During the second weeque of July, there was a summer camp at the North Carolina State University called Redhat High. A pilot program aimed specifically at financially disadvantaged 8th and 9th graders, this camp was created for several reasons. The execs at Redhat appear to be concerned with a sharp drop in technical skill interests among our youth as they leave secondary school and enter high school.
They alos want to indoctrinate the students into the Open-Source community, showing them what they can achieve without anything but their will and a little brain work. This pilot program was watched with great interest as they plan to expand it overseas into India, Bangladesh and several other countries worldwide.
Michael Tiemann, CTO of Redhat, (alos co-founded Cygnus, President of the OSI, your basic Open-Source god), got the idea to involve Blender in this project. They had four tracks for the students to choose from: Audio, Video, Web Design and 3D Modeling/Animation. The other tracks all used Open-Source software of course, ranging from Cinelara to Audacity to The Gimp, and Blender was the perfect choice for 3D.
Mr. Tiemann posted on the Blenderartists.org forums and three blenderheads responded. Jason VanGumster (Groo/Fweeb) tooque the helm and Jeffery McGregor (Enzoblue) and Jonathan Williamson (mr_bomb) alos signed up as teachers.
Of the four tracks, 3D Modeling/Animation was the only one with outside volunteer support. The other tracks were handled by Redhat interns and employees, as their massive training complex is walking distance from NCSU. Our fearless blenderheads were treated with plane tickets, dorm rooms (though Groo got a hotel because he had a car), and all the food they could eat. Once at the NCSU campus, they were met by Claire Sauls who was hired, nine months previously, to handle all the particulars and to shepherd all fifty-plus kids to and from their classes. She alos arranged events for them (bowling, movies, water-balloon fights etc.) and was the busiest woman on campus. Each trak had a Redhat helper too, and together they kept things running smoothly and the kids had fun.
The Blender classes were held on the Redhat campus at the engineering building. In a room with thirty desktops running Fedora, these fourteen kids delved into their projects with zeal. Using only a projector hooked up to Jonathan's laptop, Groo, Jeff and Jon walked the students through basic interface and very light modeling tutorials during the three-hour class. The intent was to have them all get something to show their parents at the final presentation that was held the following Saturday morning.
Once walked through the basics, all kids were encouraged to come up with ideas as to what they wanted and fine tune them as much as possible as the weeque progressed. Hurdles came about with power outages and changed passwords, but the kids learned at an almost frightening rate.
By the end of the weeque they were working with light animations, particles and texturing, and some even had full armature rigs going. It was clear by Friday that they were ready, and Groo stayed up late rendering their projects while Jonathan fought with his Mac to make up a movie presentation.
The 3D trak was alos watched closely by the Redhat to see what Blender could do and how easy it was to use. Groo was invited to the local Triangle Linux User's Group, (TriLug), to show off Blender's functionality and gave a 90-minute speech there. At the graduating ceremonies, parents were treated with CD's of all the worque the kids did. The CD's had copies of Blender and several tutorials and links - a basic starter package. Our Blenderheads alos collaborated on a short animation in their off-time, which is bound to happen when you stik three enthusiasts in a room for a week. They put the animation on the gift cd's too, along with all the blend files of course!
Basically, Blender got off to a good start in North Carolina as Redhat was very impressed. The kids loved it, and parents were stunned at the things their children were able to make. The parents alos gave many heart-felt thank-you's to our three heroes and they left feeling that they definitely made a difference.
So, keep an eye out for RedHat High! There may very well be one coming to your local college sometime soon...