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Confab is vehicle for students’ tech ride

The motherboard of directors in charge of Siggraph ’97 decided that the sharing of knowledge among the computer elite that the convention represents should also be available to educators and the next generation.

That’s why nearly 1,000 teachers and students in the Los Angeles region have been invited to Siggraph this year to get a look at the state-of-the-art know-how.

The convention’s Community Outreach Program in its pilot year will bring in teachers ranging from the kindergarten level through graduate programs and students 16 years of age or older to take stock of the advances in technology for the five-day event at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“The revenue we generate every year at Siggraph goes into future years’ conferences, and the board decided that we should formalize some sort of support for education,” says Jackie White, a work operations analyst for the California State University, Los Angeles, and a computer graphics and animation teacher at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, who’s also the Community Outreach chair.

“We do it for the good of the whole, to give back to the community,” says White, one of Siggraph’s volunteers. “Professionally, it’s been very infectious. We’ve developed a grant program for teachers. Everyone checks their egos at the door and works for the common good.

“A lot of schools, especially high schools, are immersing themselves in this technology. We invited some students from Pacific Palisades High School to work in the Electric Garden. Broadcasting students from Cal State L.A. have been added to the professional camera team that will be filming and documenting everything at Siggraph.”

The teachers and students, who represent a wide gamut of schools from Hillcrest Elementary to East Los Angeles Occupational Center to El Camino College to Technology Development Center, have been provided with a full slate of tours, speakers and interactive activities in the “SIGpen.”

Among the 28 industry professionals who will speak are Isaac Kerlow of Walt Disney Studios on “Digital Careers for Artists in the 21st Century,” Hank Driskill of Digital Domain on “Virtual Extras and Virtual Stars,” and William Green of Jet Propulsion Laboratory on “Processing Space Mission Remote Sensing Data.”

Career highlights

Professionals and educators who will offer advice on preparations for careers in computer graphics include Rachel Nicoll of Sony Pictures Imageworks on “Preparing Your Portfolio and Demo Reel,” Rosalee Wolfe of DePaul University on “The Ins and Outs of Rendering in Animation,” and Prof. Ran Libeskind-Hadas of Harvey Mudd College moderating the discussion, “Virtual Ping Pong,” about online interactive gaming.

White said that the teachers and students were identified for invitation after a labored search. Students will be coming from as far away as Ventura and Riverside counties.

“We wanted to put our fingers out there in as many areas as we could identify that had strong interest,” she says. “At least they could take the information they can glean back to their schools. Siggraph will be back in Los Angeles again in 1999. And maybe in the meantime, we will have given some people a head start.”

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