Animation students create game, video for Eau Claire exhibit
July 1, 2014
Two teams of
students at University of Wisconsin-Stout are using animation to help bring west-central
Wisconsin history to life at the Chippewa Valley Museum in Eau Claire.
A new museum
exhibit, ChangingCurrents: Reinventing
the Chippewa Valley, will include two important contributions from the 10 students.
One is a role-playing video game of a 1789 fur trading post on the Red Cedar
River. The other is a 3D video of the 1884 flood that destroyed more than 150
buildings in Eau Claire.
The exhibit will open
Friday, July 4, during holiday festivities in Carson Park and expand during the
summer and fall prior to a grand opening in December.
hundreds of hours into their animation projects during the spring semester,
working through special challenges and with new software programs. They also
dealt with the added pressure of communicating with a real client and knowing their
projects will be seen by thousands of museum visitors as part of a long-term
"It definitely added
a lot of pressure to make it better. We wanted to create a product we're proud
of and (the museum) is happy with," said Alexandra Schultz, of Appleton.
Schultz was part of
the team that made the video game, which will be part of a recreated fur
trading post in the exhibit. The team dealt with thousands of details, such as
the color of the chinking between the logs, to make the animated trading post
The video game allows
users to interact with the fur trader at the front counter as if they are 18th
century traders. They can click on objects in the cabin, such as a musket, ax,
tea kettle, tobacco and other supplies to learn more about their historical
purposes. The fur trader speaks in English with Ojibwe subtitles, such as "mii
gwech," which means "thank you."
Students created the
male fur trader, the trading post and all the objects and environment inside. Chippewa Valley Museum intern and UW-Eau
Claire graduate student Jeremy Kingsbury wrote the script.
Along with Schultz,
the fur trading post team consisted of Andrew Uchytil, of Eden Prairie, Minn.; Alicia Griesbach, of Beaver Dam;
Andrew Blettner, of Marshall; Justin Schmidt of Brillion; and Matthew Duerst,
In the other
project, simulating the flood that wiped out 50 blocks of downtown Eau Claire
in 1884 also presented special challenges to students.
video, which includes a 3D city map and flood facts, focuses on a riverfront
industrial area that now is Phoenix Park. Buildings are flooded as the water
rises, with logs and other debris floating by.
The city was hit
with 14 inches of rain in 24 hours.
Students created the
video in color, although they had only black and white flood photos. "We went
for a realistic coloring. Flood water has its own color," said Adam Zablocki,
of Muskego, a member of the flood animation team.
Phoenix Park as part of their research and spoke with museum officials approximately
every other week, Zablocki said. "Every item had to be created. It's all
Other members of
the flood video team were Sarah Benson, of La Crosse; Spencer Kromrie of
Chippewa Falls; and Jonathon Saindon of Milwaukee.
"I'm impressed with the students' ability to bring historic subjects and
events to life through animation," said museum curator Carrie Ronnander, one of
the project coordinators. "This collaboration will allow the museum to provide
visitors with experiences that are beyond what the museum has been capable of
Dave Beck, chair of the department of design in the School of Art and
Design, taught the class and supervised the students' work throughout the
spring semester. "Working with the Chippewa Valley Museum has been a wonderful
opportunity for my students to experience a real-world, client-focused project.
Both of these are some of the best client-focused UW-Stout animation projects
I've seen since I started here in 2010," Beck said.
Top: Students created a role-playing video game based on
a 1789 Red Cedar River fur trading post for a new exhibit at Chippewa Valley
Museum in Eau Claire. From left are Justin Schmidt, Alexandra Schultz, Andrew
Blettner, Matthew Duerst, Alicia Griesbach and Andrew Uchytil.
Middle: Students who created a video animation of the 1884 Eau
Claire flood are, from left, Sarah Benson, Spencer Kromrie, Adam Zablocki and
Bottom: Students work on their projects in an animation lab.