TTU to open virtual reality, prototyping and design lab

Some of the books once housed in Tennessee Tech University’s Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library have made way for a different kind of learning environment.

Behind a glass door on the third floor is a technology lab that allows anyone to step into a human heart, jump into a polluted river, and design, build and test devices and prototypes.

“We are working, as a university, to integrate our respective academic silos and find more ways to combine the curriculum with experiential education,” said Thomas Payne, dean of the TTU College of Business. “iCube was designed to combine engineering and business, to allow students and faculty to collaborate, communicate and create together across disciplines.”

The lab features a 3-D scanner that has already been used to digitize the Derryberry eagle as part of its preservation project. It also includes a Viscube, a three-walled room that projects a 3-D image inside to allow, for example, a person to step into a human heart to study anatomy. Oculus Rift technology has been used in a partnership with the Tennessee Aquarium to develop an educational program about the effects of human activity on a river.

There are several offices inside for graphic designers and project managers from the College of Business’ BusinessMedia Center; a conference room links the technology lab to a “makerspace” called the Innovation Discovery Learning Institute.

“This space will let faculty and students from all academic disciplines collaborate to build the skills to solve the problems facing society today,” said College of Engineering dean Joseph Rencis. “The iCube space will play a vital role in allowing TTU students to design and create devices and prototypes that may one day change the world.”

The offices and IDLI are still under construction, but already the technology is being used on a variety of projects. Brain mapping the effects of a concussion will help football players understand the condition’s danger signs and a braking simulation will help Tennessee Trucking Foundation share information about how to safely pass semi trucks.

The space is projected to be complete sometime in the next few months. When finished, tours will be offered for people from the community as well as faculty, staff and students.

Photo Caption:Amanda Ellis, a TTU BusinessMedia Center staff member, explores a human heart in the VisCube, a three-walled room that projects a 3-D image. The VisCube is one part of TTU’s iCube, a lab space with a variety of 3-D technology and the Innovation Discovery Learning Institute for students and faculty to explore and innovate.