Newest Lab Member’s Summer Experience

Editor’s Note: Freshman JoAnn Nguyen recently joined the ArtSciLab in an ongoing project role- but her first experience working with us was last summer through the Clark Scholars Program. Read on below to hear JoAnn’s first-hand account of her summer experience. Sound interesting? Contact us about opportunities for Summer 2018.

My first day of summer had nothing to do with my regular summer routine of binge watching Netflix on my living room couch while eating an obscene amount of unhealthy food. Instead, spent it at UT Dallas two and a half months before officially began college. I and 27 other Clark Research Scholars had signed away nine weeks of our summer break to begin research on campus.

My summer home away from home

This summer, I started interning for the ArtSciLab located in the ATEC (Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communications) building at UT Dallas and it was nothing like any other jobs I had before. I am an upcoming business student that has a knack for learning about computers and experience with sculptural art so being assigned to work for the ArtSciLab was a good fit for my background.

The first week I started interning I explored the posh looking lab and got caught up with what projects the lab was working on such as ARTECA and Creative Disturbance. After meeting Professor Cassini Nazir and Emma Newkirk, the lab manager, I was assigned to work on CDASH, Curriculum Development in the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities. The website is run by Dr. Kathryn Evans and is intended to display interdisciplinary courses globally that cross between the disciplines of art and science. As more and more professors became interested in the site, Katheryn realized there was a need to update the current webpage. I was assigned to redevelop the site which required utilizing WordPress, a website development tool, and implicating the elements of user experience to increase the site’s usability.

At first I was utterly lost. Although I had a bit of knowledge in java and design, web design was something completely new and I was scrambling around to find anything I could understand. It was daunting thinking about where to even start but luckily my professor stepped in to guide me through the process. I had so many questions throughout the CDASH project –  from making a prototype to using WordPress and HTML and every time he answered all of them patiently and with genuinely. I was lucky to be working in the lab during the summer when my professor had more free time to answer any of my concerns. Before weekly CDASH meetings Professor Cassini made sure I was prepared and that I wasn’t left astray and it was nice knowing that I had someone to reach out to when I was utterly lost.

As the summer progressed I was making progress. I created a prototype and a content map for the site and presented it at a meeting with the CDASH team and both helped with planning out the development of the site. Things were moving at a fast pace and I was trying to hold on. By the end of the summer I had created a basic website that could be expanded and core functionality. The site is still being in development and I have hopes that it will be up and running by the spring semester.

Although my summer was mostly about developing a website for the lab there were other things I got to participate in. NAEA, National Art Education Association, held its annual meeting in the ATEC building this summer and I got to volunteer with Emma. I witness the principles of design being implemented and talked to art educators across the nation. I even ran into Debra Moore who is part of the Edith O’Donnell Foundation that had hosted an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art that I was a part of. I also got the opportunity to sit in at a lunch meeting with local business leaders that were part of a group called XD Leadership Alliance and I would have never gotten these opportunities to be exposed to the professional world had I not been interning in the lab this summer.

Overall my experience in the ArtSciLab was a great experience. The biggest lesson I learned is that there are so many ways to solve a problem and for the first time in my life there isn’t a set right answer. Creating the CDASH website was challenging at times but it was worth knowing that I was learning and contributing to something.


About the author

JoAnn is an undergraduate student studying Finance and Marketing at the University of Texas at Dallas.  She interned at the ArtSciLab during the Summer of 2017 as a web developer for CDASH.




Lab Alumna Wins Big Idea Competition

Student Veena Somareddy won the top $15k prize as well as the $2.5k Diversity and Inclusion Award with Neuro Rehab VR

ArtSciLab alumna and Arts and Technology PhD student Veena Somareddy is this year’s UTD Big Idea Competition winner. Veena is Neuro Rehab VR co-founder and software engineer at Fort Worth’s Neurological Recovery Center.

Neuro Rehab VR is a startup working to disrupt the field of physical therapy with virtual and augmented reality games leveraging the brain’s neuroplasticity.  Suffering a stroke or traumatic brain injury can leave a person with long term disabilities. Neuro Rehab VR has developed three games that focus on different areas of the body and brain. Patients at the Neurological Recovery Center have been using them, and there are plans to expand to five more clinics across the U.S. by the end of the year. Winning a $15,000 grand prize and a $2,500 Diversity and Inclusion Award, at the UTD Big Idea Competition, will help to hire more software developers.

The UTD Big Idea Competition put on by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UT Dallas was held in the ATEC Lecture Hall on Thursday, November 16. With a prize pool of $80,000 categories for this year included diversity and inclusion as well as social impact.

