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Keuka College News

Students Perpetuate UFO Hoax for Learning’s Sake

By John Locke, director of instructional design and multidisciplinary studies

Image by Darryl Hamlin '13

Is Keuka Park the new Roswell?

Judging from photographs taken by students in CMP 265: Computer Visual Design, one might come to that conclusion.

Unidentified flying objects (UFOs) were photographed hovering over Point Neamo, outside residence halls, and various other locales on campus. However, panic has not set in. In fact, students, faculty and staff have been going about their daily routines and paying no attention to the strange objects flying overhead.

That’s because these are photographic “hoaxes” that students created using Photoshop. Call it a high-tech spinoff of the 1938 radio drama based on H.G. Well’s “War of the Worlds,” sans the hysteria but with much more educational value.

“I try to get my students out of the textbook and into a project as soon as possible, so that they can apply what they’ve learned so far,” said Instructor John Locke. “We are all aware that Photoshop can be used for nefarious purposes, so I figure we might as well get it out of our systems early on in the class.”

“I think the UFO project was really fun… we got to put a twist on college life at Keuka and spruce up the campus,” said Maddie Reynolds, a senior educational studies major.

Image by Maddie Reynolds '13

Her photo depicts an odd-shaped spacecraft hovering outside her residence hall while a student points in astonishment at an extraterrestrial who is throwing a soccer ball out of a second-floor window.

As their homework assignment, students photographed the scenes where their UFO “sightings” would be staged, and then they took pictures of everyday, common items to use as their “UFOs.” Back in the classroom, they worked in Photoshop to create a composite of their assorted images.

“It was a great introductory project for us to apply basic skills we have been learning in Photoshop,” said John Miller, a senior organizational communication major.

Miller’s photo shows his friends speeding along in a boat with a flying saucer hot on its stern.

Image by John Miller '13

“I showed the photo I edited to my friends that were in it. In disbelief they kept saying, ‘What is that?’ until I explained that I had created the UFO myself,” said Miller.

Locke said “more strangeness can be expected” from his students.

“They have been morphing each other’s facial features onto their own portraits to create an army of CMP 265 Mutants,” he explained. “Every time another mutant is ‘born’ and presented, the class breaks out in laughter. Combining facial features is not a skill they will probably ever use in a practical sense, but in the process, they are becoming pretty competent photo retouch artists.”

Last year around Halloween, students created a collection of horror movie posters that hung in the hallway near the Geiser Refectory. Locke plans to resurrect that project this season, and hopes to display another crop of petrifying posters produced in Photoshop.

View all of the UFO photos.

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