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A cross-disciplinary minor to engage student’s creativity and engineering skills

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2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting


California State University, Los Angeles , California

Publication Date

April 4, 2019

Start Date

April 4, 2019

End Date

April 6, 2019

Conference Session

PSW Section Meeting Papers - Disregard start and end time - for online paper access only

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Pacific Southwest Section Meeting Paper Submissions

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Zoe J. Wood Cal Poly

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Whether it is creating computer graphics models of underwater shipwrecks or using art and creativity to help students learn computational thinking, Professor Zoë Wood’s projects unite visual arts, mathematics and computer science. Via her NSF funded research projects she works with colleagues and students on robotics and computer graphics algorithms for shipwreck discovery and mapping which resulted in the discovery of a rare World War 2 airplane wreck. She works to increase the number of underrepresented students in her field through research projects, outreach activities and advising the student group Women Involved in Software and Hardware (W.I.S.H.). As co-founder of the interdisciplinary minor, Computing for the Interactive Arts, she believes in empowering students to realize their artistic visions via coding.

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Enrica Lovaglio Costello CalPoly

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Enrica Lovaglio Costello an associate professor in the California Polytechnic State university, San Luis Obispo. She is a PhD student in the Media Arts and Technology (MAT) from the University of California, Santa Barbara (ucsb); she holds a Laurea (M.arch quiv.) degree in Architecture from the University of Genova, Italy, and a Master’s degree in MAT from ucsb. She is a computational design instructor in the Art and Design department at the California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly), San Luis Obispo where she leads the Computing for the Interactive Arts minor.

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Aaron W Keen California Polytechnic State University

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Dr. Aaron Keen is a professor of Computer Science and Software Engineering at California Polytechnic State University.

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Christian Eckhardt California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo Orcid 16x16

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It is well documented that groups composed of diverse team members achieve better results when tackling complex problems (McKinsy & Company). With this in mind, Cal Poly introduced the Computing for the Interactive Arts (CIA) cross-disciplinary minor, blending art and computer science, in fall 2016. This minor is rooted in two important contexts. One being that interactive entertainment is a billion dollar industry; video game revenue in 2012 was valued at $14 billion and is expected to grow to $29 billion in 2021. There is clearly a need to prepare students with both creative and engineering skills to work in this field. The second important context for the creation of the CIA minor is the gender composition of the fields relevant to interactive entertainment. At Cal Poly, the computer science major on average is composed of 24% female students, while the art and design major has 26% male students. Uniting a mix of students from these two fields allows participants to explore multiple disciplines of high interest and creates a varied pool of students with good potential to form diverse teams. With these tenants in mind, Cal Poly created the CIA minor to prepare students for technical, creative jobs (and creative, technical jobs) while working to bring together diverse teams for problem solving, potentially bridging the gender gap found in both art and computing. We present the CIA minor curriculum, which focuses on creating a collaborative, cross-disciplinary environment in which Art and Design students integrate coding and algorithmic thinking in creative works and in which Computer Science students apply the principles and methodology of design thinking to visual applications. The minor enables students from different disciplines to collaborate on projects requiring both a technical and a creative perspective. The minor is composed primarily of existing courses from the Art and Design and Computer Science departments with the addition of a two-quarter long capstone project, in which teams of students from mixed educational backgrounds work together to make a final creative technical project. Example capstone projects include virtual reality experiences, mixed reality, and traditional video games. In this paper, we also present demographic information about the three years of mixed disciplinary cohorts that have been admitted to the CIA minor. Each cohort averages 11 students who are a mix of computing and art majors, with a total of 27 students having completed the CIA minor capstone class. Of the students who have declared the minor, 69% overall are female and 60% of the participating computing majors are female. The minor consistently attracts a larger percentage of female computing students than the computer science major. When surveyed, the majority of students who have completed the capstone responded that they believe the minor increased both their creative and technical skills. In addition, 75% of CIA alumni (both computing and art majors) have jobs in a technical industry after graduation. Finally, we present reflections on the CIA minor in the hopes of encouraging others to consider what is gained by uniting art and engineering.

Wood, Z. J., & Costello, E. L., & Keen, A. W., & Eckhardt, C. (2019, April), A cross-disciplinary minor to engage student’s creativity and engineering skills Paper presented at 2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting, California State University, Los Angeles , California. 10.18260/1-2--31811

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