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Virginia Tech to showcase creativity, technology, and innovation at South By Southwest

March 3, 2016

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Part kinetic sculpture and part giant parallel computer, SeeMore will be one of the innovative projects Virginia Tech will feature at the South By Southwest Trade Show. (Image courtesy of The MagPi magazine.)

Virginia Tech is going to South By Southwest this month to showcase its research to an audience of industry leaders at the annual festival.

The university will introduce a collection of research projects that combine creativity, technology, and innovation to create experiential learning experiences at the South By Southwest Trade Show March 13-16.

The trade show highlights the integrations and overlaps among South By Southwest’s converging industries and hosts a diverse range of forward-thinking exhibitors, serving as a hub for new ideas, innovations, and business connections.

“South By Southwest is the perfect place for Virginia Tech to show the world the ways we are using technology and creative thinking to drive innovation,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The projects we’ll have on hand represent how we’re integrating science, education, arts, and design to give students broad experience collaborating across fields in research areas involving the improvement of autonomous systems, development of new materials for application-specific needs, and use of data analytics and design approaches to understand complex problems and aid decision-making.”

The university will also host a Virginia Tech Alumni Networking Event in Austin, Texas, at the Capital Factory from 6-8 p.m. on March 14. President Sands and other members of the university leadership team will attend.  This event is free and open to all Virginia Tech alumni.

Virginia Tech faculty members are now working to identify destination areas — proposed interdisciplinary areas of growth in signature strengths — for the university. The projects that will be featured at South By Southwest demonstrate how the university is providing enhanced learning opportunities to educate the next generation of leaders and leveraging the university’s work at the intersection of creativity and technology.

Attendees will have the opportunity to experience these innovative exhibits:

SeeMore

Designed to simultaneously educate and inspire computational thinking, SeeMore is part kinetic sculpture and part giant parallel computer. Built with 256 single-board computers, called Raspberry Pis, the living sculpture physically demonstrates conceptual elements of computer science, showing how a parallel computer carries out many calculations simultaneously. As a computation propagates and evolves across the surface of the form, it visually represents the architecture modern supercomputers use, helping people understand the abstract concepts involved. SeeMore is a collaboration between faculty members in the School of Visual Arts and Department of Computer Science who are affiliated with the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

3-D Printed Robotic Panels

A contoured suit of application-specific body panels have been created for ESCHER, a humanoid robot designed and built in the Terrestrial Robotics Engineering and Controls Lab @ Virginia Tech to support search-and-rescue tasks. With environmental protection, impact resistance, and high visibility in mind, Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology-affiliated faculty members from the School of Visual Arts and Department of Mechanical Engineering have teamed up to create designed and digitally sculpted 3D printed parts of high temperature-resistant plastic designed to soften the hard angles of the existing robot frame and bring inline the overall proportions. Between the panels is a custom manufactured, water-resistant, flexible fabric that is flame resistant and dimensionally stable at high temperatures. 

Virus Tracker

Virus Tracker is an interactive outreach program designed by researchers at the Biocomplexity Institute at Virginia Tech to educate the public about the spread of infection. This computational epidemiology application demonstrates how diseases are transmitted over distance and time and the public health response required for disease outbreak. Virus Tracker allows players to become part of a virtual virus-spreading exercise, where bar-coded wristbands represent infections with a particular virus. Using a barcode and scanner system or an app, participants are encouraged to "infect" as many people as possible with a simulated zombie virus. They then can see the infection trees online showing the spread of the epidemic and the particular nodes that are responsible for the strongest infection. The data collected through Virus Tracker can be used to better understand how social contact networks serve as pathways for infectious disease transmission.

DreamVendor

The DreamVendor is the first 3-D printing vending machine and has been available at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus since 2012, providing students with an easy way to engage in the field of additive manufacturing. Created by a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering affiliated with the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, the machine can create any physical shape a person designs using software such as CAD. The user inserts a USB stick containing a digital model of a part and the DreamVendor then prints the part and automatically dispenses it into a bin for pickup. DreamVendor is available for all Virginia Tech students to use. Any innovative idea for an invention, object, or tool can be turned into a prototype within minutes by this vending machine with infinite inventory.

OPERAcraft

High school students are blazing a path between arts and technology, creating an opera within the virtual world of the popular video game Minecraft with OPERAcraft, a first-of-its-kind production that combines education, design, computer science, performing arts, and storytelling. Starting with music borrowed from Mozart operas, the students crafted the opera’s storyline and the libretto, designed and built the virtual set in a custom version of Minecraft, and created avatars for each of the opera’s characters. The project has now been combined with the Facial Emotion Expression Training project to create a real-time, interactive mirror world featuring avatars that mimic users’ posture and facial expressions. This new iteration of OPERAcraft has been created by Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology-affiliated faculty members from the School of Performing Arts and Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Find more information about Virginia Tech’s location at the South By Southwest Trade Show and the Virginia Tech Alumni Networking Event online.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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