At The Putney School, seniors have the option to apply for an “Exhibition,” which is essentially a project that lasts for the Spring Trimesters (or about 2-3 months.) The exhibition is usually a culmination of work or interests over one’s four years at school. Senior Exhibitions have to be approved after a lengthy process by a team of faculty, and only seniors who show a high level of achievement, independence, and initiative are selected. My exhibition proposal was passed recently, so this spring I will be building a computer case with steel and putting in computer parts, and then designing a game on the resulting computer!
Alec Ray, Senior Exhibition Proposal
Sculpted Metal Computer Case and Game Design:
1. What will you do?
For my exhibition I will sculpt a metal case to house computer components, and then code a game on the resulting machine. The case will be well designed and sculpted to match my the artistic style I’ve developed over my time at Putney. I will create digital models and drawn sketches of the case to formulate my ideas. I will use small pieces from the original case of the computer I’m taking parts from to support the components such as the motherboard, graphics card, power source, and hard drive. Steel sheet metal will be the primary material for the case, with rods in place as well to help with the structure of the piece. I will install fans to cool the computer, and create a power button myself that is hooked to the motherboard. There will be ports on the back and front of the case, such as USB and audio ports. I will then connect the computer to a monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard. I will then code a computer game using my sculptural computer. The game will be coded using a language called Processing which I’ve used in the past and taken a class in. Processing is based off Java. I will design the game first on pen and paper, making rough sketches of the scenery and characters, and writing the plot. I will write the music for the game myself using Ableton Live, and create the game’s graphics myself as well, using a variety of imaging software. I will apply my logical reasoning and problem solving skills to overcome difficult issues with both the coding and artistic sides of the game development process.
2. How will your Senior Exhibition display breadth and depth in the academic area(s) you have chosen?
The artistic component of my exhibition will show the extent to which I’ve worked with metal in the sculpture studio. The case will be well designed and polished, akin to the sculptures I created in the fall of 2013 in my advanced sculpture 5 class. The metal will be bent and curved in a visibly interesting manner, and it will be constructed with openings in the metal for the computer to stay cool and to provide proper ventilation to the parts inside. I will use new sheet metal that is cut to size, and the welds will be very precise and small, but the case will still be very strong and structurally sound.
The programming aspect of my exhibition will revisit concepts I’ve explored in past classes and project weeks, such as graphical design, character movement, and physics engines. I will be exploring all my options in search of the most efficient way to create a game that is both fun to play but contains an engaging story and difficult problem solving.
3. How will your Exhibition culminate? What work will you present, and how?
My exhibition will culminate in a presentation of the computer I built, which I will set up on a table with a keyboard and a mouse, and the computer will be setup to run the playable game that I’ve coded. I will give a talk about my process and what I’ve created, any problems I ran into along the way, and what my game is about. I will also present photo documentation of my process, so viewers can see how I worked along the way. I will also describe how I came up with this idea, what past work I’ve done that ties into this exhibition, and I will take questions.
4. What would you expect to be your work schedule? Be specific about times and days of the week, and what work is to be completed when. This schedule should be in the form of a detailed week-by-week syllabus. Your schedule runs the length of the spring trimester.
Week 1: 3/26 – 3/29
During the first week of my exhibition, I will begin designing the computer case and planning how the components will fit inside. I will then begin cutting metal and welding to create the case.
Week 2: 3/31 – 4/5
For week two I will continue working on the case and putting it together as well as ensuring the parts fit securely. I will install all the parts after the case is welded and the metal is clean and visually appealing.
Week 3: 4/7- 4/12
Week three I will install each computer part, manage the interior cables, install fans for cooling, and close everything up and ensure strength and security. If I finish early in the week, I will begin formulating ideas for the game.
Week 4: 4/14 – 4/19
Week four I will fully plan the game out using pen and paper, and decide upon all elements of the game experience, including the storyline, any important characters, enemies, the scenery, art style, music and sound effects. If I finish the design stage early in the week I will begin coding the game and setting up a foundation for the character movement and basic game elements.
Week 5: 4/21 – 4/26
Week five I will continue coding the foundation of the game using simple sprites of my own creation (image files used for characters) and simple scenery, which I will polish up later.
Week 6: 4/28 – 5/3
Week six I will continue coding the game, and start to add more details and engaging elements.
Week 7: 5/5 – 5/10
Week seven I will work heavily on the graphical elements of the game. Character sprites, backgrounds and scenery will be all created by me using Photoshop and Pixlr.
Week 8: 5/12 – 5/17
Week eight I will either create or download royalty-free sound effects for the game, and write the music myself using Ableton Live.
Week 9: 5/19 – 5/24
Week nine I will debug and polish the game, as well as add any fun hidden elements to the game, or just small details to really flesh it out.
Week 10: 5/26 – 5/27
For these last two days I will design a presentation to explain my exhibition to viewers, as well as make sure my game is completely playable.
5/28 Exhibition Presentation Day
5. What role will each of your sponsors have?
Rodrigo Nava will give me advice on the design of the case and the construction of it. He will help me solve problems I run across along the way, such as structural issues and technical difficulties. Mr. Nava will also supply me with the tools and materials I will need to create the case.
Kevin Feal-Staub will help me overcome any coding problems I run into, as well as help me think of alternative ways to solve problems. He will also help me decide which language I want to use to write the game, and what software would be useful in creating graphics and sound effects.
6. What past independent work at The Putney School have you done, and how well have you succeeded in it?
I’ve done far more independent project weeks at Putney than I have group projects, and I’ve never failed a project week. I’ve done multiple sculpture and programming project weeks, and I’ve had great success with both. I work very well independently, and I often find myself “getting into the zone” when I work independently on something I’m passionate about. I often find it easier to work by myself because I can eliminate being distracted, however I am also able to ask for help when I need it. I’ve been very successful in my past independent endeavors.
7. Optional: Please feel free to submit any supporting materials that will help to explain or supplement your written proposal.
Below are a few photos of the sculptures I created last fall, to show the style that the computer case will be built in. Also included is a picture of a computer that I built, to show that I’ve worked with computers extensively, both with software and hardware.