When You Have A Cutout and Time, Use It

Ricky Cutout.jpgAn impending snow storm put a kink in my plans this week when astronaut Ricky Arnold was preparing to liftoff to the International Space Station.

The forecast called for over a foot of snow on Tuesday heading into Wednesday, meaning that I wouldn’t be at work at Frostburg State. I couldn’t readily share a replay of the actual launch not knowing when NASA would post the video to download.

We’re all about celebrating Ricky at FSU, where he is alumnus. He graduated in 1985 as an accounting major, realized after graduation that his calling was a teacher, so he came back to earn his teaching certification in 1988 as he was preparing for graduate school.

He would have a winding route to becoming an astronaut after earning a  master’s degree in marine, estuarine and environmental science at University of Maryland, and teaching all over the world.  Fast forward to 2009, and he installed some of the final parts  to the International Space Station during a brief mission. Now, he’s in space for over five months completing lessons Christa McAuliffe intended to carry out on the Challenger, among other experiments and duties.

I wanted to create a good luck video, but time was running out on Monday. Fortunately, NASA sent us these foam cutouts that are about two feet tall of Ricky in his space suit.

It hit me when I was getting ready for work that day that I should use the cutout in a video. A very, very, low-tech video.

I called up a faculty member who was able to open the planetarium and project the image of Earth on the screen. That in itself is a miracle considering it’s spring break and most faculty are off and away (and a lot of staff take off, too.) I was expecting some more ambient light, so I borrowed Bill’s cell phone as a makeshift flashlight, so we could see launching Ricky into space.

If I had even more time, I might have attached him to a fishing rod with some line, but instead, my puppet hand did the trick.

Amazingly, it was pretty warm on Monday. It was around 50 degrees, sunny and no wind. I took little Ricky out to our Clock Tower to shoot the scene for launching from Earth, with the Compton Science Center in the background. I wish I could tell you I planned that from the morning, but it was something that came to me that felt like it would make more sense as I was walking to the planetarium.

When I returned to my office, I planned to do a landscape and a portrait version for different platforms, but time was ticking. (I don’t have a laptop that could handle the Creative Cloud suite at home.)

NASA has a great media library and a sound library and cell phone ringtones. I downloaded a liftoff countdown for Discovery and trimmed it, then added a rocket sound effect from the library.

I didn’t like how short the video was, especially with the rocket effect of him immediately going into space. We have a subscription to Videoblocks, which is a great website for lower thirds, graphics and animations. They had the perfect animated space rocket shooting flames to serve as a transition to feel like you’re on a little journey.

Here’s the result:


I’ve also completed several other videos on Ricky and his connection to FSU. You can check those out below:

(Voiceover by student Rosemary Wehberg)


Getting Your Steps In For Pics

Some days we al need a little extra motivation.

Fortunately my Fitbit tells me I need to get off my duff and do some walking. It’s also a good reminder that I need to go outside and take some photos students around campus.

There are only a handful of days when you can get those great marketable shots because of how the semester falls here in Western Maryland. The trees don’t bloom until a couple weeks before classes end. By that time, the April showers are in full effect.

The summertime turns the campus into a ghost town. A handful of classes are held with a couple providing opportunities for shots, typically off campus. Otherwise, FSU is your summer camp headquarters for anything from basketball, marching band, STEM students and orchestra.

In the fall, you have to hope the leaves turn and stay before the wind gusts blow away your chances of autumn shots. In the winter, finding a day where there’s enough snow on the ground for students to play in without having classes canceled is a game of chance. Too much snow means employees, including myself, can’t come to work.

Last week, we had a few good days. One perfect day happened to be the final day of classes. Our Upper Quad had just about everything I was looking for: a sleeping student and the university’s Rock Climbing Club finding new ways to exercise. Topped it off with two students relaxing with Starbucks at the Echo Circle and I called it a day.


College Engineering Project Opens, Closes Windows With 3D Printers

It’s best to have students to share their work in their own words when possible.

Just the way they talk, their presence and what they do can resonate a lot more than a feature story or a video narrated by someone else.

One mechanical engineering student at Frostburg State, Levi Hartsock, clearly explained his team’s creation — an automatic power window for the home with rain or wind detection.  They even came up with a name: Window Wizard! While the invention itself is rad, the highlight is that components were made using 3D printers at the university.

Levi needed minimal coaching on what to explain, but he did so with charisma and ease. It’s a treat doing these types of videos. All I do is tell the student what chunk to explain next and then stop. It helps prevent rambling and makes editing easier, too.

It also showed that we should do more videos with mechanical engineering majors. They work using CAD programs that can animate their design. One student spent nine hours animating an entire home with this CAD program to show all windows closing on their own. I took his video and popped it in AfterEffects to add rainfall to drive the point across, too.

