Computer scientists, animators illuminate the universe through videos, games
Computer Science Professor Eun-Young Elaine Kang, left, looks over a game created by student Julia Yefimenko during a SciVi meeting. Grigor Dzhambazyan and Patrick Armitage are in the background working on the Hubble video animation.
“The learning experiences are awesome,” Mijic said. “For science students it is sometimes like a full-fledged research project, with lots of study of literature, calculations, and programming. For computer science students there are complex tasks of writing scripts to model physical sequences in animations, developing user interfaces for web applications or serious number crunching codes. Art students go deeply into sophisticated tools of two- and three-dimensional animations to provide faithful, yet artistic descriptions.
“Sometimes it feels like JPL, sometimes Silicon Valley, and sometimes, it’s Hollywood,” Mijic added. “We love it.”
For many, the SciVi project is their first experience of working in a multidisciplinary group. As a result, they said, they have learned a lot about communicating, sharing ideas and team work. The pooled skills make for a surprisingly “powerful” combination.
“One person would not be able to do all of this by themselves,” Dzhambazyan said. “It’s only possible because everyone is working together.”
The group has until August, when the NSF grant expires, to finish their current projects they are currently working on, Mijic said. The professors are also in the process of applying for more funding in hopes of extending the life of SciVi, further developing the educational games component and broadening the lessons on cosmology to include early universe topics, like “Where did matter come from?”
Regardless of what the future holds, however, those involved say working on SciVi will be an experience they will never forget.
“It’s been much more than I ever expected it would be,” said Julia Yefimenko, a computer science student. “I have learned how to look at things in a completely different way.”