Thursday, February 18, 2016


Wall E, Robot, Figure, Toy, Technology  You all know who Pixar is.  They are the American company who created animation for various movies such as Wall-E, Cars, Brave and other wonderful movies.  So I bet you are wondering why I'm talking about Pixar in a math blog.

Well, surprise!!!!!! Pixar is working with Khan Academy to provide a free online animation course called Pixar in a Box.  This class has 7 topics already released.

The 7 topics include rigging (or how to animate characters), environmental modeling, character modeling, animation, crowds, sets and staging, and finally rendering.  Some very good topics to get anyone started who is interested in creating their own animation.

Each topic currently has two lessons.  The first lesson is general with the idea of appealing to all ages and provides a nice introduction to the topic.  The math in lesson one introduces the lesson using interactive tools and videos while showing a connection to mathematics.  The second lesson is the one geared more for grades 7 to 12 and focuses more on the actual mathematics introduced in lesson one.

Just for the fun of it, I decided to try the environmental modeling lesson.  I like starting at the beginning and working my way through.  Although, I'm interested in the animation lesson, I'm going to wait till I work my way through the first two topics.  Lesson one looks at using parabolic arcs to model blades of grass in animation.

Cool, imagine using parabolic arcs for something in real life the kids can relate to.  Lesson one covers the introduction, string art, midpoint formula, parabolic arcs and parabolic curve matching, modeling grass, animating grass, ending with a design challenge to model grass.  Each area comes with a short video to introduce the material, followed by an activity.

The second lesson is focused on the parabolas and associated math.  It goes into weighted averages, touching points (their definition and calculating them) along with parabolic construction.  This is the real life mathematics associated with creating the grass using parabolic arcs.

Sets and staging is the lesson that shows how geometric transformations help position objects within the scene.  The first lesson looks at the coordinate plane, rotations, scaling, translations, and other related topics.  The second lesson focuses on rotating points around the origin and the geometry of rotation.

 This is only the beginning.  Over the next few years, Pixar will be adding to the course until its complete.  I need to see if I can figure out a place to put this particular course into my geometry class.  I think many of my students would love to do this type of thing.  I know I would! Go and check it out, explore it and have fun.