Personally, I’d like this personal prototype window for my apartment right now. I can’t tell you how many times I leave the windows up for air while I leave for work and a surprise rain storm decides to water my floors.

Making Math Fun Again: Dead Poets Society Breathes Life into Math at Frostburg State


It can be challenging to find a compelling story about your blue chip majors like mathematics and one academic club at Frostburg State puts a face to numbers.

We tend to think of majors like mathematics in a vacuum, almost how your mother would ask, “Well, what are you going to do with an English degree?” Someone ignorant, partially incredulous. These majors are typically coupled with another major, especially for future teachers and engineers.

Mathematics faculty brought a chapter of the Dead Poets Society to Frostburg State University after hearing about it at a conference. The club shows that something as complex and difficult for most of us can be socially invigorating and inspiring. Plus, the club atmosphere is great about breaking down barriers.

As Assistant Professor of Mathematics Justin Dunmyre explains, the movie “Dead Poets Society” isn’t exclusively about poetry — it’s about finding your passion. And that’s what this club does, but with a math bent. (I still have to watch this classic, which I’m ashamed to say because I am a big Robin Williams fan.)

It was critical that this story included video storytelling to show how happy and engaging the students are with the faculty, puzzles and yes, Rock Band —a story with images showing much more than students quixotically inspecting a worksheet.

Frostburg State University Dead Poets Society Breathes Life and Fun into Mathematics
Originally Published: 02/22/2017

Frostburg State University Dead Poets Society Breathes Life and Fun into Mathematics

Oh Captain! My captain! Rise up and hear the excitement over mathematics among friends.

You can hear the laughter and debate each Monday coming from Room 247 in the Gira Center for Communications and Information Technology. That’s where a new academic club at Frostburg State University called the Dead Poets Society seeks to make math a social experience. Brain teasers, puzzles and even the video game Rock Band are all part of the equation that solves for fun.

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Justin Dunmyre says the club shares its name with the movie starring Robin Williams. Math plays a storytelling role in the movie.

The move is about celebrating one’s passion, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Dunmyre says.

Mathematics major Sarah Sparks of Sykesville says the club helped her feel more connected with the campus as a transfer student coming from Carroll Community College.

I really didn’t know anybody. I really didn’t have any friends. Coming to the math game nights that we were having at the time, it got me interacting with other people in my math classes and got me interacting with other people in general,” Sparks says. “I think it’s really important to kind of take a break from the math that’s stressing you out during the semester and doing math that’s just for fun.”

Mechanical engineering major Demetrick McDonald of Randallstown says the puzzles and math problems help him reset during a grinding semester.

“Doing these challenges and these brain teasers are just a way to distract my mind, but it’s a constructive distraction,” McDonald says. “It’s a distraction from everything that I am doing, but it’s constructive in the sense that I’m using my brain to still answer questions and different things, not to mention I get to sit down and have time with all my friends and hang out and crack jokes.”

Frostburg State started its own chapter in the 2016 fall semester. The initial chapter started at Berry College in Georgia. Dunmyre describes the club as an underground national movement.

The club was created as a service of the Department of Mathematics, a way for students to connect with faculty and their peers. Dunmyre attends each meeting, along with the department chair, Associate Professor Dr. Marc Michael, and Assistant Professor Dr. Sarah Dumnich.

“I found out about it at the National Meeting of Mathematicians, and it sounded like a really good way of just building a math community,” Dunmyre says.

Dead Poets Society also kills the notion that math is not solved aloud.

“The hardest problems require communication between people,” Dunmyre says. “Just getting a community together is really important.”

The puzzles and questions cater to a variety of levels and majors. One night could feature a brief worksheet of questions testing math and logic. Another night might feature matchstick puzzles or the game Knights and Knaves. When students really need a break from brain teasers, they get together to play Rock Band, a video game, one night each month.

“The idea by doing different activities is to get lots of different people interested and involved – not just people who are excited about math,” Sparks says. “It’s just another way for people to socially interact and kind of let loose in this environment where we get to interact with each other.”

The Dead Poets Society at FSU is open to any student and features a diverse mix of majors with puzzles and questions for all levels. Meetings are held at 5 p.m. each Monday in Gira Center Room 245.

For more information about the Dead Poets Society, contact Justin Dunmyre at jrdunmyre@frostburg.edu.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

More Harry Potter Magic at Frostburg State (Video)

Frostburg State University’s Children’s Literature Centre has a trifecta of major community events for children.

I’ve covered Pirate’s Ahoy in the summer, Storybook Holiday in December and in February, it’s Harry Potter Book Night.

This year was the first time I had the chance to cover the Harry Potter event and it’s taught me to really come ready to shoot out of the gate next year. Unlike the other events, Harry Potter Book Night only lasts a few hours but Everything.Is.Happening.At.Once.

