Creative Coding Program Provides Tools to Enter New, Growing Field

By Bridge Staff|May 12, 2020Uncategorized|

by Daniel Bloomfield

In July 2019 PCC approved the new Creative Coding and Immersive Technologies (CCIT) program that offers students a 24-credit certificate and prepares them to continue their education in the creative computer coding field. It will be the first and only program of its kind offered at a community college in the U.S.

Photograph of the PCC creative coding lab featuring a wide variety of technology including overhead lighting rig

Music and Sonic Arts Dept

Division Dean of Arts and Professions, Dan Wenger, said that PCC began looking into developing a creative coding program after a local market and culture analysis showed promise for growth in the technological sector. The analysis also showed a rising interest in young people pursuing computer programming as a professional and expressive medium.

Various donors and organizations, including the MIT Media Lab and well-known electronic music composer Alessandro Cipriani, donated time and resources into establishing the program. These donors recognized not only that code has become a ubiquitous part of the world and how much it saturates daily experience, but also the importance of access to this kind of education by marginalized and underserved communities.

“Our work is multi-disciplinary,” said Dean Wenger. “It is about crossing borders—and we deeply appreciate the lived experiences and perspectives of people in the margins of the mainstream, on the outskirts of power.”

The goals of the program contribute to PCC’s existing reputation as an institution that seeks to support its underserved students. “We craft and enact a culture of inclusion, a culture celebrating the contributions of people of all genders, colors and backgrounds,” Wenger said.

CCIT courses are held at PCC’s Cascade campus due to its unique art and technology facilities that are necessary to support the growth of a program like CCIT. Students will have the chance to work with different technologies in a lab setting including computers, software, soldering irons, programmable lasers, LED walls, microcontrollers, microcomputers, sensors and actuators.

One piece of technology stands out above the rest, a $65,000 programmable, multichannel sound system capable of immersive audio, 3D audio, ambisonics and holosonics. According to Dean Wenger this is, “the only high-density loudspeaker array in the nation at an open access educational organization.”

The professional field of creative coding is one of the fastest growing in the nation, the demand greatly outweighing the number of qualified people—the Brookings Institute reported a 70% growth in the field from 2010 to 2016. Most jobs in the creative coding field require that you have at least a four-year degree but the CCIT program seeks to prepare students that plan on pursuing such a career, allowing them the opportunity to become proficient with an assortment of tools essential to the industry. PCC is on track to offer a full two-year AAS degree in CCIT.

Classes for CCIT program have continued to take place online during the COVID-19 campus closures. While creative coding students this term will not have access to the labs at Cascade, they are still able to participate with a supply budget of around $250. Despite the closure, enrollment in Music & Sonic Arts is up 18% from 2019.

“Moving online has required imagination, adaptability, and innovation–all challenges for which Creative Coding & Immersive Technologies is particularly prepared to embrace,” said Dean Wenger.  The closure has brought a rare opportunity to offer the acquisition of the certificate remotely to all of Oregon.

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