Virtual Reality Training for the Real World
This article originally appeared in UAB Magazine
UAB engineers haven’t invented a teleportation device, but they do have the next best thing. The Enabling Technology Lab (ETLab) within UAB’s Department of Mechanical Engineering can transport you instantly to the busy streets of Paris, to the heart of a war zone, or even deep inside the human body.
You know this technology as virtual reality, which has made its way into nearly every video game. But it’s also a powerful tool for teaching and communication—the focus of the ETLab’s research. “This technology pulls knowledge from a conceptual level into something more tangible,” says Corey Shum, the lab’s technical director. “It provides an experiential understanding of being there.”
So, for example, military pararescue and combat medics can experience the sights, sounds, dangers, and distractions that come with performing their duties in battle. Medical students can see—and walk around—a magnified, three-dimensional model of the human circulatory system. Logistics experts can tour neighborhoods in the French capital before making recommendations for clients based there. The public can even enjoy the thrill of a smooth ride down Birmingham’s Highway 280 on a proposed rapid transit system. Project partners have included the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, private industry, and faculty from areas throughout UAB.
“People can read books to understand things,” Shum says. “But we try to train your body and your habits. It’s a full-body teaching experience. People can feel like they’ve been in a space before they actually get there; they know what it’s like to interact with that environment.”
The School of Engineering recognized 91 of its graduating seniors at the 2015 Order of the Engineer Graduation Ceremony. The students formally accepted the Obligation of an Engineer and received a stainless steel ring to be worn on the fifth finger of the working hand as a symbol.
To view photos from the event, visit the School of Engineering Flickr page.
EGR 200 Students' Designs Compete in Robot Sumo Competition
For the second straight year, the lobby of the Business-Engineering Complex was the site of a robot battle royale on Tuesday when engineering students pitted their specially designed robots against each other in the sumo ring.
The robots, known in competition as sumobots, were built by teams of students as part of the EGR 111 (honors section) classes. Each team had five weeks to plan, design, and build the robots.
Professor Doug Ross, Ph.D., who mentored the project, selected sumobots because it allowed students to experience a wide range of technologies.
"Many unique robots were designed within the constraints," says Ross. "Each group designed their own robot geometry that was then manufactured utilizing the design lab's 3-D printers. The students program their robots to respond to sensor input for individualized behavior."
Students from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and their partners from the Collat School of Business continued a UAB tradition on Friday when they presented their senior design projects to the public. The projects were designed and built by BME seniors over the fall and spring semesters, while students from the School of Business worked with the teams to create commercialization strategies for the devices.
"This capstone course creates opportunities for undergraduates to engage in cross-disciplinary research, and that is certainly evident in this year's projects," says Alan Eberhardt, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. "Not only are these projects the results of business and engineering students working together, they're also products of student engagement with other schools from UAB, including the Schools of Medicine and Health Professions, as well as other community partners, such as Children's Hospital, the McWane Science Center, AMBUCS, and the United Cerebral Palsy Center."
Design is a crucial part of the curriculum in all departments at the School of Engineering, beginning with freshman design projects and culminating with senior design. For the BME capstone course, students are challenged to engineer solutions to real-world problems, which involve clients from community partners.