There’s something about Penn’s Digital Media Design program that gets the blood boiling.
The program pulls in instructors from across departments at the university to teach students computer animation. Thanks to this approach, Penn has created a factory of highly-talented graduates that go on to work for companies like Industrial Light and Magic, Electronic Arts and Disney.
The problem? Most of them end up leaving town, even if they’d rather stay.
“Many students like to stay in the area and stay local if they can,” said professor Norman Badler in a presentation to visiting international journalists attended by Technically Philly. The center invited foreign writers to help showcase the city’s growing gaming community to help garner some international press to help lure foreign talent and companies here. A representative from the state’s International Business Development office was also present.
Many of DMD’s grads, who average a higher salary than even Wharton grads, are forced to pack for lands out west. But thanks to renewed efforts from universities, city government and activist groups like VGI Philly the tide may be ready to turn (Though, as reported by Brian James Kirk, some are saying it isn’t enough).
“I wanted to own a house and to have a family, I can’t do that in the Bay Area,” said graduate Salim Zayat to the dozen or so journalists gathered in the SIG Center, an open-spaced computer lab that sports a motion capture rig.
In his presentation, Zayat said he moved back to area to work on “serious games” to help autistic children learn social skills through video games.
While most fields are telling their students to go niche, DMD is urging just the opposite.
“Our students need to be generalists,” said Badler.
The curriculum is a jigsaw puzzle of classes that spread across five departments including computer science, fine arts and natural science, each taught by a faculty member who is an expert. Therefore, each faculty member stay within their core competency while student gets the best of each world.
“Let’s just say, (most) researchers aren’t creative people,” joked Zayat.
Today, the department showed off a multitude of student projects that ranged from innovative ways to animate lights to a dancing Ben Franklin. Technically Philly’s favorite, of course, was a short that featured a T-Rex patrolling Locust Walk (it’s the top video here, about half way through).-30-