Khan Academy launches Pixar in a Box: Free Online Lessons Help Students See How Classwork Relates to Animation


Khan Academy Pixar in a BoxIn an effort to attract more students to STEM fields and to show that fields that often seem to have no relationship to fields of interest are of value, the Khan Academy, in cooperation with Pixar, has opened the free, online Pixar in a Box. The site offers “a series of video lessons, interactive exercises, and hands-on activities” that will show anyone who follows the lessons “how the academic concepts they learn in school enable Pixar filmmakers to create new worlds, animate unique characters and tell stories through animation.”

Eyse Klaidman, Director, Pixar University and Archives says that many teachers have expressed an interest in creating animation-based curricula and “We hope that it [Pixar in a Box] not only gives students a behind-the-scenes look at how our movies are made but also gets them excited about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) concepts.” Although designed for students, the site is free and available to anyone who wants to learn. The lessons are multi-stage, set to pull the student in and take him or her step by step through the entire process.

This should make the question “Why should I learn this?” much easier for teachers to answer in a way students can appreciate. It gives a clear look at what math can do and provides something for people to see as a result of their work.

Brave used to show how grass is made using parabolic arcs

Brave is used “to explore how realistic blades of grass are modeled using parabolic arcs.”

The Khan Academy says that, starting today, Pixar in a Box is available to teach:

  • How combinatorics are used to create crowds, like the swarm of robots in WALLŸE.
  • How parabolas are used to model environments, like the forest in Brave.
  • How weighted averages are used to create characters, like Buzz Lightyear and Woody.
  • How linear and cubic interpolation are used to animate characters.
  • How trigonometry is used to create the worlds in which Pixar stories take place.
  • How simultaneous equations are used to paint all of Pixar’s images.

“These lessons are the first phase of the project,” said Cruise. “While the first year focuses on math, future Pixar in a Box lessons will explore science, computer science, arts, and humanities.”

The Khan Academy and Pixar plan to expand, eventually including science, computer science, arts, and humanities as well as this year’s math focus.


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