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Claudia Van-Nimwegen, Live Portal, BA (Hons) Theatre Technologies

Claudia's involvement with the Live Portal project has helped her make contacts from across the globe as well as providing her with new design skills

A group of students connected two of the largest global cities this summer, using a virtual portal created as part of a student-led creative technology project.

Working together, LSBU and Ryerson University in Toronto joined across the Atlantic via an on-street virtual portal that captured live movements in one city and then responded with a visual interpretation in the other. As a result, a dance or a wave in London could be seen in lights 3,500 miles away in the centre of Toronto.

The Portal was simultaneously unveiled by the universities – which had been partnering for more than a year through the School of Arts and Creative Industries at LSBU and the Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson – in June.

Students had to compete for the opportunity to create the portal by submitting their own design in groups to fulfil the brief to connect London and Toronto in a way that represents communication, cultural identity and diversity. A final group of nine chosen students from both universities, covering disciplines including engineering, design, arts, media and business, worked on the end design. The public were then invited to interact with the live portal, which was based at the Clarence Centre for Enterprise and Innovation, from the end of May until July.

A chance to learn about a new culture and enhance skills

One of the LSBU students involved was second year BA (Hons) Theatre Technologies student, Claudia Van-Nimwegen. She said she was attracted to the project by the opportunity to learn about a new culture and enhance her skills: “I entered because I wanted to learn about Toronto and how university life is in Toronto, and build on my existing skills in design, management, event leadership and budgeting, as well as gain new skills in team working with people from different nationalities and cultures.

“The design involved two live windows, one in London and one in Toronto, which were connected through LED-mapped interactive screens, meaning that you could be in the other city, displayed in lights. Two printed maps about the local area were on either side of the windows to give people an idea of the area surrounding the windows and to provide a taste of what the other country and culture has to offer.”

Claudia says that it was a great experience working with people from both sides of the ocean, although it did present some challenges.

“The time differences were difficult sometimes, but we managed to find group meeting times through Google Hangout, which worked really efficiently. Working in this way allowed me to share my own skills and learn so many new skills from other people in fields such as engineering, computing and graphic design.”

Connecting with people and boosting confidence

Just as she hoped, Claudia says involvement in the project has given her the chance to expand on some of her existing skills “by learning new ways of designing and using woodworking equipment, while at the same time I’ve also gained so many personable skills such as how to connect with a diverse range of people and how to present ideas to influential figures in society. This in turn has provided a great confidence boost and you could see morale amongst the group increase when things got difficult. It has also made me a lot more aware of the technicalities involved in running and facilitating a project, such as budgeting and scheduling. Overall, it's been such a fantastic project!”

Planning her next steps

As a reward for the hard work and dedication on the project, Claudia and another member of the team, Data Science student Kishan, were invited to Ryerson and spent a week with the team they had worked with 3,500 miles away.

With Claudia clearly appreciating her time spent on the project in the immediate term, how does she feel it will help her achieve her future goals?

“Oh, it definitely will! I really loved working on this project, as it gave me the opportunity to get a taste of working on a real-life industry project. Seeing Toronto and getting a taste of Canada and what it is like as a student there was eye opening and helped me to realise what my next step should be.

Once I graduate in 2019 I hope to do a master’s in Creative Education to refine my skills even further. Being involved in the project has seen me make so many new contacts with people from such a wide spectrum of industries, and I hope to keep in touch with and work with them in the future.”