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School of Arts, Media and Engineering alum certified as trainer in visual programming

portrait of ASU alum Andrew Robinson wearing a mask
February 10, 2021

Cycling '74, the company behind the visual programming language that ASU digital culture students use, has endorsed alum Andrew Robinson as a certified trainer. 

Robinson, who earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master's degree from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, said he will host and lead workshops on Cycling ‘74’s Max/MSP programming language around the Tempe and Phoenix areas and online. 

“I wouldn’t have considered myself to be a teacher, but I do like trying to inspire others to see the possibilities,” he said. 

Since earning his master’s degree, Robinson has been focusing heavily on Max/MSP’s visual animation capabilities and learning more about stage design in the hopes of one day developing stage visuals and animations professionally. He was working at the Van Buren, a concert venue in Phoenix, as a stagehand to continue learning about stage designs. However, when the pandemic hit, Robinson was out of work. But he didn’t let the setback stop him.

“Unfortunately because of COVID, the Van Buren had been shut down,” he said. “So in the meantime, I decided to start uploading my own Max/MSP YouTube tutorial videos to give back to a community that helped supplement what I was learning in school with additional knowledge.”

Max/MSP is such an integral part of a digital culture student's life that Robinson’s becoming a certified trainer is big news for the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. 

"Max/MSP has been the lingua franca for media artists, sound designers and interaction designers, with in-built tools for real-time signal processing, computer vision, machine-learning, 3D geometry and more,” said Pavan Turaga, interim director of the school. “It also has an active community of contributors who keep the toolkits up to date with emerging technical innovations. Andrew Robinson's endorsement by Cycling '74 is a testament to his talent and provides further support to our school in our ability to push educational and research capabilities in real-time experience design."

We spoke with Robinson about his future with Cycling ‘74 and what he plans to do in the coming years.

Question: What type of workshop/training will you host?

Answer: Anything and everything involving Max/MSP. My area of expertise focuses more on the visual animation programming side of Max. It’s similar to what you would expect with more traditional animation, but how it’s being done is very different.

Q: How long have you been working in Max/MSP? What type of projects do you create?

A: I have been using Max/MSP since joining the AME (arts, media and engineering) program as a freshman about six years ago, and now I use it for everything. I do a lot of stage design work and use real-time audio reactive animations as part of that. I’ve also built augmented musical instruments, lighting installations, mixed reality art installations and so much more.

Q: How do you see this experience positively impacting your life or others?

A: The news of the certified trainer program just became public, and it’s been an incredible boost for sharing my artwork on social media. That’s been really awesome to see. I also got to meet a lot of people who work at Cycling ‘74, and they’re all incredibly awesome. Many of them were like, “Just reach out if you have any questions ever,” and these are the people that make Max, so you know I definitely will be asking a lot of questions and then sharing that knowledge with others who want to learn more about Max/MSP as well.

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell those interested in pursuing a career path like this? Any words of advice?

A: Pretty much anything is possible creatively with Max/MSP, so find the thing that you want to do and have fun learning how to do it. When I started in the AME program, I had never used Max/MSP before and never ever would have thought I’d be into computer programming, but once I learned what I could do with Max, the creative lock in my brain opened. This was after about two years of being in the program and everything was finally beginning to click for me in terms of how Max worked. I understood what I could do and grasped the basics of how to do those things, like make these visual animations. I really applied myself to trying to learn more above and beyond what we were doing in class. I watched a ton of YouTube tutorial videos and just tried to absorb as much knowledge as possible, because the more I knew about Max in general, the better I would get at doing the visual work I enjoyed making. 

Q: What was your official degree at the School of Arts, Media and Engineering? 

A: My concentration was in music, but I went on to get my master’s degree in AME because I loved what I was learning and didn’t want to stop. 

Q: What are your plans for the future and how does this role fit into that?

A: Ultimately, I would still like to be doing stage design work, but my ideas and interest extend beyond just doing stage design. I love creating and exploring the new artistic possibilities that Max affords. I also enjoy teaching. I wouldn’t have considered myself to be a teacher, but I do like trying to inspire others to see the possibilities because I, like them, didn’t know what I was doing either at one point. Now that I understand better what I’m doing, I want to help others find that spark for themselves as well. I think through being a (certified trainer) and continuing to share my love and knowledge of Max/MSP I can start to bridge the academic world to a new audience and vice versa.