Turner, a student from a historically Black institution.

In the game, Kendra, voiced by TikTok personality Darby Farr, works at the Blackhaven Hall Historical Society and discovers how it has whitewashed its slave-owning past.

Beyond IndieCade, “Blackhaven” in January received another notable recognition, an honorable mention for Excellence in Narrative at the Independent Games Festival, part of the larger industry-leadingGame Developers Conference (GDC) to be held in March. Coltrain also will speak at GDC on his experience developing “Blackhaven.”

Since its release, the game has had 30,000 downloads. It is available to play on PC for free on Steam.

“We are thrilled that James joined our growing game design program,” says DMD Department Head Heather Elliott-Famularo. “IndieCade and GDC are the top venues in the world, and IndieCade is arguably the most prestigious festival for independent games globally.”

She adds, “In a year when over 10,000 games were released for PC alone, winning the award is a remarkable achievement, particularly considering that his game studio, Historiated Games, is essentially a one-man show, and the release of ‘Blackhaven’ happened amidst a global pandemic, which brought great challenges to the production.”

“Blackhaven” is only the beginning for Coltrain and Historiated, as the game began as an offshoot of a larger project called “Cassius,” which will take players back to Blackhaven Hall during the 18th century. That game is slated for 2023, but first Coltrain will release “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” a historically accurate account for all ages inspired by painter Grant Wood’s work by the same name. It will be Historiated’s first game in virtual reality.

 

For original story, see: https://today.uconn.edu/2022/02/dmd-professors-historically-themed-video-game-receives-industry-accolades/ 

Heejoo Kim’s New Film “Behind The Loom” Released

heejo kim

Congratulations to DMD Motion Design & Animation professor Heejoo Kim, whose new film, Behind the Loom, is hitting the international film festival circuit! Behind the Loom is a short experimental animated documentary about the story of women during World War II. It unpacks the mystery of a family tragedy looking through a miniature handmade loom. It is the forgotten story of the brutalization of women and girls leading up to The Siege of Berlin in 1945. This film describes the impact of the war from a female perspective using personal testimonies and letters portraying the previously untold and true story of how Hanni, a mother, and her four daughters coped with the approaching force of the Red Army and the tribulation that ensued. Over 100,000 women and girls were raped during the Siege of Berlin, rarely is this fact acknowledged in history. The heartbreaking letters of Hanni’s husband Albert, provide clues as to why his family died and how he used the power of art to heal himself. Behind the Loom incorporates history, human rights, and feminism in an experimental documentary form.​​

The newly released film has hit the festival circuit and already has great success!

 

AWARDS:

“Best Experimental” – Toronto International Women Film Festival, Toronto, Canada 

“Honorable Mention” – Art Film Awards, Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic

“Best Documentary Short” – Port Blair International Film Festival, Port Blair, India 

“Semi Finalist” – Luleå International Film Festival, Luleå, Sweden 

“Best Film on Women” – Uruvatti International Film Festival, Tamil Nadu, India 

 

ADDITIONAL FESTIVAL SCREENINGS:

Feel The Reel International Film Festival, Glasgow, United Kingdom

Cambodia Independent Film Festival, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Barcelona Indie Filmmakers Festival • BARCIFF, Barcelona, Spain

Rome Outcast Independent Film Award, Rome, Itay

New York Flash Film Festival, NY, USA

 

Learn more about the film at: https://heejoogwenkim.com/behind-the-loom/

UConn Game Designers Win Big in Connecticut

group photo
Photo from left to right – Mackenzie Fox (BFA DMD ‘21), Colter Moos (Ph.D. Candidate Neag), Joshua Hirshfield (BA DMD ‘21), Devin Quinn (BA DMD ‘21), Zack Anderson (BS CompSci ‘23), Clare O’Hara (BS CompSci ‘21), Dr. Stephen Slota (Faculty Neag/DMD), Meaghan Doherty (BFA DMD ‘21), Danial Ezzati (MFA DMD ‘24), Jake Tomassi (BA DMD ‘22), Dr. James Coltrain (Faculty DMD), Lexi Vecchio (MFA DMD ‘23), Kenneth Thompson (Faculty DMD), Arpita Kurderkar (Ph.D. Candidate – Integrative Studies / School of Engineering).  Not shown but also in attendance: Alden Earwood (BFA DMD ‘23), Dr. Clarissa Ceglio (Faculty DMD), Dr. Michael Young (Faculty Neag)

Amid waves of applause from game-loving superheroes, ninja turtles, and Jedi, three of UConn’s Digital Media & Design game designers took home awards at this year’s Connecticut Festival of Indie Games (CT FIG). The annual competition unfolded over three days (September 10-12, 2021) in partnership with ConnectiCon, a family-friendly gaming and anime convention that attracts more than 12,000 people to the Hartford Convention Center each year (ConnectiCon XVIII was the first large scale event held at the convention center since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic). 

