Multimedia professor wants to inject STEAM into Highline

By Any Chang - Staff Reporter

Sean Puno wants to put a blossom on STEM.

Puno is a professor who has been teaching at Highline for four years and is part of the Multimedia Department.

Multimedia design involves telling stories through multiple media's, graphic design, videos, web, animation, and photography. It encompasses elements from both art and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which is why Puno is hopeful that in the future STEM becomes STEAM.

Puno said his passion for teaching was sparked when he was in college. As a side job he worked with foster children with mental behavior challenges and ended up loving working with kids.

He later went on to work at a school where the staff saw his potential and encouraged him to continue. His passion for teaching grew along with his creative side, and now he has found a way to combine both, he said.

Growing up in Port Orchard, Puno had always had an interest in art.

"I loved to draw when I was a little kid. I still remembered being thrilled to draw a shark on the chalkboard for my kindergarten class. I would draw on the backs of my parents' furniture and under their coffee table," Puno said.

As he progressed in school, art became a bigger part of his life. He has won art contests in both middle school and high school, and was voted most talented because of his abilities. Throughout his youth, technology greatly impacted the way he was able to make art.

"When I was 11 I learned to shoot photography with my dad's Olympus OM-D SLR camera," said Puno. "Then my grandmother had a VHS video camera that I used to make short films to entertain my family for movie nights.

"As a teenager, long before YouTube and let alone the internet, I hooked together two VCRs to edit my movies on. I created a system where I could use two cassette players to edit music and remix them together," said Puno.

It wasn't until college that Puno finally decided what he wanted to do for a career.

"With my passion for art, shooting videos, music, photography, playing video games, and watching movies, I never knew I would pursue a career that involved all things I enjoyed as a kid," Puno said.

However, Puno still faced struggles.

One of the biggest struggles he faced when he pursued art as a career was with his family. His parents were worried that his career would not offer the chance to get a sustainable job. His family has mostly pursued careers in the medical field or joined the military, and as much as he wanted to make them happy and have a sustainable job, he chose art instead.

"I was able to convince them by getting stellar grades and earning their trust," Puno said. "So I went to Eastern Washington University, which was one of the few colleges that offered a bachelor's in film. I told my parents to trust me and I embarked on my journey into this creative industry."

After getting his bachelor's, Puno took a gamble and moved to Los Angeles. There he worked as a movie trailer editor. Since then, opportunities in digital media exploded everywhere, and competition has gotten pretty fierce, Puno said.

"It's hard to be an artist, but multimedia design makes you more marketable," he explained, also adding that multi- media allows you to be an artist and secure a sustainable job.

"I get to do something I was doing since the age of 11, but now I get paid doing it," he said. "And don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it, the most important part is that you can't do it alone."

Puno is huge advocate for adding art into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), better known as STEAM.

"We grew up doing art and it's how we first learn, so abandoning art is a huge loss," said Puno. "I use STEM to tell a story through the creative process of art. Without the technology, I can't produce stories to entertain an audience."

Combining art with elements of STEM helps you think outside of the box, he said. Art encourages unorthodox ideas so you can create and innovate It stimulates that other part of your brain, that when combined with tools from STEM, can make things easier to problem solve, said Puno.

"I've built computers to make sure they have the right specifications to run the programs I need to edit video and motion graphics. I always shoot in manual in my cameras for both video and photography. That means I'm using math to calculate the amount of light by dividing the focal length by the diameter of the lens pupil," said Puno. To show how he has used math and technology to help his art.

If you think about how revolutionary inventions originated by STEM, you can also see how art has influenced it, he said. Take the wheel as a basic example. Now artists and designers have created super elegant cars like Bugatti and McLaren.

Puno also said that STEM is what keeps him motivated and interested in art. He said he recently acquired a virtual reality system for the art and design program at Highline. Interior design students can now design landscapes and buildings that you can walk into and be totally immersed in full-scale environments.

"We live in a world of advanced technology," Puno said. "But without art we wouldn't be able to entertain, foster individuality, and express our inner creativity that in turn will allow others to empathize and communicate the universal language of emotion."

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