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Learning to Engineer Videos

Dec 1, 2015 | By: Abbie Duquette

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Our design learning adventure videos are officially complete!  My name is Abbie and I am the newish video producer for Through My Window.  I joined the project this past June and jumped on the design, ethics and promotion sub-teams.  I was new, eager and ready to get to work. 

The design learning adventure (aka "design") has been in production for quite some time, with a lot of different people working together to create the adventure.  When I joined, almost everything was complete, except for some artwork and two videos.  To be honest, joining a well-developed, close-knit team was intimidating.  For a while there, I was a bit lost and just took in as much information as I could to familiarize myself with the project and what everyone else was doing.  (There are so many people working on so many different parts of the project! I still don't think I've met everyone yet.)  After that, I came up with a plan of action and got to work.

To acclimate myself and get comfortable with the tasks that layed ahead, I watched every single video ever produced by the previous TMW video team and got a sense of the editing style used throughout the design adventure.  It would be incredibly disorienting to all of a sudden switch editing styles part way through the adventure; I wanted the transition to be seamless.  But for me, there was a little bit of a hurdle to get over.  Imagine you are an artist and your primary medium is pencil on paper.  Now imagine being told you have to use paint instead of pencil.  You could probably use paint instead, right?  It would just take some re-observation and a quick reassessment of your skills to figure out your game plan.  That's basically what I had to do.  My primary training is in documentary film making.  Children's educational videos and documentary film making are quite different. 

I sat down with two scripts, voice-over and detailed outlines for what the design sub-team wanted in their videos. That was new for me.  I have always been entirely in control of what I create, basically being the boss of myself.  It was unlike anything I've ever done before and rather intimidating.  At first I focused too much on the outlines, sticking exactly to what the sub-team told me to do.  That worked for the Tesla Outcome video, but I wasn't feeling it for Apollo Outcome.  That's when I set aside the outline and did what I thought would elicit the most powerful reaction from viewers.  I wove archival footage and artwork together, because I wanted kids to actually feel the anxiety felt in the NASA control room when the astronauts—plunging through earth's atmosphere in a giant ball of fire—could not be contacted.  And the team loved it! They loved my vision and were totally open to my suggestions and contributions. 

And it turns out, educational videos and documentary film are not as different as I originally thought.  For me, documentary film is about combining audio and visual components to engage and elicit emotion from the viewer, but most importantly, share a story.  And that's exactly the goal of Through My Window: To use Imaginative Education to engage kids in STEM through narrative story-telling.  For the design videos, I essentially made two mini documentaries: one about Tesla and Edison, and one about the Apollo XIII landing. 

Oh, I can't forget to mention the incredible support system surrounding me: the whole TMW team!  I am so lucky to have found this project.  I have the best job, with the best co-workers, the best boss, and get to do something I love. What more could I want?

So, here they are: Tesla Outcome and Apollo Outcome.  Enjoy, and stay tuned for the launch of the design learning adventure in 2016!



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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1223868 and 1223460.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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