The 2017 Big Idea judges included Julie Nickols, partner at Haynes and Boone, Courtney Caldwell, co-founder of ShearShare, Jeff Williams, partner at Interlock Partners, and Bob Metcalfe, co-founder of Ethernet and director of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin. Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple executive and current chief evangelist at Canva, also served on the judging panel and gave a keynote speech about the art of innovation.

Usability Engineering: Improving ARTECA Experience

I work as a UX designer and developer on the ARTECA project from the ArtSciLab.  Every day, I get to think about how to improve the ARTECA interface for our users.  One of the primary ways our team collects feedback from our users is through usability tests, which are run by fellow UX designer Shruthy Sreepathy and myself.  Every month, we bring in someone who has never seen ARTECA before and ask them to navigate through the site, following a set of assigned tasks.  Every time we run this process we discover new potential for improvements.

Recently, I decided to add something new to our usual procedure of testing.  To achieve a better understanding of how our navigation bar elements should be placed, I designed an activity with the purpose of understanding which layout for the navigation bar makes the most sense.

I created a printout on an 11 x 17 inch piece of paper with the basic skeleton of the page (top navigation bar, main navigation bar, main content), but with none of the navigation elements.  For these elements, Shruthy wrote out the names of the links and other navigation items on small, button shaped sticky notes.

After the main portion of the usability test, we closed the browser window and presented our subject with the 11 x 17 printout and the stickies in no order.  With no instructions or other reference, we asked the subject to place the stickies to assemble navigation on the web page that made the most sense to him.  During this process, the subject narrated his thoughts and explained his placement of the different navigation elements.

After running this activity two times, we noticed several patterns that emerged.  Both users expected to see the “Login” and “Register” buttons on the right side of the navigation, which is different than the current navigation which places these buttons on the left side.  Also, both users did not understand the difference between the “Join” functionality and “Register”.  These insights will inform our future designs for the navigation bar.

This activity is one example of a co-creation activity, where the designers work with users to craft designs.  Co-creation activities are a great way to explore how a user thinks, and they are also a lot of fun for us and the user.  Our results are just one data point but we hope to expand this activity and other co-creation activities to gain a richer body of insights for improving our site.  Sound interesting? Sign up here to be part of a future usability test.

From Dakar to Dallas: Creative Disturbance attends Gamecamp Senegal

Virtual Africa on Creative Disturbance

The Virtual Africa on Creative Disturbance

The Audiolats channel Virtual Africa on Creative Disturbance hosted a video conference between Dallas and Dakar where UT Dallas students engaged with Gamecamp Senegal attendees on topics relating to games, language, culture and creative industries.

Students from the School of Art, Technology and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas held a virtual meeting with Gamecamp organizer Kofi Sika Latzoo and Goethe Institut Sénégal’s director Michael Jeismann, led by Virtual Africa’s project coordinator and ATEC doctoral student Yvan Tina.

The group discussed the issue of technological development in some areas, the various business models available for the gaming industry, the implementation of transmedia narratives across multiple platforms, the role of government agencies in creative industry, and the future of mobile gaming in Africa.

Gamecamp Senegal at the Geothe Institut Dakar

It follows from that discussion that microtransactions currently constitutes the most reliable business plan for game developers in Sénégal due to the high cost of internet plans that keep most people from being able to play online with their smartphones. The microtransaction strategy allows one to progress at his/her own pace and to access the game offline. The low tech approach, as opposed to high tech (virtual and augmented reality), doesn’t have good days ahead given the rapid growtth of technology. However, there are alternative solutions such as the use of solar energy to deal with the access to electricity and the internet. One could even envision the emergence on new games based on this ecological approach. Similarly, the potential of serious games, through the gamification of many aspects of life, offer the opportunity to overcome the challenge of education in some African countries.

The last issue to be pointed out remains the incredible diversity of African societies, with thousands of languages and cultures, presents a real difficulty for game designers. It remains, however, that multilingualism and the development of African storytelling (based, for example, on oral traditions or afrofuturist speculations) would be an incredible asset for anyone involved in the African creative industries.

The Gamecamp—a festival which ran from July 14-17, 2016 in Dakar, Senegal—is a partnership with the Goethe Institut, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA Sénégal) and Orange Telecommunications. The festival has toured many African countries since its inception and was marked this year by the release of Google’s Cardboard as well as of NVIDIA’s Shield, the most powerful box android TV in the market, and the cloud gaming Geforce Now.

