What is the connection between Pixar Studios and a high school math class? Computer Animation! Some students in Calculus are working on a project to learn how to use parameterized equations that govern an object’s position and orientation as it moves. This is one big part of creating physics-based animation. By inserting these equations into graphing software, students can see their objects come to life on the computer screen! Animations are not only used for entertainment. They are also used to visualize mathematical and scientific results to better understand them. These simple projects are a starting point for building the skill sets to be able to create and use animation software.
One mini-project has been simply to animate the 'rolling' of a square block on level ground without sliding or bouncing. It could be the starting point, say, for figuring out how to make an animation of rolling dice. In the student-created video below, to the left, one can see some of the equations that govern the displayed motion. The result is very simple, but don't be fooled - to accomplish it has been a non-trivial exercise! Students are excited about this project and can’t wait to create more complicated animations using these techniques.