Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Program blends creativity with technology

Jonas Lobo with his giant origami structure at the World 
Maker Faire in New York City.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

It’s not every day that students are able to create a giant piece of origami.

But Jonas Lobo, a student in the Computing and Creative Arts (COCA) program at Queen’s, was able to create and showcase an origami structure that was folded by electronic components.

A sensor-controlled motor was added to raise and lower the structure to make the paper breathe in a lifelike way.

“This artistic piece explores the connection between changes within data and how it can directly relate to, and change, a physical space or physical objects through the means of output and input devices,” says Jonas. “COCA has allowed me to explore the use of technologies in conjunction with an artistic mindset. It’s a great way for students to think critically about the way technology is becoming more intertwined with the arts.”

COCA is the first program of its kind in North America and the only computing and creative arts program in Canada. It offers undergraduate students an education in computing as well as one of four areas in the arts: art history, drama, film and media, or music.

The COCA program seeks to blend creativity with technology to teach students a range of skills applicable to interactive computing and to discover ways to build computers to act as creative tools. Students in their first year of the program participate in introductory arts courses as well as classes in the School of Computing.

Upon graduating from COCA, students are equipped for roles in the entertainment, fine art, design, production and software industry.

“It’s about teaching students that they don’t need to follow information that is already there,” says Roel Vertegaal, the program’s director. “Teach students relevant skills and you’re giving them the tools to eventually create their own jobs.”

Group collaboration plays a large role in the COCA program and small groups of students work together to solve completely new problems that have never been encountered before.

The COCA program began in 2008 and can be taken as a medial by students in the School of Computing or arts programs. Small classes of 30 students are planned in three hour segments; half of that time is devoted to computer history and theory, and the other half tutorials in programming.

“We all have super computers built into technology that we use every day,” says Dr. Vertegaal, professor of human-computer interaction at the School of Computing. “This program is about more than technology for technology’s sake.”