“Bree” the Bee was instrumental in inspiring a group of central Ohio school girls over the summer. The group of 7th and 8th grade female students created animated films — about a honeybee — during a free, two-week digital animation program, sponsored by the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) at Ohio State. In its 14th year, the program, “Digital Animation: A Technology Mentoring Program for Young Women,” is the brainchild of ACCAD Director Maria Palazzi.
“Ultimately, our goal is to increase the number of women in the field of computer graphics and animation, and to encourage more women to consider animation as a career,” Palazzi explained. “We want more gender balance in an industry so that all of the media that we are consuming has both points of view. The industry is still very male-dominated.”
She said the program empowers the students, giving them a new confidence in dealing with high-end animation technology and storytelling, while having fun. This year’s group was comprised of 15 girls chosen from more than 70 applicants, and was funded in part by Women in Philanthropy.
“They realize they can embrace the technology, and their parents find out that there are these creative technology-based careers out there for their daughters. We choose this age group because studies show that it’s about this time — around age 12 — that girls start losing interest in math and science. We want to keep them interested.”
The school girls are mentored in the program by female ACCAD students. One of the mentors this summer, Malory Spicer, started out as a attendee herself when she was an 8th grader from a small town near Dayton. “I’d never even been to the OSU campus and found the whole experience pretty amazing,” she said. “They let us use this incredible technology and they treated us like adults. The whole experience showed me what was possible for me as a career.”
Spicer ended up coming to Ohio State on an academic scholarship and got undergraduate degrees in computer science and engineering and just graduated in August with an MFA in design, where she concentrated in digital animation and interactive media.
“I’ve been mentoring groups now for three years and it’s pretty awesome for them to realize what’s possible,” she said.
The honeybee project started with some down-to-earth research, with the group visiting real beekeepers at the Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware to learn about the life of honeybees. They then created storyboards, devised the animated characters, created scenery and backgrounds, constructed the animated movement and recorded the soundtrack, all using state-of the-art, industry standard animation software at ACCAD’s sophisticated facility on campus. The end result was a 2-minute animated film created by each of five groups of girls, with a festive film screening for families and friends on the last day of their program.