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CalArts Awarded National Science Foundation Grant to Teach Computer Science through the Arts

CalArts Receives $111,881 to develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum.

Students with little or no background acquire cutting-edge technological skills through innovative curriculum.

New model for teaching computer science is uniquely suited for arts institutions and other non-traditional settings.


Ajay Kapur, Associate Dean of Research and
Development in Digital Arts. Photo: Scott Groller.
Click here for high resolution photograph.

May 17, Valencia, CA - The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) a grant of $111,881 to develop a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum for undergraduate students across the Institute's diverse arts disciplines. The two-semester curriculum is designed to teach essential computer science skills to beginners. Classes will begin in Fall 2012 and are open to students in CalArts’ six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater.

This innovative arts-centered approach to teaching computer science—developed by Ajay Kapur, Associate Dean of Research and Development in Digital Arts, and Permanent Visiting Lecturer Perry R. Cook, founder of the Princeton University Sound Lab—offers a model for teaching that can be replicated at other arts institutions and extended to students in similar non-traditional STEM contexts.

"As artists increasingly employ technology, it is essential that arts institutions provide courses offering students the tools with which to conceptualize and generate new ideas, new artistic approaches, and potentially new technologies," said CalArts President Steven D. Lavine. "At CalArts, we prepare students for success in today's creative economy—and this means guiding their artistic development while offering them a cutting-edge technological curriculum tailored specifically to their needs as artists."

Using powerful, real-time, open-source programming languages, ChucK and Processing, students with little or no computer science background will gain programming skills that can be immediately applied to digital arts practice."Every assignment is an artmaking assignment," comments Kapur. "We are teaching computer science principles through the arts. With each creative project, students build upon a growing repertoire of technical skills."

Arts colleges are not commonly awarded funding to originate STEM curriculums. However, CalArts has long been at the forefront of arts and technology practice, and is uniquely positioned to develop such a curriculum. The Institute’s Music Technology curriculum is unique in the world, engaging students in custom software design, circuit design for human-computer interfacing, and the use of robotic mechanical systems and artificial intelligence in musical and artistic practice. CalArts’ School of Film/Video, with its renowned animation program, has been a global leader in innovations in computer graphics and advanced digital media technologies.

Last edited by dthatt on May 17, 2012
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