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Student Spotlight: Meet Shirley Layer, an APSU art student whose ‘sketch’ keeps turning up success

Shirley Layer

(Posted on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022)

When it comes to art, everything starts with a sketch. For animation and visual effects extraordinaire Shirley Layer, “sketch” has a deeper meaning.

“I created this character [Sketch], and he is like my inner child,” Layer said. “I’ve had him for years and have been trying to figure out what I can do with him. Augmented reality seems to be the place where I can actually bring him to life.”

She started with a background in graphic design. In 2008 Layer left for the Air Force, started a design and printing business in 2012 and then enrolled at Austin Peay in 2019.

“I had no plans of coming back to school or even my hometown. I left in 2008 for the Air Force, and came back in 2019 because my friend convinced me to use my GI Bill,” Layer said. “I was excited to see what Austin Peay had to offer.”

Shirley Layer

First starting with learning the basics of art essentials, she soon found her niche in augmented and virtual reality.

“I had no idea it was something I would enjoy,” Layer said. “I’ve always been interested in how I can make art more interactive. That’s when I knew augmented reality could help me get there.”

With quite the following on TikTok, over 88.9K followers, she has become a huge TikTok sensation. Social media has had a huge impact on Layer’s work and has provided an outlet to share her creations.

Layer was invited to the AR House in Los Angeles to work on an app using Niantic’s, Pokemon Go developers and VPS technology. Here, Layer had the idea to create a similar app geared specifically toward Austin Peay students for one of her classes.

“I wanted to create an app that would get students outside,” she said.

Using the same style as Pokemon Go, users can go to a hot spot on campus and gain an augmented reality experience while also learning. Students can answer trivia questions that convert into extra credit points for class. Students also can collect digital currency to purchase real-world materials such as food.

“It’s a way for students to learn more about their campus, but you are experiencing things in augmented reality,” Layer said. “It’s a concept and an idea for a class, but I want to use it for local communities.”

Her successes don’t stop there.

Layer won the Student Summer Research Award during the time she was volunteering at the GIS Center on campus. She used her idea to create not one but two projects – a virtual reality app for the GIS Center and an augmented reality experience for her Summer Research Exhibition.

She also earned a position to work in Times Square to build billboards for the NFTNYC 2021 event. While on this project, she juggled finishing her classes and working 18-hour days.

“Had I not had the experience from school, I would have never been able to pull it off,” Layer said. “Standing in Times Square and being surrounded by billboards with my work was just incredible.”

Major: Animation and Visual Effects

Graduation Year: 2023

Hometown: Clarksville, TN

Campus Involvement: Volunteer at the GIS Center, Clarksville Animation Club

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