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International Baccalaureate (IB) students from Oscar Smith High School oohed and aahed as they toured the labs of the Modeling, Simulation and Visualization (MSVE) department. The students, accompanied by two of their teachers from the IB program, were given an insider's view of the labs, programs and applications within the department.

The first stop on the student tour was to the CAVE but, contrary to the students' prior belief, there were no bats residing at this location. The National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) at Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, one of the nationally-funded supercomputer centers, has developed the CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) to enable scientists to interact with virtual worlds that have been created from observed data or simulations.

The CAVE housed within MSVE is a high-resolution projection-screen virtual reality system powered by a Silicon Graphics Onyx parallel-processor computer. The screens are arranged in a 10 foot cube with computer-generated images projected on three walls and a floor. Students wore stereo-shutter glasses to view projections and perspectives presented on the screens as they moved inside the CAVE. A wand can be manipulated within the space in conjunction with wearing the special glasses to allow interaction with the virtual environment. Also available is CAVE simulator software which allows one to develop applications for the CAVE on local platforms.

After the CAVE demonstration, the students moved to a more hands-on lab which afforded them the opportunity to engage with some of the technology of the department, specifically a serious game demonstration and a medical application demonstration. Both demonstrations were followed by invitations to the students to try out the technology - they helped move freight containers onto shipping pallets and recreated a medical situation in which the students became the doctors.

The students left the ECSB with their heads full of new-found knowledge and a great many stimulating experiences.

Published on: July 1, 2011