Student working on a laptop
Students work on their projects in Applied Digital Visualization clas

A cross-disciplinary course offered at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo through the departments of computer science, marine science and art, is giving students the chance to learn cutting-edge data visualization techniques while working collaboratively on a shared project.

“The students are utilizing data from the natural sciences to create interactive and immersive data visualization experiences to promote public awareness of environmental issues facing Hawaiian ecosystems,” said Michael Marshall, chair of the UH Hilo art department.

The data visualization is done using CyberCANOE visual display technology. CANOE is the acronym for Cyber Enabled Collaboration Analysis Navigation and Observation Environment and is a display technology that enables users from varied disciplines to share and collaborate on projects.

The CyberCANOE technology is funded through the Academy of Creative Media System. UH Hilo technology sites are located in the computer science department, the Mookini Library, and ʻImiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaiʻi. The technology also allows collaborative projects between UH campuses throughout the state.

Traditionally, majors at a university can be very segregated, but CyberCANOE technology offers Hilo and other UH students a change of pace. The cross-disciplinary course brings together students of different disciplines to learn skills they will need in the real world after graduation, such as proficiency in digital visualization data.

Creating a visual game backed by data

The focus of the current class is to create a digital game backed by data. This semester’s class is focusing on mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), an invasive species found on several islands in Hawaiʻi. The game places the player as the mongoose itself. There is much to be researched as to how a mongoose moves, what it eats, and the environment in which it lives. Although the work can be divided in any way chosen by the students, this research is usually taken up by marine science students.

The next part is for the artists to digitally create the scenery of the game. This includes matching art styles to create one cohesive look as well as utilizing the data given to create realistic looking scenarios.

Lastly is bringing it all to life, usually taken up by computer science majors. They take the art produced and make it move in a realistic way, allowing the game to be played.

The hard work of science researchers can only go so far in making an impact without their work being shown to the general public. Through emerging visualization data and digital media, researchers have an opportunity to bring their work to life. Using visualization technology science majors can spread awareness—in the case of this class, awareness about environmental issues facing Hawaiian ecosystems.

“I’ve seen amazing things out of these students with their capabilities,” said Morrissey. “I think we’re going to see some really amazing stuff at the end of the semester.”

For the full story, go to UH Hilo Stories.

—A UH Hilo Stories article written by Mikayla Toninato, a junior completing a semester at UH Hilo through the National Student Exchange program