2020 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jeffrey B. Johnson


Animation is a powerful tool for making scientific processes accessible to non-specialists. Volcanic processes, for example, often require animated visualizations to explain the physics of what occurs beneath the Earth’s surface. We are partnering with geoscience professor Jeffrey Johnson to tell the story of Santiaguito Volcano (Guatemala), where eruptions occur approximately hourly and specialized sensors are used to detect pre-eruptive activity. Specifically, we are working to illustrate subtle slope changes caused by fluctuation in the volcano's pressure, which are detected by devices called tiltmeters.

We use vector animation to create stylized representations of these Earth processes. Our work combines digitally-hand-drawn frames with the use of automatic interpolation to create smooth and graphical animations. Annotations and visual cues are added to draw focus to important sequences. Our goal is to make educational animations more entertaining by incorporating artistic flourishes like characters, a stylish color palette, and a hand-drawn look.

Animation permits creative freedom to incorporate artistic touches to scientific materials. The Santiaguito project is expected to be the first of several volcano STEM stories that could be produced using the same stylization. The project is especially gratifying in that it is able to bring together the departments of science and art; we believe collaboration between different disciplines is a fantastic way to engage with what exists outside our everyday lives.