Engagement: CSIS brings stories to digital life

CSIS-Horizon partnership

Abdurrahman Arslanyilmaz, a.k.a. Dr. Abdu, and YSU graduate students work with students from Horizon Science Academy in a lab in Meshel Hall.

Update: The web site for the digital stories that  INFO 5875 students and middle school students from Horizon Science Academy created is online. The finished projects are available by clicking here.

On a desk, cohabiting muffins and cookies are having a dilemma: The muffins are upset because people prefer cookies. Elsewhere, a classroom of cats is being disrupted by one particularly naughty feline. Meanwhile, in the gym, a diminutive boy is struggling to become the star basketball player he wants to be.

These are the beginnings of original stories written by seventh- and eighth-grade students at Horizon Science Academy Youngstown, a charter school on the city’s South Side. The stories are being brought to digital life through a partnership with graduate students working with Abdurrahman Arslanyilmaz, YSU assistant professor of Computer Science and Information Systems.

Arslanyilmaz, better known as Dr. Abdu, started the partnership as a project to practice animations, simulations and games for graduate students in his Advanced Multimedia class. As president of the Horizon Board of Directors, Arslanyilmaz was chatting with Horizon’s computer science teacher about collaborating.

“It’s a real life project that I thought would be more motivating and more interesting and authentic for my students, so I opened up this idea to him,” said Abdu. “His students create illustrated stories and my students will digitize those stories.”

The six Horizon students are each paired with two of Abdu’s graduate students. The YSU students take the Horizon students’ illustrations, scan them and digitally trace them, enabling the characters to be set into motion. Once every two weeks, the Horizon students visit YSU to collaborate and make sure that the digitalized creations are staying true to their visions. The Horizon students will also narrate their stories, and Abdu’s students will create a completed work that integrates sound, video, audio and text into a meaningful project.

When completed, Horizon will use the finished works, each between five and 10 pages in length, to work with the school’s first-graders to develop reading and vocabulary skills.

“Our intention is to keep the drawings as authentic as possible,” said Abdu, a native of Turkey who joined YSU’s faculty six years ago.  “This project is something realistic, original and meaningful to YSU students, who in turn are more motivated and interested in the work.”

Story by Harry Evans