Students, faculty, and alumni from Digital Media & Design, the Neag School of Education, Greenhouse Studios, and the School of Engineering showcased a dozen games ranging from multiplayer, arcade-style space adventures to virtual reality experiences centered on concepts as varied as plein air painting, geometry, and engineering. During ConnectiCon, attendees had the opportunity to play each game, vote on their favorites, and provide feedback to the developers, each of whom (undergraduates, PhD candidates, and current faculty) is rocketing toward a bright future in the field of design. 

“It is really wonderful to see our students shine. Winning 3 of the 7 digital awards in a state-wide competition is an incredible achievement,” said DMD Department Head, Heather Elliott-Famularo. “We are incredibly proud of the students, alumni, and faculty in our game design program.”

award badge

The 2021 CT FIG | UConn DMD student / alumni winners are: 

Currently in its eighth year of operation under the leadership of game designer Ken Thompson, the UConn Digital Media & Design game design program is ranked #1 in Connecticut and #19 on the East Coast according to Animation Career Review. It draws from multiple disciplines—including fine arts, psychology, and computer science—to engage students in hands-on projects and cultivate the skills needed to build a wide array of analog, video, and virtual reality gaming experiences. For aspiring Master of Fine Arts students, the program offers fully-funded, three-year MFA graduate assistantships in Digital Media & Design.

“It’s gratifying to showcase their diverse skill sets and hard work to the state of Connecticut. I’ve watched many of them collaborate and learn how to make games, and it’s an honor to have supported them along the way,” said Ken Thompson.

Unique to UConn is the highly-interconnected nature of its DMD game design and educational technology programs. The two coordinate to target practical skills for digital age collaboration, communication, and universal design, all of which are crucial in cutting-edge entertainment, educational, and interactive business spaces. This partnership allows UConn’s game designers to learn technical skills for their profession as well as concepts related to playful learning, human cognition, and accessibility with Dr. Stephen Slota, a DMD/Neag joint faculty appointment. Likewise, educational technology specialists enrolled in the one-year Master of Arts educational technology “Two Summers” program—whose motto is “Learn to Play & Play to Learn”—benefit from interdisciplinary courses that weave together best practices for interactive storytelling, instructional design, and classroom technology implementation.

These learning opportunities are often made possible through funded research positions in game development at Greenhouse Studios, housed in the UConn Homer Babbidge Library. Greenhouse forges diverse and democratic collaborations that build humanities scholarship in new formats to engage new audiences.

 

student with award
Devin Quinn with his award.
student with award
Mackenzie Fox with her award.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Full List of Competing UConn Student Work:

  • Viscid Xenogenics 
    • Meaghan Doherty – Design / Art – (B.F.A. DMD ‘21) 
    • Devin Quinn – Programming – (B.A. DMD ‘21) 
    • Through a Glass 
      • Mackenzie Fox – Game Design /Coding / Art – (B.F.A. DMD ‘21) 
      • Hare Apparent 
        • Devin Quinn – Game Design – (B.A. DMD ‘21) 
        • Mackenzie Fox – Character Art – (B.F.A. DMD ‘21) 
        • Meaghan Doherty – Logo – (B.F.A. DMD ‘21) 
        • Enthrall 
          • Danial Ezzati, Game Design and Programming (M.F.A. DMD ‘24) 
          • Scrapshoot 
            • Robert Linquist – Lead Project Director / Developer – (B.F.A. DMD ‘19) 
            • Joshua Hirshfield – Lead Producer / Visual Effects – (B.F.A. DMD ‘21) 
            • Ben Guzik – Assistant Director / Lead Designer / Developer /Sound Designer – (B.A. DMD ‘20) 
            • Mackenzie Fox – Lead Visual Artist – (B.F.A. DMD ‘21) 
            • Christopher Janocha – Game Designer / Developer / Sound Designer – (B.F.A. DMD ‘20) 
            • Cadence Hira – Music Composition – (Berkeley School of Music ‘21)
            • Matt Tomaszewski – Project Director / Developer, Game Designer
            • Devin Quinn – Game Developer – (B.A. DMD ‘21) 
            • Zack Anderson – Gameplay Programmer – Engineering, (B.S. Comp Sci ‘23)
            • Rubicon
              • Devin Quinn – Lead Project Director / Lead Developer – (B.A. DMD ‘21) 
              • Josh Hirshfield – Game Designer / Developer – (B.A. DMD ‘21) 
              • Matt Hsing – Voice Acting
              • Malcolm Braren – Soundtrack Composer – (B.S. in Marketing ‘21)
              • Sean Mathieu – Marketing / Business – (B.A. DMD ‘21) 
              • Cadence Hira – Sound Design & Polish – (Berkeley School of Music ‘21)
              • NovaSwarm
                • Patrick Belanger – (M.F.A. DMD ‘18)
                • Thesis Topic: Teaching Engineering Concepts with the Arts in Virtual Reality  
                  • Arpita Kurdekar (Ph.D. Candidate in Integrative Studies) 

