The annual event held on May 19 – the evening before the iMedia Commencement ceremony – provided 30 graduate students an opportunity to publicly present their thesis projects, illustrating the culmination of knowledge they obtained during the 10-month program.
The Interactive Media program’s inaugural virtual capstone exhibition was an ambitious undertaking with 30 original projects unveiled over 90 minutes and across five Webex rooms.
While the novel coronavirus pandemic might have pushed some graduate programs into uncharted territory, the 10-month iMedia program, which prides itself on teaching the latest coding, graphic design and production techniques, seemed at right at home going virtual.
David Copeland, Elon’s A.J. Fletcher Professor and director of the Interactive Media master’s program, provided a taped introduction for the May 19 exhibition, addressing the unique challenges the 2020 iMedia cohort has faced.
“Only a special group of individuals could figure out how to ensure that their work – this exhibition – could take place,” Copeland said. He later charged visitors to explore the group’s capstone projects “and marvel at the creativity, ingenuity and dedication that has led each of our students to this point.”
The online event, available at capstone20.elonimedia.org, featured five Webex rooms with the projects separated by topics: health; gaming and media production; marketing and social media; mobile/web application; and interactive and informative content. The students each made live presentations lasting between eight and 10 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session with attendees.
In total, 30 graduate students used the exhibition as a platform to unveil their thesis projects, ranging from promotional websites and interactive videos to mobile applications and virtual reality games. Through their projects, the students demonstrated skills in mobile/web application development, video production, digital communications, 3D modeling, virtual reality, UX/UI design, coding, and digital marketing strategy.
For her capstone project, Liza Bunce drew on her undergraduate degree in zoology and created a website for elementary school students that teaches the basics of climate change, with a focus on ocean life. The star of Bunce’s website, “Georgie Explains Climate Change,” is an 87-year-old lobster – named Georgie, of course – that leads the audience through a storybook of the different bodies of water to see how climate change affects the inhabitants. It also provides suggestions on how the user can help combat climate change.
“I’ve always loved and had a passion for science and education,” Bunce said. “Climate change is a ‘hot topic’ right now, and I wanted to make it easier for kids to understand the basics of it so that they can have conversations about it and keep asking questions.”
Bunce faced a steep challenge converting scientific terminology into something easily understandable for children. The final results are available at www.georgieexplains.com.
While Bunce’s project headed to the ocean, Anna Sizemore’s capstone went a little bit further: space. She created a virtual reality game, The Winter Circle, that allows users to learn and identify stars and constellations.
“I was attracted to this project because virtual reality has so much potential in the field of education,” Sizemore said. “I really wanted to challenge myself with new technology, and with that came the challenge of teaching myself the mechanics of c# (coding language) and the Unity game engine in a brief period of time.”
Michael Hemstreet’s capstone project didn’t focus on stars but rather local businesses. The Elon alumnus developed Locally Sourced, an interactive microsite designed to market local coffee shops and other small businesses in the coffee industry. Through text, videos, graphics and animations, users can learn more about how their favorite drink is made and where their local coffee shop sources its ingredients.
Hemstreet’s site and content is designed for mobile devices and is easily accessible by scanning a QR code while a customer waits for their beverage in a busy café.
“This project was inspired by my experience working in local coffee shops,” Hemstreet said. “I found many customers were not aware of the craft that goes into every aspect of specialty coffee, which led me to making this informative product.”
To complete his project, Hemstreet had to overcome some communication hurdles because of the stay-at-home orders surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. “I hope that this project highlights the importance of supporting local coffee shops, as they need support now more than ever,” he said.
For Victoria Murrell, her capstone project is deeply personal. She created an interactive website titled the Black Hair Museum, which she developed in Ceros, an online design platform that allows designers to animate content and bring information to life.
“The purpose of the Black Hair Museum is to showcase the history and celebrate the beauty of women with black hair,” Murrell said. “I decided to create this project because I have struggled with my black hair my entire life and it has turned into a passion project. I can see myself pursuing this cause after I graduate from Elon University and if I can help another black child recognize the true beauty that was given to them I will feel accomplished.”
Most of the students’ capstone projects were driven by a passion or personal connection with the subject material.
Cassidy Kolczun developed Bloom, a digital publication addressing mental wellness for young women, and she called it a “personal passion.” The publication addresses topics like spirituality, self-transformation, and personal mental health stories. Kolczun said she hoped the publication could serve as a “community for women,” offering “mutual understanding and support.”
Rachel Eggleston created Lightroom, a self-care mobile application that allows users to take the first steps to improving their mental health. She felt drawn to create the app because a close friend and one-time roommate committed suicide. Afterward, she realized others she knew were also battling depression and mental health issues.
For Greg Stewart, he has a deep interest in space and he wanted to improve how elementary students learn about space in school, infusing fun into the process. As a result, he developed www.spacexploreproject.com, an interactive website.
Tabari Boykin has always been drawn to basketball. It only makes sense that his capstone project focused on the Elon women’s basketball team and creating a recruitment tool for the program. His interactive site, Life as a Phoenix, provides a closer look at what it’s like to be a student-athlete at Elon.
“I just love the game of basketball and love being around the game of basketball,” Boykin said.
Arlette Hawkins admitted that her final capstone project, an interactive documentary titled “A League of His Own,” is “not what I envisioned in September.” But she said she is thrilled with the final product, a cinematic look at black male entrepreneurs in the Triad.
She provided likely the best advice from the exhibition: “Don’t take a U-turn at the first sign of conflict.”
Did you miss the live presentations? Recorded versions will be available at capstone20.elonimedia.org.
The M.A. in Interactive Media degree prepares students to think strategically across platforms, create interactive media content, and manage information in a digital age. This year, iMedia students produced interactive projects for the public good in Bermuda, Costa Rica and Cuba. The intensive 10-month program serves up to 36 full-time students a year.