Readers of AnimationCareerReview are familiar with DigiPen Institute of Technology, the first university of its kind to offer a dedicated computer graphics and video game development Bachelor degree two decades ago. Today, the college also boasts a new MFA in Digital Arts along with assorted undergraduate degree programs. Less known, perhaps, is the college’s extensive youth program which is similarly ahead of the learning curve.
DigiPen’s Project Fun offers assorted workshops and credit courses for students in middle through high school looking to explore the animation and game development fields while applying core studies to real world applications. Based out of its Redmond, Washington campus in close proximity to the greater Seattle area gaming hub, the youth program incorporates a wide variety of courses and workshops for youth to explore onsite and online. Better still, its unique compilation of rigorous yet entertaining courses are taught by DigiPen’s faculty and undergraduate students with continued expansion of new courses year over year.
Intensive summer camps are just the tip of the iceberg, with year-round workshops, clubs and AP-credit coursework for high school juniors and seniors eager to get a head start on their collegiate studies. “Our introductory courses cater to those students looking to get their feet wet in the studies. From there, we offer courses that go all the way up to exploratory projects and high school programs for credits,” says Director of K-12 Programs Marketing Emma Trifari.
All of its programs focus on integrating fundamental areas of study such as mathematics and writing into real world applications in development, animation and more. While projects and team work appeal to a broad cross section of youth, the rigorous academic challenge in the context of computer arts is welcomed by parents.
“The first thing I hear from parents is that they have never seen their child so excited about their studies,” says Trifari, who says she is always amazed at the dedication that students of all ages put into their Project Fun studies. “One child was taking all of the math courses available in his high school because of his interest from our youth programs. His parents were so pleased to see him work so hard and recognize the importance of his studies on his interests and future.”
The Workshop series, now in its 18th year, offers nearly two dozen courses to choose from that explore 2D and 3D animation, game design, robotics, Character Design and Sculpting and many more areas of interest. The Tech Academy is a college-prep level program that works in conjunction with high schools and secondary institutions in the state of Washington and beyond to offer high school credits and, in some cases, advanced placement coursework.
For students outside of DigiPen’s northwest home, online workshops in 3D Animation and Video Game Programming enable high school upper-classmen around the country the ability to hone their critical thinking skills in the context of their interested fields. Better yet, daily or weekly online conferences with instructors via WebEx give them the virtual assistance they need to understand the concepts, ask questions and collaborate on projects.
“DigiPen has always offered a wide range of courses for its undergraduates and we’re catching up with that in our youth programs,” Trifari tells me. “We now offer workshops on things like sound and audio engineering and we have options for students to learn the entire range of game design.”
Like their collegiate counterparts, youth in the Project Fun programs are willing and eager to learn all aspects of production along with the required initiative that will serve them well if they choose to embark on further studies in the industry. “They realize the importance of being multi-faceted in today’s world and we’ve tried to cater to that need with our assorted courses.”
While DigiPen’s Project Fun courses do not guarantee admittance into post-secondary animation schools (including its own), youth courses encourage a new generation of thinkers to reason outside of the box with a combination of the latest technology tools, persistence and critical thinking skills. And those, according to Trifari, are necessary skills in the industry and in the world.
“The biggest thing we emphasize is that academics underlie everything we do- each program incorporates core subjects that bring new life to students’ studies,” says Trifari. “We believe in an application-based learning style, which is what we offer.”
For information on the latest course offerings, tuition, parent and student testimonials and more, visit DigiPen’s Project Fun youth website.
Check out more interviews at The Animation Career Review Interview Series.