The energy that makes ATLAS an interesting and exciting environment is the result of countless individual achievements and shared experiences. Our community is gathering momentum because of creative students and faculty who regularly exercise their insatiable appetites for exploration, invention and creative expression. Below are 10 highlights from the past year that provide a sense of this dynamism. For a higher-resolution view on what makes ATLAS tick, come spend time with us in 2017.


Photo of the Roser ATLAS Building lit up at night10. Roser ATLAS Center Just Turned Ten Years Old!

Opened in fall 2006, the Roser ATLAS Center turned 10 in October. While the institute was launched in the late ’90s, having the space to focus activities was the key catalyst for growth. And that hasn’t changed: As we begin the short winter break, a rapid round of renovations is under way, creating more labs and creative studios for our faculty and students.

9. Active Artist Community

Many members of the ATLAS community maintain professional lives in the creative and performing arts. Here are nine individuals who exhibited or participated in events from Boulder, to Barcelona to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2016:

  • TAM Director Matt Bethancourt attended Sonar+D, Barcelona
  • Jiffer Harriman, who completes his doctoral program at ATLAS this December, presented Calculated Mediations at Boulder Library, in collaboration with several others, including these ATLAS community members: lecturer Jenny Filipetti, lecturer and graduate student Danny Rankin, and Ph.D. student Abhishek Narula. 
  • MS Creative Technology and Design student Monica Bolles presented Research ReSounds at Cube Fest: Massively Multichannel Music.
  • ATLAS CMAP Director Michael Theodore presented Supraliminal at David B. Smith gallery in Denver.
  • TAM Instructor Kevin Hoth presented Postcards from El Camino Real, a pop-up exhibition at Wonder Press, Boulder.
  • ATLAS PhD student Abhishek Narula presented Distributed Chaos at Boulder Creative Collective.
  • ATLAS Assistant Prof Joel Swanson exhibited work at 101 Mediapoetry Festival in St Petersburg, Russia. Closer to home, he also installed a commissioned work in the Halcyon Hotel in Cherry Creek.
  • ATLAS BTU Artist-In-Residence Corinna Espinosa presented work at Cabal Gallery

Photo of an art exhibit at the Halcyon by Joel Swanson which reads "sincerely"

8. Performances, Events and Visitors

From workshops and hack nights to the speaker series and art installations, ATLAS hosted a panoply of vibrant events and dynamic guests in 2016. Here are a few highlights:

  • Large-scale artists Sandra Fettingis and Kelsey Montague installed works in the north stairwell.
  • Media artist August Black shared his work with the community.
  • Google Cardboard VR inventor, Boris Smus visited with several members of the community.
  • Hyrum Osmond, lead animator for Disney’s animated film “Moana,” spoke to a packed room in November.
  • ICTD superstar and CTO of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Umar Saif, delivered “Designing Technology for the Other 5 Billion” in November.
  • VP and manager of strategic alliances for Dreamworks, Rob Sherwood, shared “Animated Innovation at Dreamworks” in September.
  • ATLAS hosted a summer artist residency with Margaret Minsky and aerial dancer Sonya Smith who collaborated on a project titled, “Do You Think Differently Upside Down?”
  • ATLAS Black Box hosted 17 avant-garde shows, performed by artists exploring novel ways to incorporate technology into performance.

7. Industry and Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship remained a focus, with students engaged in ATLAS-based New Venture Challenge teams, opportunities to meet CU’s Global Entrepreneurs in Residence, and interacting with the steady flow of visiting movers and shakers from industry. We’re developing our own residency program to invite founders of small startup companies and other industry partners to spend time interacting with students. At the same time, we’ve established new partnerships with industry giants Qualcomm, Honda, Intel and Microsoft.

6. Alumni Voices…

This summer we reached out with a short survey to everyone who has graduated from the TAM program since 1997—a total of about 1,500 individuals. Questions focused on the impact of the TAM program and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Here are a few of our favorite comments:

  • “Hands down the best classes and experience of my time at CU.”
  • “Through TAM, I began to understand the interconnectedness of things—technology, art, science, school, work. This has inspired my life and work since.”
  • “TAM was one of the most useful and welcoming spaces at CU.”
  • “If I hadn’t taken Digital Media 2, there’s no way I would be a web developer now. I actually regularly recommend TAM to people attending CU. I just wish it had been a major….”
  • “TAM provides skills essential to virtually anyone entering the job market these days. …some TAM classes should be required for all CU students.”