The festival allows attendees the opportunity to discover many games that have been developed in Sénégal such as Da’karapid, Cross Dakar City, HA Buggy and Diambar. Workshops for game designers on Unity, Game Design Canvas and several gaming tournaments (Call of Duty, Leagues of Legend) as well as an initiation to 360 panoramic photography (ConceptSky VT) are also offered in this program.

Yvan Tina, PhD Student publishes papers in the Technoetic Arts Journal and SciArt Magazine

Yvan Tina is a Phd Student in the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication and member of ArtSciLab. His work investigates the possible convergences of biotechnology, synthetic biology, and artificial life with the performing arts. He is a member of the international, multilingual podcast platform Creative Disturbance where he regularly contributes to Meta–Life and Virtual Africa.

His recent publications include:

1. On Complexism: Pulsion and Computation, Technoetic Arts Journal, Volume 14, Issue 1-2, June 2016

taThis article discusses a concept introduced by art theorist Philip Galanter in several publications over the past decade: complexism is a notion that looks at both past and future while aiming to reconcile (post) modern aesthetics with the cybernetic and biological paradigms. This article focuses on the re-evaluation of the performance arts within the framework of this theory, favoring the idea that every artwork necessarily resists attempts of subordination.

2. Straight Talk with Yvan Tina, SciArt Magazine, April 2016



In this article Yvan’s insights provide a bridge between the sometimes disparate domains of art and science —a perspective increasingly necessary with the rapid emergence of new materials and technologies available for artistic appropriation.

Announcing STEM to STEAM graduate seminar for Fall 2016, ATEC UT Dallas.

ATEC 6380. 501 STEM to STEAM.

Contact for info and approval to enroll.

Fall 2016 Instructor: Professor Roger Malina. Classes will be held on Monday Evenings.

This seminar will be co-taught with modules led by Dr. Paul Fishwick, Dr. Eun Ah Lee and Professor Kathryn Evans.

Course description: The seminar is open to PhD, MA and MFA students. May be repeated for credit as topics vary (9 semester credit hours maximum).

Syllabus is designed around the research or creative projects of each student.

This course will study current and emerging topics, approaches, and practices, where arts, sciences, and humanities interact or converge, with the goal to advance new research questions and areas of inquiry.

The integration of the arts, humanities and design into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math has become an important research and education agenda in the US and internationally. In this seminar each student will work with the instructor and/or other students on topics in science and engineering that are part of their ATEC or EMAC PhD, MA or MFA project of interest.

The syllabus will be modified to discuss topic areas of each student. Deliverables from each student for the seminar will be defined individually so that each student makes significant progress on their own project. TOPICS Guest lecturers will include visitors to ATEC and also online guests proposed by the students. Topics and readings will include the following topics, with others to be added responding to student areas of interest: The ethics of curiosity, Readings from the work of Indian philosopher of science Sundar Sarukkai, Foundations of inter and transdisciplinary research with readings from the work of Allen Repko, The science of collaboration, readings around the methodologies used to develop successful collaboration strategies when the work bridges the arts, sciences and humanities, Key readings from the Science of Team science initiative, anthropologist James Leach and other experts on training collaboration techniques.

Required reading will be the NSF funded study led by Dr. Malina on enabling new forms of collaboration between the arts and humanities with science and engineering. How researchers and artists can use developing techniques in cultural analytics, data visualization and representation, data Science. How digital humanities are enabling new research questions and methods. Data immersion and exploration. Performing data. Contemporary initiatives in cognitive sciences and neurobiology that can inform research and creative practices. Innovations in scholarly and art publishing and education. How researchers and artists document their work and present to different audiences today. The history and current practices of inter, multi and transdisciplinary research including recent work on the second wave of “consilience’ or emerging practices to succeed in ‘vertical integration’ of the sciences/engineering with arts/design/humanities. Research in arts and design.

We will look at how international programs are developing research methodologies in arts and design and emerging best practices. Development of rationales for art-science and art-technology in society in the USA and Europe. History and trends in design education. Creative industries today. Citizen science, collaborative science and open science developments today.

Deliverables Students will be expected to use social media and new forms of professional documentation such as video abstracts, podcasts, an online research web site or blog. Each student will record a podcast discussing their work to be published on the Leonardo Creative Disturbance podcast platform at MIT Press. Strategies for public engagement. Funding is available for student presentations at local events and conferences. Students who wish to enroll are encouraged to contact the instructor at So that, the syllabus can be augmented in areas of specific interest or need of the student.

Grading will be based 10% on attendance, 45% on participation and presentations made during the semester and 45% on the final deliverable. The final deliverable for the end of the semester is intended to help each student work and advance their ATEC or EMAC PhD, MA or MFA project or interest. Format of the deliverable will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor.