GCU faculty fashion scientific Comicon messages

May 26, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

GCU faculty members Dr. Roméo Farinacci (left) and Deborah Haralson dressed the part for their panel presentations Thursday at Comicon.

By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

Take entrepreneurship and computer science — two of Grand Canyon University’s most popular programs — and add science fiction, and you could make money.

It might seem like a stretch, but money-making opportunities abound for anyone with an idea and some STEM know-how, GCU faculty member Deborah Haralson said Thursday during a panel discussion at Phoenix Comicon.

Deborah Haralson (right) stressed during one Comicon panel that cell phones have a place in the classroom.

“I enjoy finding alternative ways to exploit things in positive ways,” Haralson said.  

Haralson and Dr. Roméo Farinacci of GCU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology are giving educational talks this weekend at the annual gathering of self-proclaimed geeks and nerds who flock to the Phoenix Convention Center to immerse themselves in a comic book universe. More than 200,000 superhero aficionados are expected to attend.

The schedule for the 15th annual Phoenix Comicon, which ends Sunday, is packed with activities such as celebrity-autograph signings and meet-and-greets, fashion shows, costume role playing, gaming rooms, exhibits, speakers and more.

Farinacci and Haralson are on several panels, and each spoke on two Thursday.

Haralson, speaking on the “Technology and Entrepreneurship: How to Teach 21st-Century Skills” panel, recalled a time in her family’s history when she needed to come up with extra income in a hurry. She did so with a role-playing video game called Diablo. In the game, every time a hero wins a battle, the defeated foe leaves behind items that improve the hero’s abilities.

Haralson used her IT and computer science skills to create a hero that played numerous Diablo games at a time. Haralson had a system for gathering the items that the foes left behind – and selling them to other gamers on eBay.

Dr. Roméo Farinacci (right) spoke on two panels, including this one on the science of the Justice League.

She also suggested that teachers quit removing cell phones from the classroom and start using them to provide on-point activities and challenges for students.

“The sum of all human knowledge lies in this box,” Haralson said. “Use the box. Use it in class and they won’t do Facebook.”

Farinacci, speaking on the “Set a Course for Home: The Science of the Star Trek Voyager” panel, said some of the science fiction ideas from the show — among his all-time favorites — are real.

While the science isn’t here yet to create “warp speed,” a fictional faster-than-life spacecraft propulsion system, the “replicator,” which can create meals on demand, is on its way, he said.

The device under development is similar to a 3D printer that produces food.

“It would be beneficial for long trips to lighten the load,” he said.

The cellphone and tablet first featured on the original Star Trek are reality, he said. And in fact, panelists noted, today’s real-life communications are far superior to Star Trek’s.


Remaining Comicon sessions with Farinacci and/or Haralson

  • 6 p.m. today: Art Imitating Life Inspiring Science: Drawing Inspiration from Comic Lore, North 132BC. Both faculty members are on the panel.

Details: Contrary to popular belief, a lot of creativity goes into science and engineering. Whether it’s noticing previously undiscovered patterns or coming up with new ways to solve problems, STEM professionals draw inspiration from a number of sources. In this panel, experts will discuss how comics and pop culture have influenced science.

  • 3 p.m. Saturday: Cybersecurity in Star Wars: “It’s an older code, but it checks out,” North 132BC. Haralson is on the panel.

Details: Thanks to poor password security, the Empire had TWO Death Stars destroyed. In this panel, cybersecurity experts will discuss this and other ways the Empire went wrong.

For more information about Farinacci’s sessions, click here. For more information about Haralson’s, click here. For more information about Phoenix Comicon, click here.

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or laurie.merrill@gcu.edu.

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