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Westphal Undergraduate Students Present Advanced Research Projects In 2022 STAR Scholar Showcase

Marial Moreno Gomez presents a poster at STAR Scholars Showcase

September 15, 2022

The STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholars Program is an opportunity for highly motivated first-year students to engage in an early faculty-mentored undergraduate research, scholarship, or creative experience during the summer after their freshman year. This highly competitive program seeks to identify and encourage students to take a hands-on approach to their education through undergraduate research.

This year, 10 students from majors or minors in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design participated in the STAR Scholars program, and their summer experience culminates with a poster presentation at the annual STAR Scholars Summer Showcase. Their projects explore such topics as acoustic treatments, digital cultural heritage, public health, and inclusivity in design.

The Black Bottom: Commemorating a Historic Community in a Digital Space

Presenter: Annie Dao, Animation & Visual Effects

The Black Bottom neighborhood was inhabited predominantly by an African American community that lived within West Philadelphia during the early 20th century until the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and educational institutions planned to expand their campuses to create a technology hub. The demolition of the Black Bottom displaced more than 4,000 residents to create what is now University City. The project plan is to produce an augmented reality (AR) tour to commemorate the Black Bottom neighborhood and to promote social justice. I met with U. C. Science Center representatives to seek support. I researched cultural landmarks, read through interviews conducted with former residents and held conversations with civil rights activist, former resident and educator Dr. Walter Palmer and with “Black Bottom Tribe” member Sid Bolling. A neighborhood landmark, Fan’s theatre, operated at 40th and Market from 1944 to 1963. I collected photos and building permits of iterations of Fan’s theatre from the Philadelphia City Archives and UPenn Digital Archives to prepare a 3D model of the building and a model of the “Fan’s Automobile” used to advertise the theater, the models will be used in the AR tour.

Watch the showcase presentation here.

Mentor: Dr. Glen Muschio, Digital Media

Principles of Accessible Video Game Design for Players on the Autism Spectrum

Presenter: Eli Goldberg, User Experience & Interaction Design

Exploring accessible video game design has become more popular in recent years among game developers. From small indie companies to larger companies like Naughty Dog, accessible game options are starting to appear more frequently and on a larger scale in comparison to previous decades of game development. While many of these accessibility options aid those with visual, auditory, and mobility impairments, game options supporting players with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are limited. By reviewing existing research literature on autism and the experiences of gamers on the spectrum, I created a guide for game developers interested in including accessibility features for ASD players. The guide explores four of the main symptoms of ASD and offers four corresponding principles of inclusive game design for designers and developers to implement. This guide encourages the application of accessible game features as well as encourages the expansion of inclusivity to players on the spectrum in the video game industry and community.

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Dr. Frank J. Lee, Digital Media

“The Ghosts Who Guide Me Home”: On Money, Family, and Spirituality

Presenter: Ellie Wellington, Screenwriting & Playwriting

The Ghosts Who Guide Me Home is the pilot episode of a larger series surrounding the Connors, a family in emotional and financial ruin who devise an elaborate money-making scheme involving the creation of a cult. The pilot introduces us to three siblings, Will, Scott, and June. Will hears from June that their mother has passed, bringing him and his family back to the hometown he moved away from years ago. He reconnects with his brother, an addict, who reveals he is running out of money and has come up with a business called Elysian Fields, a wellness company powered by experimental therapy. Scott wants to work with Will. Though Will is disgusted by the idea at first, his crumbling financial situation pushes him to hear Scott out. Through a series of events, the brothers involve June in the business, who is behind on rent and desperate for money. As the siblings work through their issues, the rest of the family fights their own battles, dealing with divorce, drug use, and mental health crises. The broader explorations of this project are the relationships between estranged family members, the consequences of the New Age spirituality movement, mental illness and addiction, and business ethics. 

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Professor Neal Dhand, Film & Television, Screenwriting & Playwriting

Digital Cultural Heritage: A Commemoration of Philadelphia's Black Bottom In Augmented Reality 

Presenter: Jillian Wright, Digital Media & Virtual Production

With the destruction of the Black Bottom Community significant cultural history was lost. The main objective of this project is to commemorate the Black Bottom community through an augmented reality (AR) self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood. To accomplish our objective we are working with two Black Bottom community advocates, and conducting research at archives in the Philadelphia area and using historic photographs to produce 3D models of Black Bottom landmarks that will be used in the AR tour. I am producing a 3D model of the 33rd St. Armory based on a blueprint obtained from Drexel’s Real Estate and Facilities Office. 

The project is important because Urban Renewal, is usually thought of as brightening up an area to make it look better. However, too often it displaces residents, and that is what happened in Philly’s Black Bottom; displacing thousands of mid 20th century African Americans. This project will keep the memory of the Black Bottom Community alive and help to serve as a reminder that a practice on this scale should not be repeated. 

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Dr. Glen Muschio, Digital Media

Tackling Public Health with Design

Presenter: Tina Yang, Graphic Design

With the most recent health crisis that resulted in the pandemic, Covid-19 has had people heavily relying on technology for information and often misinformation to try to comprehend a public health emergency. Through the chaos, individuals have turned to social media for knowledge, direction, and comfort. So how can graphic design be used in the public health industry? The discipline has assisted with health messaging that helped the public navigate vast amounts of data and reassure them they are not alone.

Graphic design, the art of words and images, is literally everywhere. The public acknowledges it as pretty posters or media posts but design serves multiple purposes: communication, information, and persuasion. As a versatile tool, it utilizes visual concepts on any topic in mind to captivate an audience.