So for next time, while I’ll lose some ambience behind the people being interviewed, the interviews have to be done after the event because I missed a few areas I wanted b-roll from. Still, the students do a tremendous job telling the story of Harry Potter Book Night in their own words.

The first video is a fun story on exchange student Harry Buchan playing Harry Potter. The guy is from England and is a huge fan. It doesn’t get any better than this! (Our News and Media intern Melani Finney provides the voice for my script.)

The second video tells what the night is about and what it entails through the words of graduate student Chenoa Zais from the CLC:

Noble Battle Fought in the Small Business Revolution

In December, the City of Frostburg’s Main Street organization FrostburgFirst received word that the city was a semi-finalist for Deluxe Corp.’s Small Business Revolution.

The city didn’t move on, but not for a lack of trying. It’s clear that the other cities had stronger media markets that would be beneficial for the firm running the contest, which included a Hulu Web series. (Winners are to be announced Thursday, Feb. 22.) Still, the Small Business Revolution feature plans to share video on Facebook and maybe even other platforms from Frostburg (as well as other cities who didn’t make it—Marietta, Ohio and Woodland Park, Colo.) during the spring or summer while they prep for filming the new season in the winning town.

On the local level, it helped businesses and organizations and FSU to work together. Heck, this helped me work with other people at FSU even more.

One item I helped with was making a video at commencement that showed the appreciation students have for our businesses. The initial announcement was poor timing for us as students were wrapping up exams and commencement was around the corner. It just forces you to be more inventive.

The reason I’m including this video isn’t about what the students are saying, but instead the packaging. I wanted this to have Frostburg First’s branding.

I received the Illustrator file logo (which was created by a FSU student!) and cleaned it up so I could split the buildings and letters into individual layers. This allowed me to bring it from Photoshop to PremierePro and do the simple motion you see in the intro.  A nice royalty free jingle rounds out the bumper to make it complete. I provided FrostburgFirst will all of the files if they wish to use it for future videos.

Happy Halloween

Sometimes I still get to write a slice of life story that still meets our marketing messages.

Here’s a fun Halloween story I wrote on how Frostburg State Recreation and Parks Management majors were in charge of the city’s Halloween Party. I also shot and edited a video, wrote the script and had our intern Emily Michael do the voiceover.


Frostburg State Students Treat Children to Halloween Tricks With Annual Town Party

Someone has to be responsible for keeping little goblins occupied during Halloween.

Frostburg State University recreation and parks management majors take on that duty by organizing the Halloween Party at City Place in Frostburg, giving the students practical hands-on experience while providing local children some spooky fun.

This year, students Rashaan Rhoden and Jeremy Pearson led the effort organizing the party, held Thursday, Oct. 27, working with the City of Frostburg’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“They have their parade and they have their trick or treating, but this is something a bit more special where they get their haunted house experience and be a little frightened,” said Pearson, a Boonsboro resident who also earned his associate’s degree in Adventure Sports from Garrett College.

Finding ways to keep kids entertained with some not-as-frightening Halloween activities gave Rhoden leadership opportunities that brought him out of his shell. He said that the Recreation Leadership and Program Planning courses within his major aided his growth.

“When I tell my mom I’m helping directing a program for the City of Frostburg, she’s so happy for me because I wasn’t like that when I first came here. I liked to stay to myself,” Rhoden said. “That’s the whole point of being in Recreation and Parks: You get out of your comfort zone. That’s why I love the teachers in it. Planning programs like this makes me happy. I recommend it for anybody.” Continue reading Happy Halloween

Repurposing Snapchat Videos

I’m taking a concerted effort this semester to build our Snapchat account at Frostburg State University. Our first student-led Takeover Tuesday was a tremendous success with about 70 new followers in a day and more views than we had before.

I saved and exported the video to Premiere Pro and did this video below to help continue build audiences while still giving prospective students something to feel inspired by.

Training for Service with a Smile

Students need to know how to use their leadership skills before leading in the best way that they can.

That’s why Frostburg State University places an emphasis on preparing freshmen as leaders. No matter the student organization, there are opportunities to lead.

At the same time, there is a call to service for these students.

In the fall, 80 freshmen were whisked about an hour away from campus to a bucolic campground in Stoystown, Pa., so they can learn more about themselves and how they work with other people through team-building exercises.

I completed a story used for the Alumni eNews and packaged it with photos I shot and a video I produced, to help round it out so you can get a feel for what’s going on.

My favorite moment captured is the honesty from student Alexis Thomas. It shows you how aware students are of the branding and marketing by colleges and universities to attend. FSU’s tagline is “One University. A World of Experiences” and had an ad campaign to go with it.

