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Art and the Archivist

Taking the opportunity to try something new, El Pruett found more than just a new elective— she found an entirely new path that led to developing an immersive virtual learning environment.

Find your fit

"As a freshman, I thought I was going to study mathematics and music. I soon realized that I preferred writing and playing music in my free time to studying it academically. To fill an elective, I decided to try intro to computer science."

El spent the next few years exploring everything from math to anthropology. While her coursework may have changed, her desire to find a major that spanned multiple disciplines remained the same. It turned out that her intro to computer science course was more than an elective; it became the start of something exciting.

"Computer science, as a field, is incredibly rich. You can apply programming to any area—music, art, medicine, history—whatever you like. Computer science felt like an opportunity to do and learn everything using technology."

Expand your options

While working in the Center for Digital Humanities, El had the opportunity to develop a Handheld Art app for iPhones and iPads. It meant building a product that required archiving, coding and designing an app that was both engaging and educational.

"I had done only a little mobile development before working on this project, so I had to learn as I went. The great thing about working on Handheld Art was that I wasn't just learning a new coding language, I was learning about art and the different needs of educators across the state. Programming allows and forces you to view your creation from the mindset of its users. You have to ask yourself: "Is this accessible? Is this useful? How can I make this better?"

Discover new approaches

"Early on, two other programmers and I sat down and drew designs of what we wanted the app to look like. We had to consider how the user interface would be appealing and easy to navigate for the teachers as well as the students using it. We also wanted the app to fit the theme of the existing Handheld Art website."

Prepare for the path ahead

El will continue to think about how her coding can drive functionally and design at IBM Watson. For her, the ability to take ownership of a project that combined her love of coding and the world of art was invaluable.

"Designing what the app would look like was one of my favorite parts; the challenge was getting the software to resemble the initial design. It took a lot of work to get the art data from the website into the mobile device, without it taking forever to load."


Will you be the next to drive the future of data and design? Learn more about becoming a Rhodos Fellow.