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Student Guest Post: MDM Students Visit Ken Perlin at New York University

Sep 10, 2013 By Crissy Campbell

MDM students Isabelle Alles and Justin Eddy were invited to New York University this summer to spend some time with Ken Perlin—NYU Computer Science professor, NYU Games For Learning Institute director and Advisory Board member of the MDM program.

With 3 days to spend in New York, Isabelle and Justin were able to meet with Ken’s own graduate students and get an inside look at the various technologies the lab is developing.

Below is Isabelle’s account of the trip.

New York is an enormous city with ideas to match. In a classic "East meets West" situation, New York University extended an invitation to me and Justin Eddy to visit the city as representatives of the MDM.

Tuesday: Visit to Ken Perlin’s Lab & Exploring Manhattan

Justin and I visited Ken’s lab in midtown Manhattan where we got to see and experiment with some of the cutting edge technologies that they are developing. After meeting Ken’s PhD students in the lab, we were debriefed about the lab’s current projects. It was really more of a meet and greet that first day, but it gave us a primer and an informed look into the inner workings of the current projects.

The latter part of the day was left for us to adventure into the city. Justin had a list of interesting things to do in New York, which included MoMA, the Museum of Mathematics and the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Square. All awesome, all geeky. 

Outside MOMA

Outside the Museum of Modern Art.

Isa at Momath

At the Museum of Mathematics—innovative and interactive ways to convey complex mathematical subjects.

Isa at Nintendo World

At Nintendo World—amazing if you're a fan of Nintendo. They have everything, from the card game with which they started to the latest released game.

Wednesday: Brainstorming Session with NYU Students

Wednesday was a day of revelations, to say the least. Ken had mentioned wanting to conduct an experiment with both NYU and MDM students, but at the time we only had a tertiary idea of what exactly that would entail. Justin and I had discussed some of the projects that NYU was working on, and were eager to dig into the "Why?"—one of the core tenants of the MDM program’s philosophy.

As the brainstorming started, Justin and I instinctively started to facilitate the session. The various tools and techniques that we had been taught in the MDM program were invaluable. We used expo markers, post-its, and agile methodologies like old pros. The goal of the meeting was to simulate different collaboration scenarios in order to figure out the allowances needed and used in such cases. We recorded the session to capture any gestures and body language.

Workshopping with Ken Perlin's PhD Students

At NYU facilitating the brainstorming session.

When we were originally invited into Ken Perlin’s lab, I didn’t think that we would have much to contribute in a room full of genius PhD students but, after the brainstorming session, it was clear that the MDM program taught us a great deal.

We’ve learned to focus on the 'why' of things and troubleshoot and iterate ideas. We are also not (that) scared of pivoting and starting almost from scratch. The program also taught us not to fear improvisation and refined our skills to create and facilitate collaborative environments.

After the brainstorming session, there was little doubt in both our minds what we had come away with. I personally don't think we could have led such a workshop before the MDM program. 

Thursday: Media and Games Network Visit

On Thursday we all visited the new Media and Games Network (MAGNET) NYU facility in Brooklyn.

MAGNET’s goal is to integrate art and technology together in a shared space with programs where faculty and students together can collaborate on teaching, production and research. This space reminded both Justin and I of the CDM—they have whiteboards and projectors all over. We really felt at home there.

I’m so glad that such a big institution like NYU has taken the step of breaking the boundaries and is merging art, design, engineering and technology together to collaborate, innovate and be creative.

Closing Thoughts

The trip to the Big Apple was eye opening. It helped Justin and I realize the positive changes that the MDM program has had on us. Before the program, while we were professionals (Justin is an artist who used to work for The Walt Disney Company and I have a BSc in Mechatronics Engineering), we didn’t necessarily know how to lead. Now we are leaders.

We have a better understating of teamwork and collaboration and we know how to articulate our ideas clearly, brainstorm with others and embrace working with interdisciplinary teams. 


Isa has accepted an internship to work at NYU from December to April as part of Ken’s lab—a great opportunity to continue the cross-pollination of the research being done there with the processes and methodologies taught in the MDM Program. We’re looking forward to exciting developments from this collaboration.