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Flying First Class on the Cartesian Plane: 3D Modeling and Robotics with Ms. Jenkins

Close-Up of Robot's Head

Kennedy Catholic’s course in 3D Modeling is a little over two years old, and no one is more excited about sitting at that nexus of Art and Science than its teacher, Ms. Antonia Jenkins.

“Yes, it’s fantastic! My background is in Art, but what I am teaching is the foundation of a lot of other things,” she enthused. “You can take what you’ve learned here and apply it to architecture, to engineering, to design. It’s the basics that you need to help grow.”

Currently, 3D Modeling students use Maya, the same industry-standard software used by Hollywood animators. That’s right in Ms. Jenkins’ wheelhouse, having more than a few short films and commercials under her belt. She studied Computer Animation at The School of Visual Arts.

Ms. Antonia Jenkins teaches Robotics, Computer Programming and Computer Modeling at Kennedy Catholic High School

Ms. Antonia Jenkins teaches Robotics, Computer Programming and Computer Modeling at Kennedy Catholic High School

“With 3D Modeling, students start out making simple things, working with the space, getting familiar with the interface, then going on to actually making things, making objects.”

This marriage of aesthete with concrete is emblematic of other courses offered to juniors and seniors at Kennedy, as well. It’s a big component of the Robotics curriculum, taught, again, by Ms. Jenkins.

“I try to blend a lot of the creativity and the science together by having students come up with creative ideas, like telling a story. One of the projects we do at the end of the year is to have the robot tell a story, and then have the robot act it out. So we have the creative side of writing a story and the more scientific side of programming the robot to move, and to change its voice, and to narrate the story, and to make it come to life.”

Students use an application called Choreographe to program the robot. The application breaks the robot-controlling program down into a series of boxes that each manage a different part of the robot’s programming. The students also need to write their own custom code to make the robot perform various tasks.

“Robotics class starts out with basic things,” she explains, ”like making the robot talk. Then we proceed onto making it move and working with its different sensors and do more complicated things.”

The Robot

The Robot

On the horizon? Yanking some of those wireframes and software models out of cyberspace with Kennedy Catholic’s new 3D printer.

“We’ve got some other software that we are working with, including 123D Design and Meshmixer, and we’re going to be learning how to make things in 3D space, how the printer works, and how you what you create digitally translates into reality.”

Ms. Jenkins agrees that making robots tell stories and sculpting objects from aether hits the sweet spot for many Kennedy students who are Math and Science-oriented.

“There is a lot of Geometry that goes into 3D Modeling. So you need to know about the Cartesian plane, basic geometric principles, and the different components of an object. You get to work with that and through that you get to create some amazing things.”

But if it’s a little bit Art, and a little bit Science, what’s the benchmark for success? How does a teacher know that she has the pistons firing on both the left and right sides of a student’s brain?

“When they keep asking me ‘what to do?’ and ‘what to do next?’” Ms. Jenkins explained. “I had a first year student who was really into it, she was always on top of her work, and she always wanted to know, ‘what’s the next step?’”

…and the next step for that student was…?

“I have heard back from her and she is studying to be an architect! That’s fantastic because architects work with a program called Auto CAD, another 3D software program. So I have given her a nice foundation to continue working in 3D.”

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