The second and third best field trips of 2017 were both thanks to a class I took over the Fall semester. This class was CS 491 – “Art & Ecology: Computational Sustainability.” The class was completely different to what I’ve experienced at UNM and it turned out to be quite exciting. In the end, a classmate and I produced an app prototype, which ended up opening a lot of unexpected opportunities for me (more on that later!)
A requirement for this class was to attend two, all-day field trips in the middle of the semester. This was a little rough on my schedule because I had to miss two entire days of classes, recitations, and valuable working time. I don’t know if y’all remember this, but last semester was probably the most difficult, time-consuming, semester ever. At first I wasn’t too happy with these required field trips, but the class seemed fun, and looking for another CS elective would’ve been more trouble than it was worth. Although I had some logistic issues with these field trips, I must say that they were worth it in the end. I don’t think I fully appreciated these field trips until after the semester ended though.
The first field trip was to Taos! We met around 8am on main campus, and made it just around 11am to the Taos Academy, where we had planned activities with some of the kids there. One of our passengers to Taos was the artist Motomichi, who happened to be last year’s featured artist for the Paseo Project art festival.
At the Taos Academy some of the kids were taking a special art class where they used Photoshop to create their own “monsters.” These monsters were inspired by Motomichi’s own work (if you see his portfolio, you’ll understand), and each monster had a special ability or “energy” that they would feed off of. This is where we came in because our class dealt with sources of energy and sustainable practices. This was a fun, unexpected, and wonky connection between art and sustainability. I was amazed by these kid’s projects! Some had full frame-by-frame animations working while others animated their monsters with special transformation tools inside Photoshop.
After we spent a couple of hours working on different activities with the kids, we drove to the UNM branch campus in Taos. Right next to this one of the Kit Carson Energy solar arrays! We got a personalized tour of this site, as well as one of their major power plants. Learning about the local, sustainable energy efforts made me appreciate this class so much more!