For a graduate 3D modeling class, I assigned everyone to model their first 3D character — a biped dog — using Autodesk Maya. The following class, students presented their models for critique. There were some excellent, completed dog models, and some not so successful. One student encountered so many problems modeling the dog, that the dog’s torso looked like it was imploded; the chest and back were sharing the same vertices. The entire class was in awe, since this structure was not mathematically possible.
That was when I had an idea, and called for an impromptu 20 minute in-class challenge for everyone to fix this dog’s chest. At this time, the 6 graduate students knew a handful of polygon modeling tools, but they were never asked to use it to fix an imploded dog! There was focus, motivation, and determination in the room, as everyone got to work. After 20 minutes, we had a show and tell. 3 out of 6 were able to solve it, and every one of the solutions utilized different polygon tools and approaches. There was a lot of laughter and excitement in the classroom, and a grateful, “Thank you!”
Inspired by this experience, I’ve incorporated the “20 Minute Challenge” in this semester’s modules. However, as I plan these exercises, I sense a resistance to the planning. I realize that spontaneity is essential, and what made the dog challenge so memorable was that it was outside of the regular critique structure. So as of now, I am most comfortable writing, “20 Minute Challenge-TBD.”