SIOUX CITY, Iowa — A sinister monster looks around the corner in a Jackson Street building, peering at a group of terrified students with flaming red eyes.
Well, maybe not all the students are terrified. Especially Emma Hall and Dontiya Skelton. The West Middle School eighth graders are the reason this creepy creature has its glare.
“We gave him dragon eyes,” Dontiya said.
They teamed together in Mike Borrall’s computer technology class to program a set of eyes in two small video boards. The “dragon” eyes were then installed into the head of a goblin – which was built from a mannequin and a 3D printed mask.
The goblin is one of about a dozen hand-programmed and coded animatronic beasts that will be featured in this year’s edition of West Middle’s Haunted Hallways, according to the Sioux City Journal (http://bit.ly/2egDzHa ).
In the past, the spooky spectacular has been confined to the halls of West Middle. Ghoulish videos programmed and edited by the students would plaster the windows of classrooms, providing a fright for those who walked by.
But Borrall saw an opportunity to make the project into a full-fledged haunted house, while introducing more complex and hands-on programming to his students.
Students went from coding a few instructions to creating interactive monsters that talk and stare, much like those seen at major attractions.
“The location we were able to get really sets the mood,” he said. “These things are close to what you’d see at Disney.”
The ghosts, ghouls and goblins are visually striking, from the digital eyes to the custom masks and outfits. But Borrall said the project is more than just professional quality features.
“We wanted to get really into coding,” he said. “This gives kids the opportunity to have a real-life project where they’re actually using computer coding skills instead of computer programming.”
The creatures are brought to life by a typed code that generates an action. Eyes move in patterns and devilish voices snarl and growl at passersby.
This year’s installation moved from the school to 416 Jackson St. to allow space for the new features. Aside from the animatronics, scares include 3D projections, motion censored interactions and a slew of other surprises.
“The whole goal of this is to have a computer-programmed haunted house,” Borrall said. “As long as the kids had the parts, they could put it together and make it work.”
Now, the house can be set up throughout the month of October. “Tours” are open to the public from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 8, 14, 15 and 21. Admission at the door is $5, or any guest can bring gallon sized bags, ramen noodles or fruit snacks for the Food for Thought program and receive a ticket for just $1.
Proceeds from ticket sales will be reinvested into the technology program. Food collected will help feed needy students at home.
The Sioux City Public Schools Foundation provided a much needed boost in funding the project.
The haunted house extends far beyond the work of Borrall’s computer technology class. More than 700 students throughout the school pitched in. Talented and Gifted (TAG) art students painted the 3D masks, more coding students created projections, business students mocked up fliers and the digital music class created sound bites and a sound track.
The work of so many hands on a brand new project has impressed Borrall.
“I knew it would be neat, but this really is impressive,” he said.
Emma Hall agrees. She’s pleased with her work, but the look is just step one. The real fulfillment of the project will hopefully come from guests.
“I just hope it scares someone,” she said.
Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com
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