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Course offers real-world multimedia experience

Monday, May 09, 2011

The two groups in the spring 2011 Capstone class came up with drastically different project ideas — one focused on homelessness in Pittsburgh, the other an arena football team — but they both had the same goal: to incorporate the multimedia skills learned during their time in the School of Communication into one interactive website.

Capstone is a workshop-style class held in the spring that culminates in a multimedia project and portfolio piece. The class is required for multimedia majors, but students in other School of Communications majors also take the class, so they can collaborate and combine their skills and expertise.

“Having this real-life, hands-on experience is not only great for building knowledge, but it is great for their resumes,” said Associate Professor Heather Starr Fiedler.

Project 1: Pittsburgh Power Arena Football

Associate Professor Heather Starr Fiedler talks with students working on the Pittsburgh Power project. Photo by Andrew Weier
Students discuss their capstone project on the Pittsburgh Power
with Associate Professor Heather Starr Fiedler. View their final project.

Pittsburgh had just landed a new arena football team, the Pittsburgh Power, and its first season was starting in March 2011, so it was a natural time to create a website dedicated to the team, the group members said during their project presentation.

The site originally focused on team-related news but the group said it eventually evolved into a fan site with photos, videos, a story of the week, and an interactive map of upcoming games. They also shot and posted a 52-second time-lapse video showing the eight-hour process of workers converting the ice rink (home to the Pittsburgh Penguins) into the football field.

“It was really nice being able to set our own agendas and let the site develop and grow with the information we found at the games,” said group member Adelyn Biedenbach, a journalism student.

To get the word out about their website, group members went to Power games at the Consol Energy Center to hand out business cards explaining how fans could submit photos to the site. At the end of the project, the site had approximately 30 submitted photos.

“My favorite part about working on this project was having the access and the freedom to talk to fans and spend time on the field,” Biedenbach said.

The students who worked on the Pittsburgh Power Arena Football website were: Biedenbach, Frangelica Donlon, Mary Eklund, David Kelly and AJ Owen.

Project 2: Surviving on Scraps

The students in this group wanted their project to tackle a serious issue: homelessness in Pittsburgh. During their project presentation, the group said the website started out very general, but they eventually narrowed the focus to how various groups can help. Three areas of the site — “Students,” “Companies” and “Individuals” — spotlight ways each of these groups are currently helping local homeless people, and the “You” section of the site features an interactive graphic that shows locations where clothing can be donated.

Students work on their Capstone project. Photo by Andrew Weier
Students work on their capstone project, Surviving on Scraps, which focuses
on homelessness in Pittsburgh. View their final project.

While conducting research for the site, group members learned that the Pittsburgh Penguins, the city’s NHL team, recently started donating their unsold concessions to help feed the hungry.

“The Pittsburgh Penguins have been the most successful with this program in the U.S.,” group member Justin Platek said during the group presentation.

Platek planned to talk with the Pittsburgh Pirates to see why they weren't doing something similar and learned they were going to start participating this season. He not only was able to include this information in the Capstone project but also wrote a news article about it for the Point Park News Service. The story was picked up by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which ran it on the day of the Pirates’ home opener. (Read his story).

“Point Park has a great relationship with the Trib,” Starr Fiedler said. “The class even went to the newsroom and pitched ideas to get feedback from editors.”

The students who worked on the Surviving on Scraps website were: Aldona Bird, Karen Bullock, Colleen Ferguson, Platek, Francesca Sacco and Philip Trona.

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