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Taking a byte out of life

Taking a byte out of life

Written On: 07 September, 2018
Category: Alumni Student Spotlight Technology
Related programs:  Interactive Media Arts - Interactive

Dallas Flett-Wapash always knew the path he would take after graduating high school from the Helen Betty Osborne Ininew Education Resource Center (HBOIERC) in Norway House Cree Nation, Manitoba. His natural creative talents led him to the Interactive Media Arts (IMA) program at Assiniboine.

“Since I was young, I've always been interested in creating content, and I wanted to improve my knowledge and vocabulary when it came to doing so,” says Flett-Wapash. “Seeing that the IMA program offered industry standard knowledge in the areas I'm most passionate about, I just knew that was the program for me.”

For Flett-Wapash it was also a relief that the program was available at the Victoria Avenue East campus in Brandon. Like so many post-secondary students, he was going to be living on his own for the first time, and Brandon’s size made it a bit easier to adjust to his new way of life.

“Acclimating to living on my own was tough, so I took nearly every opportunity towards keeping my schedule packed,” he says. “In my first year of studies, I remember spending a lot of nights at the college after hours with friends, planning events and making posters. We were all part of the Games Club, which, thanks to the help of the ACC Students’ Association (ACCSA), allowed for some great nights of getting to know others and bonding over our favourite games.”

In his second year at Assiniboine, he wanted to take on more responsibility, so ran for a position on the ACCSA council as the technology program representative.

Immediately after graduating from IMA in 2017, he transferred to Brandon University (BU) where he is currently working towards his Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Digital Media and Design. Thanks to the 2 + 2 program between BU and Assiniboine, IMA graduates like Flett-Wapash, can earn a diploma and degree in just four years: two years at Assiniboine and two years at BU.

Soon after starting his studies at the university, he began a job with the Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU), where he currently works as an office assistant (OA). As part of a team, Flett-Wapash assists students with their inquiries and requests; a role that suits him well. As a student himself, he has a good understanding of student concerns and needs, and he has a natural love of helping others.

“It brings me immense joy to hear when a student’s problems were solved by me, or when the office is running smoothly thanks in part by the efforts of the OAs.”

He has also started to work outside of the university, having found it easy to find work in his field, most notably in graphic design and web design.

“I have been fortunate enough to find work with Indigenous clients in the area, the most prominent being Sioux Valley Dakota Nation,” he says. “Personally, I am a First Nations student in post-secondary, and it is very important to me that I bring my skills to my family and to Indigenous organizations. Their support has been invaluable to me during the journey my career has taken me on. I want to make sure I can give back to them.

“I chose my long-term career path as a multimedia content creator for one simple reason: I enjoy creating. Whether getting a message across through the complex visuals in a painting or through the complex functionality of software, I enjoy sharing a message with others especially when it makes them smile.

“As I progress in my career path, I hope to one day take part in the development of an interactive experience that makes people feel something powerful within themselves.”

And that dream may just become a reality sooner than he thinks. In 2018, Flett-Wapash was selected to work on a research project that is a collaboration between Assiniboine Community College and Brandon University. Over the next several years, Flett-Wapash and his teammates will create a virtual reality (VR) exploration of a World War I internment camp that was once located in Brandon. 

The “choose your own adventure” immersive experience will give players an opportunity to interact with a variety of people interned in the facility and will highlight the lives of the family and friends who they had to leave behind. The project will have both classroom and museum applications and will be available free of charge to the public, online and playable across a variety of platforms, including desktop computers and mobile devices, in both VR and traditional gaming formats.

Flett-Wapash attributes the IMA program with giving him a wide array of skills that allow him to work with a diverse group of clients. Through effective and accessible lectures with his instructors, he and his classmates were also able to learn how to use software for design and development workspaces. He’s appreciative of the opportunities he was given to test his skills and excel in the areas he was most passionate about.

He believes one of the most important things he learned was the very act of learning itself.

“I still firmly believe that the most crucial skill I've earned from my time at Assiniboine was how to learn on my own.

“From expanding my knowledge, vocabulary, and skillset, the IMA program developed my intuition for learning. It is a tremendous skill that I will continue to use throughout my life when learning something new.”

He feels strongly that anyone interested in multimedia content creation should learn the fundamentals first.

“It can be exciting to have dreams of this masterful creation you want to achieve, but learning the fundamentals is what can turn those dreams into reality,” he says. “It allows you to create faster, smarter, and without a lot of the guessing work. Play around with the fundamentals of your favourite content-creating software, like Photoshop, to figure out what it can do. Read up on a coding language to see how it works and what it can do for you. The bonus to learning this way is that certain things have similarities and by understanding the fundamentals of one thing, you can learn, much faster, the fundamentals of another.”

You can follow Dallas Flett-Wapash on Twitter (@DallaswithaD), where he often discusses topics such as pop culture, movies and games. He also shares a lot of what he creates.