- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) - For teens, high school is often about the pursuit of the diploma, making good enough grades for college or earning a reputation on the football field or basketball court.

Students in the class, one of only a few in the state offering training in advanced animation techniques, recently won an award of distinction at the Emerging Young Artists Invitational Exhibition at the University of Massachusetts for their 2013 anthology of animation projects.

Several graduates have gone on to college and technical schools to train for the gaming and video animation fields.

“Students are motivated by this work because it not only calls on their artistic talent, but their mathematics knowledge, too,” said Allen Makepeace, who has been teaching the class for 11 years.

He said judges at the UMass competition were impressed by the sophistication of the students’ work.

Student projects, many of which require hundreds of hours to complete, range from a 3D animation that invites a viewer to walk past a ruined, ivy-covered temple to a video in which the viewer flies above the ice at a realistic Boston TD Garden.

That sense of wonder isn’t lost on school administrators.

“Mr. Makepeace is an amazing teacher,” said Principal Bill Runey. “Some of his students’ stuff is right there with Disney Pixar animation.”

Although openings in the field of movie animation are extremely selective, Makepeace said some of his students are actively thinking in terms of careers in the video game industry, the movies or computer-aided manufacturing and design.

Senior Matt Hodges said he plans to attend Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., next year to study computer game design and development.

“I like to see what I can create,” said Hodges, 18. “It forces you to use your imagination in a way most people don’t.”

David Thacher, 17, said animation is time-consuming and requires the artist to create figures from basic shapes, such as spheres and cubes. Motion is added by manipulating the resulting figures through space.

“I used to think it would be easy,” he said. “It’s not.”

Senior Patrick Moran, 18, said he enjoys the freedom of being able to create 3D art and animated sequences on computer. He’s planning to attend New England Tech next year to study Web design and animation.

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