|Futuristic buses in Beijing|
|Renewable Energy Community|
Interspersed with those experiences was our project using OpenSim to design and build communities. The students broke into groups, picked a location in the world to design for, and researched the needs, cultures, and geography of the local region. Once they had chosen their places I created approximate heightmaps and imported them to adjacent regions. I had hoped to use Virtual White's steps to importing USGS Seamless Server data to OpenSim but I couldn't find anything similar for international GIS data. So I did some quick brush work and came up with some okay approximations, though way off scale. The areas they chose were Syndey Harbor, Fengtai in Beijing, and an area modeled after Table Mountain near Capetown, South Africa, though the actual Table Mountain is a nature reserve. Each group focused on different aspects of their communities. The Beijing group worked primarily on a transportation center with a station and a futuristic bus. I got them started with a script to move the bus with passengers inside that they obsessively refined to suit different transportation objectives.
|Sydney Harbour Bridge|
|Syndey Harbor Heightmap|
Aside from Ener's work, we looked at an amazing video of Encitra's model for integrating a podcar system in Uppsala, Sweden. And we took a virtual tour of some Second Life regions, like Ijinle 1796, a composite Yoruba village in Africa Illuminated, the impressive Edmonton Civic Center build, and a nice Chinatown build called Chukagai in Yokohama. I don't know how to do SLURLs but if you search in SL you should be able to find these locations. And we read and discussed some passages about affordances and affective elements of design from Donald Norman's books, The Design of Everyday Things, and Emotional Design.
I was so impressed that they really got some essential concepts about what it means to design things for people. On one of our field trips the guide asked them some questions about design and they said things like, "You design things to solve particular problems," "Your first design will never work," and "At some point you will have to use math to get your design to work right." I was so proud of them!
|A bit of fun on the bridge|
What else can I say....It is so rewarding to work in a way that allows for learning from such different angles, gives them such great latitude for creativity, ingenuity, and collaboration, and provides a social element that really makes it fun. At some points we all feel like it's a game that we're playing together but there's enough freedom to set goals together and for the students to set and revise their own goals. There are even a few girls who want to continue working and create a replica of our school building in the sim! It's also the kind of work that is tremendously engrossing and the concentration is exhausting. They liked working steadily on something and then sitting back and realizing how tired they were from concentrating so hard. In all, what an amazing experience. I look forward to next year's Winterim class.