                 

                Other Faculty Research Presented at ConnectiCon

                • Blackhaven James Coltrain (DMD Game Design Faculty)
                  • James Coltrain – Design, Story, 2D and 3D Art, programming, animation, audio, and music
                  • Cast
                    • Kendra Turner – Darby Farr
                    • Maya Turner – Jada “JC” Brazil
                    • Anthony Mitchell – Raven Boyd
                    • Audio Tour Narrator – James Coltrain
                    • Male Caller – James Coltrain
                    • Female Caller – RachRob269
                    • Script
                      • Tia Alphonse
                      • Tyra Johnson
                      • Naomi Winston
                      • Shearon Roberts
                      • James Coltrain
                  • Charles VR Greenhouse Studios
                    • Jonathan Ampiaw – (M.F.A. DMD ‘21)
                    • Shawn Chen – (B.F.A. DMD 3D Animation ‘20)
                    • Lauren Ciulla – (B.A. DMD Web/Interaction Design ‘20)
                    • Ryan Freeland – (M.F.A. DMD ‘18)
                    • Eri Lauer – (B.A. DMD 2D Animation ‘20)
                    • Tim Miller – (Greenhouse Studios Mellon Design Fellow)
                    • Alex Mueller – (B.F.A. DMD Web/ Interaction Design ‘22)
                    • Lily Pashapour – (B.A. DMD web/Interaction Design ‘20)
                    • Dan Pejril – (DMD 3D Animation Faculty)
                    • Eric Rice – (Department Head, Music)
                    • Tom Scheinfeldt – (Director, Greenhouse Studios and DMD Faculty)
                    • Michael Young – (Humanities Librarian and Adjunct Lecturer in Art History)
                    • Brooke Foti Gemmell – (Design Technologist, Greenhouse Studios)
                    • Tom Lee – (Design Technologist, Greenhouse Studios, M.F.A. DMD ‘17)
                    • Courtroom 600  
                      • Undergraduate Research Assistants:
                        • George Liam Houle – (B.A. DMD Game Design ‘18)
                        • Abigail Golec – (B.F.A. Design/Technical Theater)
                        • Brett Glynn – (B.A. DMD Game Design ‘19)
                        • Alex Williams – (B.S.E. Software Design and Development ‘19)
                        • Christopher Janocha- (B.A. DMD Game Design ‘20)
                        • Jefferey Dobbs – (B.F.A. DMD 3D Animation ‘20 )
                        • Joshua Hirshfield – (B.A. DMD Game Design ‘20)
                        • Ethan Hanna – (B.S. Computer Science ‘20 )
                        • Justin Woods – (B.F.A. 3D Animation ‘20)
                        • Kenny Wei – (B.S. CSE Software Design and Development ‘19)
                        • Kerrie Maguire – (B.A. DMD Game Design ‘19)
                        • Rae Enzie – (B.F.A. DMD Game Design ‘19)
                        • Renoj Varghese – (M.F.A. DMD ‘21 )
                        • Benjamin Guzik – (B.A. DMD Game Design ‘20 )
                        • Charles Hildner-IV – (B.F.A. DMD Game Design ‘19 )
                        • Santino Giannini – (B.A. Communications ‘19)
                      • Graduate Research Assistants:
                        • William Keeping – (M.A. DMD ‘16)
                        • Margaux Ancel – (M.F.A. Arts Administration ‘19)
                        • Patrick Belanger – (M.F.A. DMD ‘18)
                        • Stefan Lopuszanski – (M.F.A. DMD ‘20)
                        • Meghan Arends – (M.A.Public History, UMass Boston ‘22)
                      • Faculty
                        • Ken Thompson – (DMD Game Design Faculty)
                        • Clarissa Ceglio – (DMD Digital Humanities Faculty)
                        • Stephen Slota – (DMD Game Design Faculty)
                        • Gregory Colati – (UConn Digital Preservation Repository Program Director)
                        • Graham Stinnett – (UConn Archivist)
                    • EOS-503 (A funded research project. All students were compensated for their work)
                      • Stephen Slota – (DMD Game Design / Neag Faculty)
                      • Colter Moos – (Ph.D. Candidate Neag) 
                      • Clare O’Hara – (B.S. Comp Sci ‘21)
                      • Devin Quinn – (B.A. DMD ‘21) 
                      • Mackenzie Fox- (B.F.A. DMD ‘21)
                      • Meaghan Doherty – (B.F.A. DMD ‘21)
                      • Josh Hirshfield – (B.F.A. DMD ‘21)  
                      • Zack Anderson – (B.S. Computer Science ‘23)

