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Students and faculty team up with IMA to bring exhibit to life

April 27, 2015

Cyclone690x388Thousands of people are expected to visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art to see a motor vehicle spectacle when it arrives in May. When they do, they will have their experience enhanced by an app developed by two Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing students.

“Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas,” will feature rare concept cars from the early 1930s to the 21st century, showcasing some of the most unique vehicles ever created by top names in the automotive field.

Visitors drawn by the radical, curvaceous motor vehicle designs will be able to use an app on a museum iPad or downloaded to their own tablets that was developed by Vance Vaden, a graduate student, and Michael Auer, a freshman. Vaden was project manager and animator. Auer was interaction developer.

The app offers insights into car design by letting app users design their own cars, learning about decisions that contribute to the cost, fuel efficiency and speed in the process.

Vaden and Auer began work on the app in September, working with a museum design team. The app was completed in December.

“It’s fairly experimental for all of us right now,” said Zeb Wood, a Media Arts and Science lecturer in the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI. “The museum wanted to try using technology to enhance the exhibit and we wanted to give students the chance to work on a real-world project for real clients.”

IMG_1570Among the app requirements: it had to be entertaining and easy to use for all ages, yet more informative for adults.

The challenge that faced the students was between “kind of hard and really hard, these two wanted the opportunity, and we briefed them, they have been dealing with an entire committee at the IMA ever since.” Wood said. “We have students that sometimes graduate without creating something like this. Now we have a freshman and a first-semester graduate student creating fully function apps. This is a huge jump for us.”

The success of the project will open the eyes of other students, Wood said. “They are going to say I don’t have to wait four years to try to create something for a community partner. I can get started right away.”

The experience is one Auer won’t forget.

“This project has given me the chance to learn about working with a professional development team,” he said. “My previous projects were mostly solo ventures and so making the transition to a team based one was incredibly enlightening. Since most projects in the real world are centered around group work and deadlines, experiencing these things really improved my skills.”

Auer, who volunteered for the project, said his ability to write algorithms and his problem-solving abilities increased ten-fold. “There is a big difference between working for yourself and working for a large art museum and I believe that it really pushed me to become better at what I do.”

Varden also found the project to be an interesting experience. “Having an actual client definitely changed the way I approached IMG_1571each task since everything I did was for them, rather than for a grade and myself. I found myself communicating more and paying close attention to wording and detail a lot more than I usually would,” he said.   “The internship was probably the best experience I had this semester since I got more professional experience, and worked in a different environment than I had ever worked in previously.”

What makes this particular project unique is the fact that the museum is so willing to work in tandem with the school’s students, treating this as a learning experience for both student and the professionals on the IMA side of things, said Travis Faas, a Media Arts and Science lecturer.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this project is the skill levels involved, he said. “The primary developer, Michael, was a first-semester freshman going into this project. Working along with this team he has had more opportunity to learn ‘how it is done’ in the real world compared to many of his peers. It is a real eye-opener to learn just how much work goes into the production of an even relatively simple app.”



Media Contact

Joanne Lovrinic