Digital Uplift Feature — Introducing students to complex topics using the power of animation

Published: 22 August 2018

Relative to Absolute Sustainability: Staying within the Planetary Boundaries

This article was written by Dr James Vassie, Educational Developer, Educational Delivery Services, PVC (Education)

What is GSOE9340 Life Cycle Engineering?

GSOE9340 Life Cycle Engineering aims to provide postgraduate students with an in-depth understanding of the techniques and tools that are necessary to engineer and manage the entire life cycle of a product—from material selection and manufacturing to after-sales usage and disposal—in order to reduce the product’s total environmental footprint. It is a core subject in the new sustainability postgraduate program, but also draws a diverse cohort of students from the Faculties of Engineering, Science and Built Environment.

One of the biggest issues facing society is environmental sustainability. Engineers must ensure that the technologies they develop address society’s needs while having a minimum impact on the environment. The problem is complicated due to the expected population and associated affluence growth over the next eight decades. Therefore, it is necessary for engineers to ensure that the product technologies they develop take into account this growth so that they do not exhaust the world's limited resources and jeopardise the future of the planet.

Relative to Absolute Sustainability: Staying within the Planetary Boundaries

During the Digital Uplift of GSOE9340, it was decided that these complex sustainability and life cycle engineering concepts could be effectively conveyed to students and general audiences in the form of animations.

This animation represents the first in a two-part series on sustainability and life cycle engineering. During this animation, the current sustainability problems society is facing are conveyed and the reasons why many of the solutions implemented by engineers have not worked to address these problems are explained to the viewers.

Overall, the process of producing this video involved the drafting of a script and storyboard with the course convenor, the production of a voice-over with an independent voice-talent, and the development of the animation with a freelance animator on Upwork who used Adobe® After Effects®.

Watch the video animation:

Why animations?    

Video animations such as these are effective because they often introduce very complex concepts and topics to viewers who have never previously studied them.  The use of the 2D animated educational explainer style mimics the style used by a number science communication channels on YouTube, including one such channel called Kurzgesagt — In a Nutshell. Indeed, the voice talent used in this video, Steve Taylor, is the same voice talent used by Kurzgesagt. These animations are engaging, insightful and encourage the viewers to seek out more detailed information once the video finishes.

How will it be used in the course?

This video—as well as others—will be used as a pre-lecture activity in GSOE9340’s Moodle course site. By adding interactive questions throughout the video using the H5P® plugin, the convenor is able to test students’ understanding of the important concepts conveyed in these activities before they come to class. By binding access to the lecture notes and post-lecture quizzes to the completion of the pre-lecture activities, the convenor is able to ensure that students come to class with a basic understanding of the concepts to be covered in depth during that week. 

This animation was made possible by:

Dr James Vassie, Educational Developer, Educational Delivery Services, PVC(E), UNSW Sydney
Prof Sami Kara, Scientia Education Academic and GSOE9340 Course Convenor, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, UNSW Sydney
Dr Shiva Abdoli, Post-Doctoral Researcher, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, UNSW Sydney
Muris Halilović, Animator, Zanimation Studio
Steve Taylor, Voice Talent
Music: Airtone and Kevin Macleod.
Special Thanks To: Dr Shaun Bell, Jenni Jarventaus and Laura House, PVC(E)


For information about the Digital Uplift program (part of the Inspired Learning Initiative) get in touch with the PVCE team: [email protected]