Creative Coding: Steward Hosts Arts & Technology Hackathon

Students in grades 3-12 engaged in a project that combines art, technology, music, and entrepreneurship.

UPDATE 5.24.2017: This month, the ORO Steward app launched in the iTunes store. You can download the app here, and read more about the team who put it together in this column written by Tom Gallo, Upper School physics and Innovation Studies teacher as well as Steward’s constructivist for design and engagement, and Steve Van Dam, founder and CEO of Light the Music.

The #OROStewardContest: Win a $50 gift card to the iTunes Store AND a $50 gift card to the Spartan Shop!

Light the Music and The Steward School want to encourage our community to “compose” in student-created visual music app ORO Steward. Download the app from the iTunes App Store and play with the instruments until you have a set of images and sounds that you like. Record your song/loop and share your replay through the ORO Everyplay button in the top right corner of the app (note: students will need a parent to help them sign up). 

Will you sing and dance to an ORO Steward backing track? Will you create a loop for your next rap battle and share it with your friends? Will you compose on two screens with a friend and upload your own symphony? The possibilities are limited only by your imagination! The contest runs through the summer and winners will be chosen by the ORO Steward app developers in mid-September. Remember to post with the hashtag #OROStewardContest. We can't wait to see what you come up with! 

Innovation involves more than science—the arts are critical disciplines for prompting originality when creating a product. To provide a creative outlet for students with a variety of skillsets, The Steward School hosted its first Arts and Technology Hackathon in the Cramer Center on Saturday, November 5.

More than 35 students in grades 3-12 participated in the morning event. When they registered, students selected whether they wanted to be coders, musicians, or artists (or a combination) to designate how they wanted to contribute. Junior Connor Wilkerson served as creative director and designed the event’s logo: “Recently, I’ve started to realize I have a love for marketing, and it’s something I’m good at,” he said. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to get involved and gain experience.”

The event was led by Upper School innovation teacher Tom Gallo and Steve Van Dam, founder and CEO of local app development firm Light the Music. Mr. Van Dam’s ORO Visual Music app is currently available in the App Store. The goal of the hackathon was for students to contribute to a unique Steward version of ORO that will eventually be released in the App Store.

“We want to combine a variety of unique sounds and visuals that is entirely community created,” Mr. Gallo said. “The various groups must work together to use their skills to contribute to the project, which I think is a reflection of real life. You’re not always good at just one thing—we all have lots of talents and skills that can be put to good use.”

The groups started off the event with an icebreaker activity in which they discussed their “spirit animal” and created a sound for the animal, which the coders turned into a sound file.

Next, the groups got to work on their app content: with the help of junior Xzavier Caldwell and Lower and Middle School music teacher Donna Gocha, the musician group recorded themselves making music with a selection of instruments in the band classroom. With the assistance of visual arts teachers Cindy Grissom and Rugene Paulette, the artist group painted images on square paper tiles that were photographed, edited, and uploaded to a Google Drive (with the help of Upper School photography teacher John Alley). Then, it was the job of the coding group (with Mr. Van Dam’s help) to create all of this content into usable files for the app.

“I saw children connecting with disciplines that they may not feel totally comfortable with,” Mr. Van Dam said. “But they were inspired by the idea of creating something totally on their own that lives on their digital device as a real project. I’m excited to see where we’re headed with this.”

Students ended the day by presenting the progress they made thus far and naming their favorite aspect of the event for parents. Mr. Gallo said students will continue to work on the content, and the goal is to have a finished product in the coming months.

“This will be a continuing project, and students can chose to continue developing content in the freshman app tech seminar or junior innovation seminar,” he said. “I think the students had a great time doing something outside of schools hours and stretching their skills musically, artistically, or technically.”





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