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New RTA course works with OSC

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By Al Downham    

The RTA school of media and Ontario Science Centre (OSC) have created an “experiential design” course for new media and digital media students.

The “hands-on” course — aiming to combine “art and technology” by designing interactive installations — will be open to RTA students next school year, divided into two semesters of pitching and constructing pieces. Unlike the RTA school of media’s last voluntary project, Forest at the TIFF Kids’ digiPlaySpace, this project is a two semester, full- credit course.

In a press release, RTA Chair Charles Falzon calls the class an “opportunity for our students to get real world experience, and fully appreciate the end-to-end process of designing an exhibit and installing it into a public space.”

Approximately 25 students will  be working with senior members of the RTA school of media and the OSC to create the pieces. Falzon said mentors will be chosen based on students’ ideas for their “art, interactive installation, or a mixture of both.”

“[If a student’s project is based on] more natural sciences, a senior exec from that department [will be chosen],” he said. “If it’s more environmental sciences, someone from that department will mentor.”

RTA faculty members have had pieces featured at the OSC. Falzon’s 2011 piece called Geofreakz created a treasure hunt with celluar and GPS technology, while associate professor Steve Daniels created Sessile, a 2008 OSC installation of “kinetic but non-motile pods” that physically responds to light. Daniels will lead the workshops and brainstorming events in the course.

The press release said Kevin von Appen, director of science communication at the OSC, is open to students’ creative ideas, adding that the centre has included pieces with themes ranging from bioart, robotics, astronomy, fashion and even steampunk pop culture.

After selected projects are approved in the Winter 2016 semester, students’ projects have a chance of being featured in the OSC during the following summer.

“The projects have to be senior for a third-year level, not just of quality, but complexity,” Falzon said. “Both the science centre and [the RTA school of media] will look for things the average audience can engage with. It’ll be for the average family to enjoy.”

Falzon said he expects the course to reach a larger demographic and encourage “learning through doing.”

Details on experiential design will be announced at a later date.

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