5. Published!

Our doctoral students were busy publishing papers on a wide range of topics this year. Here are a few recent titles (ATLAS PhD student-author(s) named, others omitted for brevity):

  • “Pathways to STEM: Understanding Identity of Adult Physicists through Narrative Analysis,” Simone Hyater-Adams
  • “BlockyTalky : A Physical and Distributed Computer Music Toolkit for Kids,” Annie Kelly
  • “Crafting Mechatronic Percussion with Everyday Materials,” Hyunjoo Oh, Jeffrey Harriman, Abhishek Narula 
  • “Building A Tactile Picture Book: A Multimodal Design Task for High School Students,” Abigale Stangl
  • “Engaging Secondary Students in Regionally Relevant Science Topics Through Videography—Lens on Climate Change,” David Oonk

Photo of a student enjoying a Virtual Reality headset

Enjoying the Mixed Media Reality Lab

4. Creative Labs Proliferate 

ATLAS is now home to three new research labs, attracted funding from Intel, Microsoft Research, Oracle Academy, the National Science Foundation and NASA. The labs include

  • The Laboratory for Playful Computation—Designing new playful and programmable technologies for learning.
  • Interactive Robotics and Novel Technologies Lab—Advancing human–advancing computer interaction through research, including non-verbal, gestural communication with robots, drones and emerging technologies.
  • Unstable Design Lab—A research lab that studies technology and culture through the design and development of technologies that embrace chance and uncertainty.

In addition to research labs, several new learning labs have emerged this year, creating exciting new opportunities for students:

  • Novel Audio / Radiophonic Workshop and Laboratory (NARWAL)—A learning lab for sound exploration and tinkering with synthesizers, digital audio workstations, vintage audio platforms, and experimental interfaces.
  • Mixed Reality Lab—A learning lab equipped with the latest technologies for virtual and augmented realities.
  • Heliographic Lab—A place for investigating digital imaging and photography through the production of creative works and projects.

(Note: It’s not new, but the BTU Lab now has a new home on the first floor of the Roser ATLAS Center. This teaching facility, creative studio and hackerspace is a hub for all kinds of activities related to physical computing, electronics, and fabrication technologies, such as a laser cutter, 3D printers, and electronics.)

Photo of NCWIT’s Lucy Sanders3. NCWIT’s Lucy Sanders wins Bob Newman Award

Lucy Sanders, CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology was presented with the prestigious Bob Newman Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016 by the Colorado Technology Association at the APEX Award Ceremony recognizing outstanding achievements and commitments to furthering innovative technology in the state. The ATLAS community is proud to have supported NCWIT since it was established in 2004. 

2. New Faces

As ATLAS grows, expanding enrollment and creating new programs, it is attracting new talent:

  • This fall, TAM alumna Arielle Hein joined the team of TAM instructors after completing a master’s at NYU’s prestigious Interactive Telecommunications Program.
  • Alicia Gibb, who established and directed the BTU Lab, officially joined the ATLAS faculty.
  • Two ATLAS MS-ICTD alumni also signed on: Chris Carruth joins the full-time TAM faculty in January, and Mustafa Naseem returned as ICTD-Expert-in-Residence in August.
  • This January Laura Devendorf, who holds a PhD in Media Arts and Technology from UC Berkeley’s School of Information, joins ATLAS as assistant professor of creative technologies.
  • And in January, we welcome media artist August Black as ATLAS Artist-in-Residence for the spring semester. 

1. BS TAM Takes Off

Launched in August 2015, the new BS TAM major ends the calendar year enrolling 114 students, with another 83 students in the process of transferring. In addition, a substantial incoming class is expected next fall. Overall, the TAM program now enrolls a total of over 1,200 students, 60% of whom are women. The student community is more vibrant than ever, as reflected in our proliferating student groups: Mobile App Development, P5.js, Drone Racing, Electronics and Gaming, the BTU Lab hackerspace and physical computing lab.