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Bridging technology to art: New Carnegie Mellon University courses via Intel

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Randy Pausch, the late Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Computer Science professor who co-founded CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, connected science to art throughout his career as a teacher, researcher, writer, designer and dreamer. In tribute, CMU built the Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge, connecting the Gates Hillman Science Complex to the Purnell Art Center in 2009 to symbolize the creative and collaborative spirit Pausch conveyed across academic disciplines.

In addition to literally connecting the two buildings, the bridge itself symbolizes the fusion of art with technology, featuring abstract penguin cutouts (Pausch used penguins to remind students to be brave) and a spectacular programmable light show inspired from the themes of his book, The Last Lecture. Supported by a grant from Intel in 2011, student teams designed five more cutting edge light shows for the bridge during a cross-disciplinary course that explored light as art; interactive design; and programming.

This fall, CMU and Intel continue their partnership to spearhead the "next generation of interdisciplinary studies" when CMU introduces eight new concentrations of Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe;) and Intel donates technologies and funds a research scientist to advance the collaborative IDeATe program with faculty and students. Offered in studio-based courses, the concentrations are: animation and special effects; entrepreneurship for creative industries; game design; intelligent environments; learning media; media design; physical computing; and sound design.

Students from any CMU major will be able to select any concentration to add depth to their academic focus; with additional coursework, they can also complete a minor.

To facilitate the cross-disciplinary approach, a 'portal' course is a prerequisite in order to prepare students for coursework outside of their primary discipline: Arts & Humanities majors take one portal course and Engineering & Science majors take another. From there, students integrate across majors to select three additional courses for a concentration or four for a minor.

Fully 25 CMU Departments (from the College of Fine Arts, the School of Computer Science, the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Science) have representative faculty and staff merging their diverse competencies to implement research and curriculum plans for the IDeATe network of courses. Additionally, partnerships with community and industry resources will enrich student instruction with real-world learning opportunities.

Intel Design School Network Program Manager John Somoza points out that engineering students, who will need to consider user interface on the job, "will learn to engage their design side;" and design students will become more tech-savvy employees with access to a broader curriculum of cutting edge technology.

As CMU students across all disciplines continue to be engaged to go beyond what they thought was possible, to discover their creativity and to expand connections between technology and the arts, CMU will graduate experts well-prepared for careers where multidisciplinary collaboration is key.

As Randy Pausch said: "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity."

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