To show the versatility of graphic design, posters, public service messaging, and infographics from historical health crises were analyzed. Similarities found showed that the design elements have been embedded in history and differences portrayed the evolving styles developed throughout time. Ultimately, these cases were connected together to emphasize the significance of design, particularly in the healthcare industry. 

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Professor Mark Willie, Graphic Design

Indian Arts and Crafts Act

Presenter: Hanako Chen

The United States established the Indian Arts and Crafts Act(IACA) in 1935 to protect the indigenous arts market. Congress established penalties for misrepresenting native products and set up the Indian Arts and Board to assist Indian artists and sellers. In 1990, because the cases of fraud and exploitation persisted, amendments were added to the 1935 legislation. Congress expanded the criminal penalties by increasing the fines and prison terms, adding civil penalties, clarifying the definition of the term Indian, authorizing Indian tribes to certify individuals as Indigenous artisans, and assigning the FBI to investigate violations of the act.

My project studies the economic impact the IACA has had on the market for native-made works as well as the law's implications for Indigenous cultural survival. I am further developing this STAR project as part of a Winter exhibition of the works by native bead artist Joy Tonepahhote that will be held at Drexel. My research on the IACA–its relevant case law, the debate over its strengths and weaknesses–and the interviews I conduct with indigenous artists and scholars will provide contextual information on this important federal legislation to exhibition visitors.

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Professor Linda Kim, Art & Art History

Change in Fashion Is No Longer an Option, It Is an Obligation

Presenter: Kaylin Trembula, Marketing (LeBow), Retail minor

In an interview with Jacqueline Canterbury, she said, “Lots of people think that they’re not interested in fashion, so they’re not part of the problem. Nobody really understands that everybody who gets dressed is part of the problem.” Global greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions from the fashion industry are destroying the world’s resources. Waters are polluted with textile waste and toxic dyes. Consumers are not mindful as they buy and dispose of clothing at such an alarming rate that the amount results in towering landfills throughout developing countries. Agents of change, individuals with the capacity to drive change in the industry, inspire action to invoke a transformation in the world. How do we combat this pattern of consumerism and disposal?

For this research, interviews were conducted with six agents of change who work or own companies in the fashion industry, and a survey was sent out to 100 individuals to discern consumption patterns. The results are that access to information in fashion could reframe the public’s perception to hold consumers and brands responsible for executing change. Younger generations must insist on a better standard of production and consumption to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Professor Chris Baeza, Design & Merchandising (nominated for Outstanding Mentor of the Year)

"Awakening", an exploration of the symbolism of dreams through film

Presenter: Marial Moreno Gómez, Film & Television

“Awakening” is an experimental short film about the symbolism in dreams and the frustration that can manifest in them after a breakup. This was inspired by the very vivid dreams that I have every night. The project was divided into 3 parts: pre-production, production, and post-production.

During the pre-production process, I researched the psychology of dreams and wrote a script that represented their symbolism, taking into consideration the use of color, wardrobe, lighting, etc. This process also included securing locations, recruiting the crew, casting actors, scheduling the dates, and preparing for the production. The production consisted of two days of shooting with the crew (fellow Drexel students) and cast, where I had the opportunity to work collaboratively as we learned from each other. For post-production, I organized and assembled the footage which I then edited. I also developed the sound design for the film. 

I have always been interested in dreams and researching this project allowed me to better understand their impact and symbolism. I incorporate my new knowledge into a script and was able to hone my filmmaking skills by producing, directing, and editing a short film.

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Professor Karin Kelly, Film & Television

Digitally Recreating Bird Exhibits from Peale’s Philadelphia Museum 

Presenter: Kayseigh McCaleb, Animation & Visual Effects

The American artist Charles Willson Peale operated his Philadelphia Museum in Independence Hall, 1802-1827. Peale’s museum focused on art, technology, and natural science, using the Linnaeus classification system to demonstrate the world in miniature. The ornithological exhibit had over 700 birds in 140 cases, which Peale and his children painted to portray the environment of the specimen. These displays were used to tell a story and illustrate the importance of art, science, and technology in the early American Republic. My research this summer has been part of a larger project to create an interactive augmented reality of Peale's museum for Independence Hall visitors and interactive learning environments for K-12 STEAM education. My focus has been producing historically accurate 3D models to populate the bird exhibit. Through reading primary sources on the birds in Peale’s collection, studying Alexander Wilson’s drawings from his 9-volume American Ornithology, and researching birds and their environments, I have created a series of bird display cases to be used in the digital museum. I have also created a 3D model of a duck, which can be used in the future to make various breeds of ducks to fill the display cases further.

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Dr. Glen Muschio, Digital Media

Impact of Design and Acoustic Treatment in Workspaces on Creativity, Culture, and Productivity

Presenter: Kylie Mika, Music Industry

COVID-19 had a detrimental impact on many industries, with workplaces consisting of various living rooms, and school projects created without ever speaking to partners. With most people returning to school or work this past year, work culture built over the past years seems virtually nonexistent. However, if rebuilt, improved morale, increased productivity, and greater collaboration will result.

The Music Industry Program here at Drexel possesses a necessity to restore student culture. Alongside my mentor, we brainstormed logistical changes to the program, and I assisted in improving existing studios and midi labs. As well, the department recently acquired a space to be renovated and used as a creative workspace for students, which became the focus of my individual research. I analyzed workspaces of successful businesses, acoustic treatment processes, and productivity data. I surveyed current students for their input on design and decor. After reviewing the responses of my peers, I created a rendering of what the new space could look like. The hope is that over the years, this will contribute to the growth of mentorship, collaboration, experiential learning opportunities, and enjoyable productivity within the MIP’s culture.

Watch the presentation here.

Mentor: Professor Ryan Moys, Music Industry