Today is a big day for me – I’m teaching my first college-level class! Last summer, I was contacted by Jack Nardi, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut about teaching one of his classes while he’s on sabbatical. I thought it was a great idea – I can try something new, and spread the Gospel Of Automation, so I said yes. Today at 8:30 is the first class.
Officially, I’m an Adjunct Faculty Member teaching DRAM 5297-001: Investigation in Special Topics – Automation. There are 14 classes, starting on Jan 24 and ending on May 2nd. I’ve been told that the class size is between 8-12, composed of mostly 1st and 2nd year grad students with a couple of undergrads. For the class, I’m teaching a survey in the techniques of scenic automation, primarily focused on using electric motors since that is my forte. I don’t particularly like fluid power, so we won’t spend as much time on that stuff (but will obviously cover the basics of hydraulics and pneumatics).
I am developing my own curriculum based loosely on the format of our Stage Automation Workshops, covering the 6 steps of automating scenery, which are: Build, Constrain, Power, Measure, Automate, Cue. I’ve used Workflowy.com to outline the curriculum, so if you’re interested in the specifics, here’s a link:
I’m sure I will adjust this as I go along and figure out which ideas need more time, and which are remedial for the students. I want to keep a good mixture of lecture & hands-on experimentation. Luckily, at CCI we have access to a lot of bits and pieces of automation gear so I hope to give the students a chance to really try out some concepts in a safe environment where failure is both stress-free and educational.
I figure every good teacher has an overall goal for a class, so here’s what I came up with: I want students exiting the class to be ready to handle common automation tasks in a typical regional theatre environment without panic. I want students exiting the class to be able to design and construct the basic stage machines (turntable, winch, elevator). I want them to know what components and vendors to go to for help. I want them to be able to create a simple control system out of a catalog. And, I want them to develop a relationship with Creative Conners. 😉
Ian asked me what my personal goals were for interim teaching. I look forward to the opportunity to dig into non-Creative Conners solutions. Getting a chance to revisit various automation techniques that are not required to be commercially successful should be a lot of fun. Purely academic automation.
Finally, I’m interested to see how much incidental knowledge I can share. One of the reasons that I hope to perform an equal amount of scripted lecture, and unscripted experimentation is so the students and I get a chance to discuss troubleshooting techniques and tools, as well as brainstorming on solutions for either in-class experiments or their production work.
I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on how it’s going. So wish me luck, and, uh, Go Huskies!