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Team members from left to right: Jasmine, Kyra, Raina, Alexandre, and Luna

Capstone Profile: Digital arts engagement platform

Each year, UC Berkeley Master of Engineering students work on a team of 3 to 5 students with the goal of engineering solutions using cutting edge technology and methods to address crucial industry, market or societal needs. We’ll be documenting several capstone teams as they work on their year-long projects. The focus of this article is to feature the Digital Arts Engagement Platform team comprised of Industrial Engineering Operations Research (IEOR) students Luna Izpisua-Rodriguez, Alexandre Vincent, Yuyang (Raina) Pan, Jiahe Zhou, and Civil Engineering student Shuo Chang.

The Digital Arts Engagement Platform team occupies a unique space within this year’s capstone projects. While the team has a focus on technology, they aim to fuse technology with the arts in order to provide access and awareness about arts experiences to UC Berkeley students. The first iteration of the campus-wide arts access and engagement app, built and designed by the Fung team, will soft launch at Cal Day, April 21, this year with tickets students can claim for upcoming events at the Bay Area Book Festival, YBCA, and other campus events.

The app is designed to provide students with free or subsidized tickets to arts and design events, exhibitions, performances and more both on and off campus. In future iterations of the app, students will have the ability to “claim” tickets, invite friends, share their, experiences and participate in dialogue about arts experiences all while earning points that can be used to purchase unfunded tickets or to share with friends, maybe eventually even use points to fund transportation. Additionally, this app will create a platform for students to share with donors and alumni what most compels and interests student at UC Berkeley. Donors can fund opportunities for students, and similarly, students can show their interest in attending an event with the hope of a donor funding their interest. Ultimately, this will create a philanthropic tie between donors and students and encourage an engaged student community of arts and design supporters.

The team was interested in choosing this specific project since they recognized a disconnect between art and technology on campus, despite the rapidly growing industry given our technology driven age. They also enjoy the “philanthropic innovation” social aspect of the project which allows them to increase community engagement and therefore bring the community closer through a shared love of the arts.

While all Berkeley MEng capstone projects maintain a focus on technical innovation, the digital arts engagement platform team members have interests other than just technology. For instance, team member Luna Izpisua-Rodriguez attended UC Berkeley for her undergrad and double majored in Chemistry and Art, and she is passionate about combining both her science and art related interests together. Meanwhile, while most of the other team members do not have an academic background in the arts, they all come from countries that provide citizens with free access to the arts and are eager to see the program succeed. Luna stresses the importance that technology has on the arts and believes, “leveraging technological advances to make arts experiences more accessible for UC Berkeley students is the way of future engagement on campus.” From art venues being present on people’s mobile phones to having their own websites, or through apps such as the one that the team is working on, the goal is to increase participation and engagement and ensure that all Berkeley students have the opportunity to experience the arts during their time at UC.

Working on the project has been rewarding for the team, and they recently facilitated a successful engagement exercise for students visiting the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco. The team was able to test how willing students are to share their art experiences with each other, and students viewed Isaac Julien’s work as they passed around LED globes as a means of interacting with each other.

Each week for the last nine months, the team meets with their advisors Bill Allison, UC Berkeley’s Chief Technology Officer and Sarah Dragovich Fullerton, Communications Manager for Berkeley Arts + Design. In the Fall, they were busy consulting with and conducting research on projects around the state, like SFMOMA’s “Text Me Art” program, BAMPFA, and the Music Department. Because of the dual aspect of their project, the team has faced several challenges along the way given the engineering setting that they are situated in. As the only arts-based capstone project, the team has found that it can often be hard to convey the relevance of the arts to people within STEM disciplines who may not have much of an interest in or familiarity with art.

Despite these challenges, the team has found it to be extremely exciting to see an interdisciplinary design project that combines arts and design with engineering and are eager to launch the first version of their product at Cal Day on April 21. The end goal is to bring arts and design to Berkeley through technology, and build bridges across campus so that everyone can have the opportunity to engage in and enjoy local art that they may not have otherwise been familiar with.

In a rapidly growing technological age, the digital arts engagement platform team goes to show that emerging technology does not necessarily mean a departure from art appreciationrather, technology can be used as a tool to leverage the community’s awareness of art in order to achieve higher levels of engagement.

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