                     

                    UConn SFA Professor Oscar Guerra Wins Big at Emmy Awards

                    University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts professor Oscar Guerra was a winner at the 42nd Annual NewsOscar Guerra and Documentary Emmy Awards Tuesday night. He won Best Story in a Newsmagazine for his documentary film, Love, Life, & the Virus, which tells the story of a local immigrant Guatemalan family and the impact COVID-19 had on their lives.Professor Oscar Guerra

                    The film aired on PBS Frontline, which also won two additional awards for its programming. Univision also aired the film in Spanish.

                    “It was already an honor the be nominated in two different categories, but the win feels amazing! Love, Life & the Virus is simultaneously a story of uncertainty and hope, darkness and light, but above all, what happens when people come together and support each other. Miracles do happen!” said Guerra. “And I am grateful to share this win with my family, my Frontline team, and UConn.”

                    “All of us at UConn are very proud of Oscar and his achievement,” said Dr. Carl Lejuez, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “This transformational film makes an important statement about an immigrant family’s experience in the Covid era, giving a voice to those who are marginalized in our society and disproportionately affected by the pandemic. It’s also a great example of why community engaged scholarship and creative work among our faculty is so important to our role as a research University for the State of Connecticut.”

                    In Love, Life, & the Virus, Guerra follows the family as mother, Zully, is admitted to the hospital due to her COVID-19 diagnosis and pregnancy with her second child. Her husband, Marvin, and son, Junior, also contract the virus. With the entire family ill and unable to care for the baby, they turn to Junior’s teacher who agrees to care for the newborn. Cameras follow the family through every step of their lives as the Stamford community rallies around the family until they eventually reunite.

                    Guerra Productions Team

                    “Oscar’s Emmy win is huge and comes at a wonderful moment for our young Digital Film/Video Production major. Just last year, we announced a new Human Rights Film and Digital Media Initiative, partnering with our Human Rights Institute at UConn, and this is evidence of the quality of our program and the kind of impact we intend to have on the medium – and in society,” said DMD Department Head, Heather Elliott-Famularo. “Oscar’s dedication to human rights filmmaking and our ongoing partnership with PBS Frontline are integral to this future.”

                    Guerra and his team are currently working on their next film which focuses on the aftermath of the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy and family separation. This is a collaboration between UConn, Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and PBS Frontline.

                    As seen on Broadway World.

                    (Via UConn Today) UConn Stamford Professor, Human Rights Filmmaker Earns Two Emmy Nominations

                    Oscar Guerra says the multidisciplinary partnerships at UConn expand the reach and depth of his work

                    Oscar Guerra, assistant professor of digital media and design, at the Stamford campus on Sept. 9, 2021. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

                    “There are some stories that are meant for you and some others that are not – I think it is as simple as that,” says Oscar Guerra, an assistant professor of film and video in the Digital Media and Design Department at UConn Stamford.

                    “If you want to call it luck, if you want to call it fate, there are things that are meant for you. I think that I happened to be in the right moment at the right time.”

