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George Hardebeck Blends Art and Technology to Bring Science to Life

January 27, 2022

Projection mapping may not be a common household phrase or well-known vocation – yet, but for George Hardebeck the magic of taking any surface and making it come alive and interactive is what he was meant to do. 

George may be exacting when it comes to his work – there is a lot of math involved in projection mapping, but he also is a believer in serendipity. He was on the 3D animation track in undergrad at Virginia Tech when he showed up early for a class and ended up sitting in on the final 15 minutes of a course on computer coding in art and design. He’d been a webmaster in high school but it never occurred to him until that moment that he could combine coding and art. Those 15 minutes changed the trajectory of his college career and his future. Serendipity. 

Today George is busy configuring the exact location, lens choice, lumosity, resolution and throw distance to transform the Da Vinci Science Center 60’ tall Curiosity Hall into a truly transformative digital media experience, featuring a larger than like anatomy program on the human body. Yes, there is a lot of math involved. At the same time, the Vitruvian-like image will be the focal point of the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion’s Curiosity Hall and must captivate its audience. “The art of it is suspension of disbelief and presenting an environment and visual representations that our audience will engage with, and believe the make-believe,” he explains. 

George didn’t set out to become a projection mapping expert. In fact, when he graduated with a BFA he was concerned that landing a job might be a challenge so he applied to an accelerated nursing program. Nursing wasn’t in his future. Three weeks before starting the program, he was offered a chance to continue at Virginia Tech in the Masters of Fine Arts program and he finished with an MFA of Creative Technologies. George then worked at the Institute of Creativity, Arts and Technology where he managed and created content for a 4-story immersive media and AR/VR lab called the Cube, before finding his way to New Mexico to join the team at Ideum. 

George’s career path may seem indirect at first glance; however the young boy who was interested in architecture and immersed himself in Information Technology his first three years of high school also excelled in the art classes he needed to take to graduate.  He let his curiosity open doors in college and was willing to change course, which eventually led to an opportunity in exhibit design. 

One opportunity led to another and here he is working on the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion. His experience with projection mapping made him a perfect fit for Ideum, where he is now taking broad concepts and making sure they are real and actionable. George also emphasizes that there is more to projection mapping in exhibit design than using cool technology. “The goal is to contribute to the mission and learning objectives that the technology is serving.”  

The mission in this case is to bring science to life for more than 400,000 people who will visit the new Science Center when it opens in 2024. 

What would George say to a young person interested in pursuing a similar career? 

“Find what inspires you, learn about it and how to do that through science – stay curious and follow your interests. Don’t be afraid to take on roles you aren’t sure you are ready for, push your edge and go past your comfort zone.” 

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