“I have a better idea of what Frostburg is about,” said the Bowie resident and biology major. “When they show us the video about how they are one community, I thought they were just saying that to get us to come here. But I see that the professors here, the advisors here, really care, and they really want their students to do well and graduate on time.”

A big part of this trip is to train students who signed up to be a part of ECHOSTARS, which stands for Empowering Communities Helping Others: Service Through Action, Resources and Sustainability. It’s quite the mouthful, but it’s a residential volunteer program at FSU offered through AmeriCorps. FSU also sponsors an AmeriCorps program for Western Maryland.

Here’s an excerpt from Beth Bair, FSU’s National Service coordinator with ECHOSTARS about the experience:

“The goal is to help the students dig deep into their strengths,” Bair said. “All of them have completed the StrengthsQuest Survey, which is part of the Gallup program we do at Frostburg State. Once they learn their top strengths, it’s a matter of what their strengths reveal about them and applying it to this weekend.”

When the students return to FSU, the lessons and experience will serve them well in student organization leadership roles, Bair added, whether it’s working at the Lane University Center, leading a Greek organization or being involved in community service.

Here’s the story in its entirety:

Continue reading Training for Service with a Smile

Marveling at a Comic Book Mentorship

It’s incredible what busy professionals will do to help out college students pursue their passions.

Comic book artist Dennis Calero did just that at Frostburg State University. He shepherded select FSU illustration majors through projects in an independent study course to sharpen their drawing and business skills.

Calero’s accomplishments are lengthy, and they included developing “Xmen Noir” for Marvel Comics, worked on projects for DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics and also worked on a project for author Stephen King.

I shot this on a Saturday and was asked on Monday to have this ready for a Tuesday marketing email. When I’m given a deadline like that, something just clicks.

What I do in these cases is start writing my script. The interviews and theme is still fresh in my mind, then I start blocking out my video in PremierePro looking to get my soundbites in place.

After that, I start piecing together the script a little more while at the same time finding b-roll to use for my voiceover.

Once that’s finished, I have time to make color corrections, sound adjustments and titles before I headed over to the WFWM studios on camps to record my voiceover.

I look down and make a couple minor tweaks to my script before we’re ready to roll. Once I’m back in my office, I make a few more trims and stretches to squeeze in my voiceover.

I started at 9 a.m. working on this and by 4 p.m., the video was completed, uploaded on YouTube and scheduled on Facebook. The closed captions are typed up and heck, the radio station also has a public service announcement they can use because I supplied the station director with my audio I exported from my video project.

That’s my approach to working efficiently to make a three-minute video feature with a 500-word story.

Here’s the script below:

Frostburg State illustration students are marveling at their experience with a professional comic book artist.

Dennis Calero, who developed “X-Men Noir” for Marvel Comics, helped to guide a new generation of illustrators in an independent study course on how to make it in the business.

CALERO: “I advised some students on their work and would look at their work but I also wanted to see what their influences were. So I could help   them connect in what they saw in other people’s works that were interesting and bring it out in their own work. So I think that was very helpful.”

The prolific comic book artist visited FSU on February 6 to display his work and share career advice with the audience.

Student Ian Groff says Calero was thorough in giving him tips and reviewing work for his fantasy comic.

GROFF: “We focused on certain areas of comic art. We did several pages of penciled work and then we learned how to ink the pencils we drawn. And Dennis guided us through the whole process and how to successfully draw and what not to do.”

Illustration and graphic design major Ray Huang says students emailed Calero their work and Skyped with the artist for feedback.

HUANG: “It was really valuable because he would give me a lot of ideas about how the industry works. I knew what I would be facing in the professional world.” … “During my childhood I didn’t really have that much of art literature stuff. So, he basically told me to work on my own style because I’m all over the place. After that I can see the difference between my style, and it’s getting better.”

CALERO: “I was absolutely really taken by their willingness to take direction. And also their eagerness and their wanting to know how things worked. And not wanting to maintain an illusion of how things worked in this industry. They really wanted to find out how to take those steps and make those sacrifices, which not a lot of people really wanted to do.”

FSU illustration professor Jamison Odone organized the mentorship and is amazed at the impact Calero has. 

ODONE: “It’s more impressive than seeing someone every day, who is your professor. They’re here just for a blip. Their work is amazing and it’s almost like this celebrity effect when they see this person who’s done this amazing work. They’re usually a little jittery to talk to them, but they can see how it’s done, they can hear the person talk. It usually affects them quite a great deal. …

“Whatever switch he was able to flip in their minds to be able to work in this field, it worked. There’s no turning back now.”

The community can get an up-close look at Calero’s work during February. His exhibit includes a special illustration he created for his FSU show.  

The comic book art will be on display through Sunday, February 28th. The Roper Gallery is open Sunday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m.

The students’ work will be exhibited at an upcoming senior show.