Pre-Engineering

Students Dream Up Monsters and Bring Them to Life

Alma alumna Nick Wracan had no idea that his plan of making a B monster movie for his senior capstone project would create a new multidisciplinary course at Alma.

Wracan wanted to create a bloblike ‘pizza monster’ from outer space to star in his 1950s style B horror movie. He imagined the monster as static, something like a sculpture, but then he heard about the work fellow students, Cameron Spitzfaden and Hope Ayers, were doing with prosthetics and decided he wanted to create a monster that could move. Using the skills he learned in computer science and physics courses, Wracan brought his monster to life.

 

Wracan's bloblike pizza monster from outer spaceWracan's bloblike pizza monster from outer spaceHowever, when Wracan struggled with using latex (latex can produce fumes which can cause difficulty breathing) Victor Argueta-Diaz, assistant professor of physics, decided it was time turn the monster project into a course to make it safer.

 

The Monster Workshop course combined physics, new media studies, and art to create a multidisciplinary course. In the course students build a monster which can react to something (light, sound, touch, etc.) in its environment. The course requires students learn to work with art materials, but they also learn electronics to build their monsters.

 

Students with their 'monster'Students with their 'monster' Students in the course watch horror movies, do film analysis, read ghost stories, and even take trips to get inspiration. This past Spring, the group traveled to Mackinaw Island to take a ghost tour and learn about Michigan legends.

 

The 'tumor' monster, complete with real hairThe 'tumor' monster, complete with real hairThis year’s monsters are quite large. Argueta says some are 4-5 feet tall. His favorite was the ‘tumor’ monster covered in real hair. “It was horrifying!”, he says.

Story published on August 01, 2019