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Student organized Code-A-Thon teaches students how to create GenArt

By Cole Allen, May 10, 2022

On April 28 Cal Poly Pomona’s first ever student-run Generative Art Code-A-Thon, a GenArt PolyX Community Code-A-Thon, showcased Maya Stovall’s Generative Art PolyX Hub course teachings through her students.

The event was held on Zoom, with a turnout of over 100 participants. The event detailed some of the content learned in Arts Integration II, the class where student organizers learned the GenArt concepts demonstrated in the event.

Generative Art, or GenArt for short, is the process of using computer coding to create art. Instead of using a paintbrush on canvas, students use their keyboard and mouse to illustrate their digital painting.

Courtesy of Arnold Francisca

The event was coordinated by Stovall, assistant professor in the Liberal Studies Department. With her help, students were able to direct the Code-A-Thon, and put on an informative, yet engaging, lecture for participants. Students in Stovall’s class signed up for specific roles to help with the building of the GenArt Code-A-Thon, with roles such as influencers, designers, GenArt coaches, equity and accessibility coaches and historians. The students came together, putting in over hundreds of hours of work to put on the Code-A-Thon for Cal Poly Pomona students.

“My goal is to facilitate and sustain a vibrant, diverse, interdisciplinary undergraduate community emergent in this work,” said Stovall. “I am humbled to play a role in enhancing student success and career possibilities, along with academic, personal and professional trajectories among my brilliant students. I hope to help realize a diverse, interdisciplinary undergraduate community that values creativity, innovation, critical perspectives centered by a commitment to social justice and accessibility.”

The Code-A-Thon began with an overview of what the topic was, being that GenArt is a more recent practice with the shifts and changes of technology. After a quick introduction, student organizers gave explanations on the Code-A-Thon, how bilingual interpreters would be available during activities and the friendly, supportive environment being facilitated by the assigned equity and accessibility coaches.

A quick Q&A was initiated to gauge participants’ experience level with computer coding or generative art. Then groups were formed and sent into one of five different breakout rooms, each teaching a different style of generative art. Groups contained Program Your Own Dance Party, Snow-cone, Butterfly, Unlimited Flowers and Geometric Forms. Each taught a different type of programming with a different end goal. Dance party allowed for participants to create a video of characters dancing to a song of their choice through “block-based coding.” Snow-cone, butterfly and geometric shapes led students to build their own through “creative 2D shape primitives.” Lastly, unlimited flowers — a bilingual class for Spanish and English speakers — allowed participants to generate unlimited flowers, built to their liking on a page with “random () function.”

“We took it step by step,” said Cristal Ramirez, a liberal studies major and coach for unlimited flowers. “We taught students how to input it into their processing (a program for coding) and the end product was when you ran the code, a bunch of flowers would pop up everywhere. We were showing them how you could change the size of the petals, flowers and the color of the flowers.”

Coaches advised attendees to create their generative art, who, when finished, sent screenshots of their finished artwork for display at the end of the event.

“Coding is the newest thing. It’s the new frontier of doing so many different things,” said Anna Rios, a coach for the Code-A-Thon and liberal studies pre-credentials major. “Generative art is computer generated art, this new medium is digital and it’s learning how to manipulate code to present this image you had in your head. I would definitely recommend it to other students. It’s stressful but rewarding, knowing you made this thing out of code.”

The event concluded with a raffle, giving prizes to attendees, and celebrating the classes first ever Code-A-Thon. Stovall is planning to bring back the Code-A-Thon during the 2022-2023 academic school year.

Feature image courtesy of Arnold Francisca.       

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