Coke vs Pepsi: High School Students Win with a Blender Short

"I would like to share some good news. Our school competes in regional, state and national competitions in technical areas. My teams competed in the area of computer animation and two of my teams got gold and bronze at the state level!"

This message came from Scott Kaczynski, an instructor at Shadow Ridge High School from Surprise, Arizona. We had to find out more! 

"I 100% believe that the material you provide on your website helped myself and my students learn how to use Blender at a level that assisted us in winning," added Scott. "Your materials and instructors are truly amazing." 

Scott told us that his students, Lane (graduating senior) and Tajae (junior) have been learning Blender for a relatively short time and only had 8 hours to create their winning submission.  They compete within the SkillsUSA organization in the category 3D Visualization and Animation. Last year, the state competition prompt was called "Battle of the Brands" - see how Lane and Tajae tackled the theme.

Let the best can win! Here is what Lane and Tajae say about the video.

What was your experience with Blender when you won the contest?

Lane: We've been using Blender for just about 2 years, and haven't used any 3D software prior. I used a little Photoshop in the past but that's about it.

What 3D training did you get at your high school?

Lane: Our training has consisted of online tutorials, and the information and activities Mr. Kaczynski, our instructor, has provided in the classroom.

Rifle model by Lane

How often do you practice  Blender?

Lane: We use Blender all the time. Sometimes for class work, sometimes for personal side projects. I am a little inconsistent. There will be times I won't use the software for a couple weeks, and then I go 24/7. Leading up to the State and National competition, all I did was practice and work on making my animation workflow more efficient. 

Tajae: I am more consistent, I usually use it five days a week during and after school.

What has been the most useful learning resource? 

We are grateful for Mr. Kaczynski teaching us the basic fundamentals, those foundation skills, but as time goes on we find ourselves learning more and more outside the classroom. 75% of new material is based on online resources. No matter what we create and how we do it, it's always nice to have Mr. Kaczynski to offer feedback and his professional opinion.

Render by Lane

We love the Pepsi vs Coke video you created for the competition: what was the biggest challenge in the project?

We were given the choice of three sets of products, we choose Coke vs Pepsi and created two soda can characters fighting one another. We included walk cycles and animated text. The biggest challenge is always time. We go into the competition cold, with no information, and had eight hours to design, model, animate and render a finished product. We won first place and were able to represent the state of Arizona at a national level in the summer.

What are you personal plans with Blender, will you continue growing your 3D skills?

Tajae: would like to work in the video game industry developing games. 

Lane: I don't have specific career goals just yet, but I want to continue working in the area of rigging, animation and hard surface modeling. I want to work my way away from Rigify and be able to create my own custom rigs, as well as work with Zbrush for sculpting and Substance Painter for texturing. 

Chesspiece model by Lane

What is your favorite thing about Blender?

We love the Blender community and the fact that Blender has such a large online presence. Over all the other 3D softwares we've experienced, Blender has the best hotkey layout. It's fast and speedy, where other software packages can be a little clunky.

After finalizing this interview, Scott also informed us that one of his teams too home the 2nd place in the State competition this year, missing out the 1st place by 15 points only. Congrats to the unstoppable students of Shadow Ridge High School!

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