Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, WIMTACH has continued its efforts to support its Student Researchers to gain experiential learning, job opportunities, employable skills and industry knowledge of digital health sectors. This series will highlight how students and faculty who work with WIMTACH are managing the ongoing changes to their daily lives.
Two years ago, Armando Rodrigues Smaidi moved from Brazil to Canada to learn more about the fundamentals of art and where in the industry it could take him. Now, as a Centennial College graduate of the Game Art program, he found his answer: a Student Researcher at WIMTACH with a wealth of Canadian experience, including experience working through a pandemic.
“This project helped me recognize how to treat work, behave and handle things, such as art direction and following what the clients want and not what I want. During the project, my connections were with Bo and Jeziel. Bo coordinated me and directed me. I talked to Jeziel about paperwork and contracts (Laughs). The pandemic broke all of my routine! I had to reorganize myself.”
Smaidi was one of a few students who began working on the Marion Surgical applied research project in March 2020 under the guidance of Digital Animation and Game Art & Design professor, Bohdan (Bo) Ruzycky. Marion Surgical is a company that uses virtual reality training platforms to enable surgeons to practice, collaborate and share surgical procedures.
By the time the project was approved by NSERC to begin, the Centennial College campus along with schools, non-essential businesses and organizations were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The WIMTACH team was tasked with a timely objective: to expand Marion Surgical’s repertoire of virtual reality surgeries by designing 3D tools and assets, all while working remotely.
For Smaidi, the biggest adjustment was having to be more strict with himself about deadlines and not “lose my head to all this craziness”. Before the pandemic, he had a solid routine: wake up at 6:00am, arrive at Centennial College at 7:30am, work, go to classes, connect with other students and by 9pm, return home. “I like being outside the home a lot [to do my work] and now, I miss going on the subway and having my routine,” he explains.
The changes in his routine weren’t too different from his journey to the Game Art program. With a background in sculpture, drawing and 3D-modelling from Brazil, he was instructed to apply for the Game Art program by his guidance counselor. There, he refined his skills and learned how the industry works from all of his professors, including Bo, who introduced Smaidi to WIMTACH a year ago. It was an unexpected change, but he was prepared. His first project was with Shaftesbury, the award winning Canadian media company.
“Bohdan and Thomas (Program Coordinator) liked what I could do and my performance [in the Shaftesbury project] and they selected me for the WIMTACH Marion Surgical project. After I finished my Game Art program in December 2019, I continued to work with them. I was privileged to work with Bo on the WIMTACH project.”
Faculty support made the changes to Smaidi’s routine easier to deal with because he could always rely on it. The collaborative nature of WIMTACH projects makes this possible. Principal Investigators, often Centennial College professors, are in consistent communication with WIMTACH, clients and Student Researchers to ensure projects are running smoothly. Moreover, they support students in gaining real working experience in their chosen industry, guiding students through triumphs and challenges. For Smaidi, that was Bo holding space for him to speak honestly and helping him build a routine to cope with the reality the COVID-19 pandemic has sprung on everyone.
“Bo helped me very much. He’s a very experienced person in this industry. I’m still a baby in this industry and I have a lot to learn. I appreciate very much everything he taught me and said to me on this project. It helps a lot to have people to talk to share how you’re feeling and how hard it is.”
Smaidi has three pieces of advice for students who want to be more productive:
- Listen to non-distracting music or podcasts in the background while you work
- Take a 30-40 minute snack and relax the mind
- Make time for yourself, even if you feel unproductive
For more information on WIMTACH projects and services, please visit https://wimtach.centennialcollege.ca/
For updates on WIMTACH’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit https://mailchi.mp/d9a20aac07f0/covid-19-update