New Media major Dylan Watt of Hudson, Maine wanted to become a secondary school math teacher until he joined some of his friends in a new media class at the University of Maine. As he became more immersed in the curriculum, his plans changed.
He’s now designing iPad applications – including a recently completed virtual tour app for the University of Maine’s Hudson Museum – along with computer games and websites. Watt, who already has taken a job with Aveniros, LLC, a web design company in Boston, had considered starting a computer game design company with several friends after his May 5 graduation.
Plans for teaching are on hold.
“I realized that I wanted to have real world experience before I went into teaching,” says Watt. “It may be something I go back to in the far future, but it was not really a flow from that to what I’m doing now. I had a few friends in new media, and knew something about the program, and felt it was something that matched up with my interests best.”
Those interests aren’t necessarily gaming, he says, or even programming in general.
What appeals to Watt is “creating a user experience, whether it be in a game, or a video narrative, or a website,” he says. “I do have a particular interest in what mobile devices mean for the next 10 years of technology, and how to create apps that take advantage of the things offered by mobile technology — GPS location, constant availability and multi-touch interface.”
Watt was one of two UMaine students who created an iPad app for UMaine’s Hudson Museum. The app has the ability to bring more than 250 images in the William P. Palmer III Collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts and other museum holdings to iPads in homes and schools worldwide. Both real and virtual visitors with iPads can tour the museum, examine exhibits, read about them and even take a quiz or play interactive games based on the subject matter.
With support from UMaine’s Office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration and the Hudson Museum, the World Cultures Gallery guide project began last fall when Hudson Museum Director Gretchen Faulkner asked recent new media graduate Ethan Welner, who worked part time at the Hudson, to make the museum more accessible and engaging for learners of all ages. Welner, now a South Portland graphic designer, consulted with several new media friends, including Watt. The Hudson challenge became a capstone project for Watt and Welner.
The World Cultures Gallery guide is a free iPad download. Similarly, a Maine Indian Gallery guide created by Watt, as chief programmer and developer, and students Josh McGrath and Zoe Kubachka, will make UMaine’s Maine Indian Gallery and collections globally available when complete.
“We wanted to create a program that would augment the museum experience. We kind of developed a virtual tour guide,” Watt says.
Faulkner is pleased with the resulting iPad apps with navigational features.
“You see what’s on exhibit without leaving your home, office or school,” she says. “We’re providing access to the museum for people all over the world. We’re hoping teachers will download it and use it in their classrooms with students, as well as use it in preparation for field trips to the Museum.”
The Maine Indian Gallery Guide app, Faulkner adds, will help schools comply with LD 291, a state law that requires public schools in Maine to incorporate the teaching of Maine Indian history and culture into their curricula.
Watt says advancements in video technology are amazing, and enable the creation of inexpensive navigational aids similar to the Hudson Museum tour apps. “These things would have cost you $20,000 to do 10 years ago. A $500 camera can do it now. With knowledge and ability to design something, you can do wonders,” he says.
Image Description: Dylan Watt