                    For Guerra, that right time was during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Stamford, and the story was that of an immigrant family from Guatemala. The mother, Zully, was admitted to the hospital with COVID while pregnant with her second child; her husband, Marvin, and son, Junior, had also contracted the virus.

                    Cameraman in full PPE filming a COVID-19 patient in the hospital
                    Oscar Guerra, an assistant professor of film/video production at UConn’s Stamford campus filming patient Zully, who was ill with COVID-19 before giving birth to son. PHOTO BY JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES

                    Extremely ill, Zully was placed into a medically induced coma and was unconscious when her second son was born. Unable to send the baby safely home, the family turned to their son’s teacher, who remarkably agreed to care for the infant, while the local community rallied to support the family during Zully’s illness and recovery and, later, the family’s reunification.

                    Guerra, a documentary filmmaker whose focus is social change – with particular emphasis on capturing the realities of the Latino and immigrant experience – had his camera running during some of the family’s most wrenching moments: when Zully came home from the hospital, still ill but recovering; when the family’s continued positive COVID tests kept the new infant from coming home; and when Zully learned her mother, still in Guatemala, was also seriously ill with COVID.

                    He was also there when their beloved teacher finally handed the baby to his mother, five weeks after his birth, and the raw emotion of these moments is palpable in the finished piece, “Love, Life, and the Virus,” which aired on the long-running PBS program Frontline and the acclaimed Univision program Aquí y Ahora last year.

                    “As a journalist, I think that you have to be very objective,” Guerra says. “You have to be very rigorous with what you have. But at the same time, you’re also a person. You’re this human being that is feeling, so it’s really hard to be able to find that balance.”

                    The balance that Guerra struck has earned him two national Emmy nominations for “Love, Life, and the Virus,” for Outstanding Feature Story in a Newsmagazine and for Best Story in a Newsmagazine. The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be given out in ceremonies scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28 and Wednesday, Sept. 29.

                    That balance has also kicked off a new and exciting partnership between Guerra and Frontline.

                    “The Frontline team are, in my opinion, some of the most well respected journalists in the States – how they do it, the way in which they approach the process, is so serious, so deep,” Guerra says. “I think that after the success of ‘Love, Life and the Virus,’ they realized that I wanted to keep working with them and they wanted to keep working with me, and I had a chance to pitch an idea.”

                     That new idea has come to life as a multimodal collaboration between UConn, Frontline, and the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University that will focus on the reunification of families separated at the U.S. border. The project includes documentary film as well as a multimedia web-based platform based on independent research that examines the impact of the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy.

                    “We’re doing a comprehensive examination of the Zero Tolerance policy and its aftermath,” says Guerra. “What is the Biden Administration doing about it now? Are we going to forget about it? Are we going to learn from the past?”

                    The work feels personal for Guerra, he says, who was born in Mexico and came to the United States 10 years ago, and whose own child was born in the midst of Zero Tolerance.

                    “Can you imagine being separated from your kids, just like that, because you’re seeking asylum?” he asks. “Maybe you’re fortunate enough that it has never happened and is never going to happen to you, but what if? What would you do for your kids? I’m not trying to put any judgment or anything here, it’s just shedding light on something, it’s just starting that conversation, but this is going to be a very powerful film.”

                    Guerra says that the space in front of a camera was always a place he found comfortable. He was a performer from a young age, he says, and was also a professional mariachi singer in Mexico.

                    Cameraman in PPE
                    Oscar Guerra, an assistant professor of film/video production at UConn’s Stamford campus wears personal protective equipment while filming COVID-19 patients in Stamford Hospital. (PHOTO BY JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES)

                    “From as early on, as long as I can remember, I’ve always been good in front of the camera,” he says. “I always had a very artistic sensibility. And there was a moment where I said, you know what, I think that I’m going to start producing my own stuff, not just being in front of camera. It was a very organic development – cameras became just very natural for me.”

                    He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Tecnologico de Monterrey University in Mexico City, and his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; he taught at San Francisco State University before joining the faculty at UConn in 2019.

                    Hired to help launch the new B.F.A. film and video concentration in the Digital Media and Design Department, the ability to collaborate with UConn’s Human Rights Institute and Dodd Human Rights Impact – with great support from his department head in Digital Media and Design, Heather Elliott-Famularo – was a big selling point in his decision to join the University, he says.

