Best of the Week 2018-2019: Teaching to the Future
COMPUTER SCIENCE INDEPENDENT STUDY BRINGS AUGMENTED REALITY TO ST. ED'S
Over the weekend at St. Ed's first Open House of the season, the Computer Science Department unveiled its latest project working with augmented reality (AR) technology. Mr. Anthony Mortimer, Computer Science teacher and Assistant Director of Innovation, has been teaching an independent study course to Justin Planovsky '19 and George Platko '19 who were offered a co-op with 360 Alley, a company that specializes in virtual reality and augmented reality software. 360 Alley is owned by Mr. Marty Tarr, a tech guru in the Cleveland area and a good friend of Mr. Mortimer's who was willing to pilot a remote co-op program with St. Ed's. Through this co-op and independent study, Mr. Mortimer has been able to bring augmented reality to St. Ed's. "I'm very passionate about implementing a world class computer science program at St. Ed's. Part of that experience involves staying on the cutting edge. My independent study helps students become proficient in a variety of advanced computer science topics and platforms. They develop a series of projects to demonstrate mastery of topics including software engineering, virtual and augmented reality, web application services, machine learning and natural language processing," says Mr. Mortimer. "Right now, augmented reality is within the first mile of a technology marathon. It will soon be a trillion dollar industry and I want to keep my students one step ahead of the game."
Behind the scenes of this project, Justin and George have worked together using Vuforia, an augmented reality software development kit that provides the framework for developers to create an AR experience, to program images into Unity, a 3D game creator, that will be rendered through an app that automatically produces a 3D model of each image. "This project is unique for us at St. Ed's because we've never done this before. We've tried virtual reality, but have never made our own AR app. When I create something, I can see it in my mind of how I want it to come out, but AR allows me to actually see my creations come to life," says Justin. From the photograph above, images of animals and the St. Ed's logo were instantly magnified into 3D images using Justin and George's AR creation. "Getting something to work in programming is always satisfying, but AR's connection to the real world makes it feel even more substantial than other projects I've worked on before. I've worked with 3D models before, but there's a certain artistic element to designing models for an application that's hard to find in traditional programming projects," says George. "I hope that working with 360 Alley will expose me to more examples of real world creative solutions and I'm looking forward to learning more and integrating advanced models into future projects."
When prospective students and families entered Mr. Mortimer's classroom that displayed Justin and George's AR project, they were blown away by this new technology and the fact that our Edsmen were able to create this as high school students. "One issue I have with academia in general is that schools are either not teaching computer science at all, or they teach it with minimal commitment. I think the prospective students and families who experienced my students' AR project during Open House were surprised to see how committed St. Ed's is in implementing an authentic and innovative computer science curriculum," says Mr. Mortimer.
"For people to see something created on a computer and be brought into the real world, even if it's only through a camera and a screen, it shows our potential for more untapped technological ideas," says Justin. "St. Ed's has given us the resources and connections to meet people we wouldn't have met elsewhere. Mr. Mortimer has been a huge inspiration to me over the years, simply from always being there to offer a helping hand either personally or professionally."
"St. Ed's has been a great place for me to expand my passion for computer science and has opened doors for me to learn more about computer science and its applications firsthand through my teachers, especially Mr. Mortimer, and Mr. Tarr's mentorship through our co-op. St. Ed's attitude toward achievement has driven me to seek further understanding about new things in the field that interests me," says George.
Looking to the future of computer science programs at St. Ed's, Mr. Mortimer will be implementing an elective course next year that will solely be dedicated to 3D and mixed reality programming. "My favorite thing about working with AR is the fact that it's an untapped market. AR is the next major frontier in computing and the possibilities for applications are endless. There are no market leaders in this field yet, and even though St. Ed's has just started using this program, we are already gaining recognition for our efforts. It's my intention to make St. Ed's a hub for mixed reality content creation," says Mr. Mortimer.