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Education: Connecting Students and Industry

Posted by Area Editor, 16 October 2011 8:00 pm

 Education is huge priority at Autodesk across every vertical market we serve – not only at the university or professional level, but also in elementary and secondary levels, where computer graphics can help spark deeper interests in math, physics, science, visual arts and more. In M&E, we’ve been involved in many education initiatives—some that AREA readers might be aware of and others that may be new to you.

This fall we’ll be sponsoring the Visual Effects Society (VES) Student Award once again. The award was developed in response to a challenge posed by director Steven Spielberg in his 2008 acceptance speech for the VES Lifetime Achievement Award. In the speech he called upon the community to start recognizing the amazing visual effects work completed by students, because “they are the future.”

In response to Spielberg’s challenge the VES Student Award, a joint collaboration by VES and Autodesk, was born to recognize outstanding visual effects in a student project. In a video interview introducing the award for the first time, Spielberg congratulated both the VES and Autodesk for our efforts in stepping up to make the award a reality.

The collaboration has proven so successful that we recently signed an agreement to support the award for the next three years. We’re really committed to not only training students in 3D animation, visual effects, game development, design visualization and more, but also to giving them a platform to expose their work to industry influencers.

Thus far, the VES Student Awards has proven to be a very effective launchpad for new talent. Last year’s winners were given the chance to meet film director Christopher Nolan, and two years prior, the winners received one-on-one time with director James Cameron.

Jan Bitzer, ILIja Brunck, Csaba Letay, Fabian Pross and Regina Welker, former Filmakademie students, won the award last year for “Loom” and have since then leveraged their success to launch Polynoid, a new production company. Thilo Ewers, who won the award just two years ago, is now working at Pixomondo as an entertainment supervisor, matte painter and lead environment artist.

We’re continually trying to put as many opportunities as possible in front of students to connect them with industry leaders and garner real-world experience. It’s opportunities like the CG Whiz competition, hosted by Escape Studios and The Mill, and sponsored in part by Autodesk, that give students a chance to turn their time and efforts into tangible experience for their resumes. The winners will be awarded with amazing internship opportunities and the opportunity to have their work seen by thousands of professionals across Escape and Autodesk’s social media properties.

Autodesk has also been an active sponsor of the SIGGRAPH volunteer program, which gives students the opportunity to gain an inside track during the annual conference, and the chance to meet some of the greatest thought leaders in computer graphics, VFX and animation. Anyone can apply to volunteer. Back in 2009, Autodesk launched the Panorama student contest, which this year takes place in conjunction with SIGGRAPH ASIA in December 2011. We have also supported an annual robotics competition that encourages secondary students to brainstorm, design and animate projects with the help of Autodesk tools, and we have been an active sponsor with the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), which hosts events for both professional and aspiring game developers.

All of these opportunities are open to students around the world and only require interest, an application and dedication to follow through. There’s really no excuse not to get involved, especially since the software needed to create content for these competitions is available to students to learn and use for free through the Autodesk Education Community.

At Autodesk, we have a mandate to connect students to the industry. We’re consistently promoting events on the AREA and Autodesk Education Community , giving students a chance to become involved. I’m often approached by students with aspirations to join the exciting worlds of game development, animation or visual effects for professional advice. There are plenty of opportunities out there for great talent, but it’s not enough to just take classes—it’s essential they get active in the community early on and there are more ways now than ever to do just that.

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