                    “I asked about collaborations and partnerships, because that’s crucial for the type of work that I do,” Guerra says. “Being able to partner up with a place like the Human Rights Institute, it just opens up so many possibilities to expand your network. I’m new to the area, and having that background and support is a big advantage for an assistant professor.”

                    He continues, “We have similar interests and similar goals. We’re very committed to highlight through film human rights violations and issues. They think that film is the right medium to do this, and when you have a guy like me that is producing documentary for social change and is also interested in that, I think that’s why it was a perfect match.”

                    Guerra has also taken his partnerships local, working with the City of Stamford on a project to document the city’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout and response.

                    “Sometimes I just go out with my camera and I start documenting,” he says. “That’s my craft, what I do, and I started documenting the COVID vaccine rollout here in Stamford. I connected with the City of Stamford, because I think that I just have this precious archival footage. I told Kathy [Libal, Human Rights Institute Director] and Glenn [Mitoma, director of Dodd Impact], why don’t we work on a multimedia archival project? I have really good stuff, and just imagine how precious and how valuable that that footage is going to be.”

                    Guerra earned a competitive Research Excellence Program grant this year to support the Stamford project.

                    While he says that he tries to leave viewers of his films open to their own interpretations, he hopes that his work can help start conversations, build awareness, and maybe lead to people to greater feelings of empathy toward others.

                    “I realized that it was almost my moral responsibility to use my talents and my field to give back to my community,” he says. “You can start reframing the Latino immigrant experience. What we see in mainstream media, it’s not an accurate reality of who we are. Our reality is very complex and rich. Media has a lot of power, and when we document, we empower. And that’s what we need.

                    “I think that what we do as filmmakers, it’s so crucial. We document history, and then we change our future by understanding what happened in the past.”

                    Ceremonies for the 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards are scheduled for September 28 and 29.

                    For more information about UConn’s Human Rights Film and Digital Media Initiative, visit humanrights.uconn.edu.

                    Story by Jacelyn Severance for UConn Today


                    This Emmy® Awards ceremony will be streamed live on NATAS’ dedicated viewing platform powered by Vimeo, available on the web at watch.theemmys.tv and via The Emmys® apps for iOS, tvOS, Android, Samsung, FireTV, and Roku (see a full list at apps.theemmys.tv) at 7pm

                    (via UConn Today) MFA Exhibits at Benton Showcase Work by DMD, Studio Art Students

                    MFA Exhibits at Benton Showcase Work by DMD, Studio Art Students

                    Work that celebrates the collaboration that can take place in the arts

                    April 21, 2021 | Kenneth Best – UConn Communications
                    MFA Exhibits at Benton Showcase Work by DMD, Studio Art Students
                    Work that celebrates the collaboration that can take place in the arts

                    One of the attractions for enrolling in the Master of Fine Arts in Digital Media & Design (DMD) is the opportunity to work on collaborative projects within the community of creative artists in the School of Fine Arts and beyond.

                    As a senior in film studies at Chung-Ang University, one of South Korea’s leading private comprehensive research universities, Hongju (Hannah) Lim was becoming interested in exploring 3D animation, and also wanted to work more collaboratively with other visual media. One of her professors told her about UConn’s MFA in DMD.

                    “DMD brings together multiple disciplines. I thought, if I go there I will have the opportunity to really collaborate with others, and I really did,” says Lim, who is completing the DMD MFA program this spring. “During my graduate study, I’ve worked on developing animations for projection mapping in the lobby of The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and I’ve also created scientific visualizations in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Marine Sciences and with other DMD students.”

                    Lim’s MFA thesis project, the 3D animated short film “Ensemble,” is part of the annual Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition at The William Benton Museum of Art, which continues online at The Benton website. The exhibition includes works by graduating Studio Art and DMD MFA students. The Studio Art exhibition, titled “Sour Milk,” features works in photography, mixed media, video, animation, book arts, drawing, printmaking, and painting. The DMD exhibition, titled “Turning Point,” features 2D and 3D animations, UI/UX interactions and designs, digital games, and virtual reality.

                    Lim’s work “Ensemble” tells the story of a young composer who ignores his outgoing neighbors as he struggles to write music. Ultimately, he learns that the answer to making powerful music is not in his isolation, but in his interactions with neighbors. In the film, the composer leads his neighbors as they play their own instruments, which allows him to complete his new composition. Lim says the film reflects her own experiences.

