Knowledge and Career - 12/08
Issue: Volume: 31 Issue: 11 (Nov. 2008)

Knowledge and Career - 12/08

THE A,B,Cs of 3D
Autodesk Animation Academy teaches students about 3D, within the context of other subjects and topics, including environmental awareness

Autodesk Animation Academy is a program designed to teach secondary school students about the company’s Maya, 3ds Max, Mudbox, and MotionBuilder software products in the classroom. But this doesn’t mean that the curriculum has to focus solely on rote tasks. Instead, the Animation Academy expands education horizons, introducing students to 3D animation and visual effects technology while immersing them in core academic subjects such as science, math, language, and art.

To further pique the interest of this demographic, Autodesk Animation Academy has included a Pollution module as part of the program, whereby students can create their own mini-games focused on environmental concerns.

But the program is not just fun and games. The Animation Academy curriculum adheres to numerous academic standards, including those of the International Technology Education Association and the US STEM standards for science, technology, math, and engineering. The program is the Autodesk Media & Entertainment division’s primary offering for K–12 students. With a focus on the high school level, it introduces students to 3D technology via core course subjects.  

Autodesk has integrated its Pollution module as part of the company’s Animation Academy curriculum. The goal is to teach students the fundamentals of 3D content creation as they craft mini-games that have an environmental focus.

Curriculum modules that will be released with the 2009 version of Autodesk Animation Academy include reconstructing the Parthenon, learning the digestive system, studying weather systems with a focus on tornadoes, and experiencing astronomy and phases of the moon. Also new is the Pollution module, a supplement intended as an introduction to the program.
Previous versions of Animation Academy were available for purchase as separate programs with 10 seats of either Maya or 3ds Max software. However, for the first time with the 2009 release, the six animation curriculum modules included with Animation Academy will come with 10 seats each of 3ds Max, Maya, MotionBuilder, and Mudbox. The curriculum is directly tied to the Autodesk products, and is designed so that instructors who aren’t necessarily well versed in 3D can still easily get their students up and running via the step-by-step instructions. 
“Animation Academy is exciting because it gives students a chance to further engage with science and technology subjects while also exposing them to 3D technology at a young age. They’re learning about topics like pollution and the digestive system by building their own 3D models—exposing them to these subjects in a way that would be impossible in the traditional classroom setting,” says Alice Palmer, Autodesk’s Education marketing manager. “Furthermore, fields where 3D technology is being applied are exploding, so whether these students go on to work in entertainment, architecture, manufacturing, or design, we’re exposing them to skill sets that could benefit their career choice.”

Going Green in 3D
With the introduction of its Animation Academy Pollution module, Autodesk is taking part in raising environmental awareness in schools while introducing students to 3D animation using 3ds Max. Although it was just recently released, Pollution has been successful, with nearly 1000 downloads to date, and is a fitting complement to the Animation Academy program.

Utilizing Autodesk’s 3ds Max modeling and animation software, students are taught about the effects of pollution as they build games that are focused on cleaning up a city environment, doling out points for picking up garbage, cleaning oil spills, and changing cars to hybrids within an allotted amount of time.

The game promotes environmental stewardship while reinforcing essential science and math concepts. The instructor lecture notes included with the module provide teachers with a guide to the principles of creating a simple game level using 3ds Max software. Following those guidelines, students are able to build and design their own levels, and understand the building blocks of creating digital art and environments in 3D. The student workbook and datasets deliver a framework that explores sustainable design concepts through the creation of a game level emphasizing the environment. A completed dataset is also included, enabling students to check their work once they have finished the exercise.
The Pollution module, included in the 2009 Animation Academy curriculum, also can be downloaded free of charge so educators can see what the program offers.

Existing Autodesk Animation Academy customers can use the Pollution module with 3ds Max software Versions 2008 and above. Teachers who are considering incorporating Animation Academy into their academic programs can purchase the solution or try out this module through a free trial download at

“While Animation Academy isn’t intended to be as comprehensive or rigorous as 3D programs offered at the university or professional level, it provides an engaging and valuable introduction to 3D technology through subjects that are already being taught at the high school level,” concludes Palmer. “Our hope is that Animation Academy will continue to spark students’ interest in traditional science, math, and language arts subjects while simultaneously developing their 3D skills for application in a wide variety of professional fields.”