                    “In my undergraduate years, people would ask me to spend some time with them, such as traveling to other cities together or going over to their houses to talk and play. However, I said ‘No, I need to study, I need to write my script because I need to concentrate on my school work,’” she says. “After I came here to the USA, I have noticed that for all those years I have missed my chance to learn from people around me. This new environment has helped me to learn by looking around at the people, places, and cultures that surround me. ‘Ensemble’ shows that the more you disconnect from reality, the more likely you will be to miss out on valuable interactions.”

                    Lim focused on character animation during her MFA work and telling stories about young adults and children. She originally wrote the script for “Ensemble” using only young adult characters but thought the storyline was too serious. She added children and music to the script to make it both lighter and more meaningful.

                    “Adding characters who are children to my film really conveyed what I want to say through the animation. Children are genuine and innocent, so their silly actions are more easily accepted. I believe the protagonist decided to spend time with the children because instinctively he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. I decided to make the protagonist a composer, because music is something that can be very personal, but it is also something that you could collaborate on together,” she says. Lim has collaborated with a Korean music producer Ju Won Lee in making music for “Ensemble.”

                    In addition to Lim, the 2021 DMD MFA Exhibition “Turning Point” features the work of: Emma Atkinson, “when we were,” virtual reality video game; Yucheng Hang, “Cybertown,” interactive educational platform; Wenchao Lou, “Memory-Home-Food,” 2D cooking game; Claudia Nunez, “As You Wish,” 2D animation and pitch bible; and Renoj Varghese, “Microinteractions in Chatbots,” interaction design.

                    The 2021 MFA Studio Art exhibition “Sour Milk” considers what has soured, creating potential for positive change or harmful destruction. Judith Thorpe, professor of photography and MFA Program director, and Janet Pritchard, professor of photography and MFA Project Seminar coordinator, noted the challenges faced by this year’s MFA class: “Graduating during the time of COVID-19, the class of 2021 has encountered challenges never before imagined. Last year’s class bravely pivoted mid-spring while this year’s class continued facing a year of uncertainty. Blocked from their studios for months, they encountered and mastered alternate means of instruction, conception, production, and fabrication, always adjusting on the fly, driven by their will to create. We celebrate their accomplishments. They challenged themselves, creating new work in unexpected ways that reflect their insights and development over the past three years. Their creative work asks questions and then asks more questions. Their art is visual poetry that will continue to grow and develop after graduate school.”

                    “Sour Milk” features works by Joseph Caster, photography; Shelby Charlesworth, mixed media installation; Rachel Dickson, photography and video; Paul Michael, books arts and video; and Magdalena Pawlowski, painting and etchings.

                    An Emerging Artist Talk with the Studio Art MFA candidates will take place on Wednesday April 21 from 3 to 5 p.m. EDT via Zoom. Visit the online exhibition to register.

                     

                    See original story via UConn Today: https://today.uconn.edu/2021/04/mfa-exhibits-at-benton-showcase-work-by-dmd-studio-art-students/

                    (Via UConn Today) ‘Along the Waves’ Puts Music in Motion Through Animation

                    ‘Along the Waves’ premieres April 21 at 6 p.m. online

                    A dancer’s image from the animation of “Prélude en Berceuse,” the first movement of “Au Gré Des Ondes (Along the Waves) “ composed by Henri Dutilleux. The music in the first movement was performed by Morgan Lee ’22 SFA, a doctoral candidate in piano, and animated by Jonathan Goodrich ’21 SFA.
                    A dancer’s image from the animation of “Prélude en Berceuse,” the first movement of “Au Gré Des Ondes (Along the Waves) “ composed by Henri Dutilleux. The music in the first movement was performed by Morgan Lee ’22 SFA, a doctoral candidate in piano, and animated by Jonathan Goodrich ’21 SFA. (Contributed photo)

                    When the coronavirus pandemic paused in-person events and online streaming became the main venue for arts performances, two professors in the UConn School of Fine Arts started thinking about a project that would showcase their students’ creative talents.

                    Anna Lindemann, assistant professor of motion design and animation in the Department of Digital Media & Design (DMD), and Angelina Gadeliya, assistant professor-in-residence of piano and coordinator of keyboard studies in the Department of Music, developed a semester-long collaboration for their piano and animation students.

                    “We wanted to bring together talents within the School of Fine Arts to create an exciting online program,” Lindemann says. “We asked ourselves how animation can bring music to life during a time when live performance isn’t possible, and how music can inspire new ways of developing and structuring animation.”

                    The result is a short, animated music program called “Along the Waves,” which will premiere online on Wednesday, April 21 at 6 p.m.The program honors the 75th anniversary of the work “Au Gré Des Ondes (Along the Waves),” composed by Henri Dutilleux. Comprised of six short character pieces for solo piano, the title of the work suggests both “ocean” and “radio” waves. The animated music program also features “Prelude No. 10 in E minor (WTC I)” by Johann Sebastian Bach, a work that Dutilleux pays homage to in the fifth movement of his own composition.

                    Dutilleux’s small body of published compositions won international praise and follows in the tradition of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. Those who commissioned works from him include Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Renée Fleming and Seiji Ozawa. He served as the head of music production for Radio France for nearly two decades, was a faculty member of leading music conservatories in Paris, and was twice composer in residence at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

                    “I think of music as very visual already,” says Gadeliya. “We’re trying to decode what the composer is trying to say; what is the mood and the character of each piece of the six short pieces? All of these sounds can inspire colors from each musician. The closer you get to the spirit of the composition as the interpreter, the easier it is for the visual artist to bring life to that music through animation.”

                    Seven pianists and seven animators collaborated in pairings to develop a music animation during the spring semester. Gadeliya worked individually with each musician as they learned and then recorded a movement from the program, and Lindemann guided animators in her Advanced Motion Media class.

                    “One of the things we prioritized was empowering each collaborative pair to develop their own visual interpretations of the music,” Lindemann says. “Each pair met independently to develop concepts for the animation before receiving guidance from Professor Gadeliya and me. We used the class as a way to workshop and critique the animations as they developed.”

                    Morgan Lee ’22 (SFA), a doctoral candidate in piano, collaborated with Jonathan Goodrich ’21 (SFA), a senior in the Motion Design and Animation concentration in DMD, to develop the animated music for the first movement of program, “I. Prélude en Berceuse.”

                    “We had conversations leading up to the animation as I was learning the music,” Lee says. “We had discussions talking about imagery and structure. I mapped out the major shifts in the music measure-by-measure as a way to guide the visual development. We also had to take into consideration that it’s more time intensive to develop a three-minute animation than it is for a trained musician to learn and record a three-minute musical piece. As Jonathan was finishing drafts and doing storyboard ideas I was giving my feedback as a musician.”

                    Goodrich says his early suggestion of using a ballet dancer as the core image in the animation changed as they continued their discussions and they began to consider a mirage-like quality for the animation.

                    “I made rough drafts of how those visuals would look,” he says. “We built on that with a surreal ballet-inspired sequence where the figure dances through changing shapes to match the color tones as the music changes from light and innocent to a more sinister feeling. We wanted to reflect that in the movement and the colors of the project. I decided to go in the direction of a more simplified visual style for the figure, like Matisse’s cut-paper figures.”

                    During the animation, the ballet figure transforms from a person to an angel to a centipede-like creature and then back to a dancer. Goodrich created the animation using Cinema 4D, a 3D animation software, along with Adobe Illustrator for illustration and Adobe After Effects, a motion graphics software.

                    In addition to “I. Prélude en Berceuse,” the music animations for “Along the Waves” include:

                    • “II. Claquettes (Tap-dancing),” Tristan Wong ’23 (SFA), piano; Quinn Erno ’22 (SFA), animation
                    • “III. Improvisation,” Emma Bocciarelli ’23 (SFA), piano; Mitchell Lisowski ’21 (SFA), animation
                    • “IV. Movement perpétual,” Oswald Tang ’24 (SFA), piano; Cassidy Keller ’21 (SFA), animation
                    • “V. Hommage à Bach,” Sofia DiNatale ’23 (SFA), piano; Gillian Partyka ’21 (SFA), animation
                    • “VI. Etude,” Niccolo Meniconi ’21 (SFA), piano; Davis Peng ’22 (SFA), animation
                    • Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Prelude No. 10 in E minor BWV 85” from The Well Tempered Clavier, Ilinka Manova ’22 (SFA), piano; Antonio Ariola ’21 (SFA), animation

                    The animated music program “Along the Waves,” featuring music by Dutilleux and Bach, can be seen online via Zoom on Wednesday, April 21 at 6 p.m. A discussion with the pianists and animators follows the program, which is free and open to the public. Advanced registration required.

                    Article From UConn Today