Inside UTS' new Faculty of Engineering and IT

New building features 360-degree data visualisation room, robotic labs, environmental sensors and more

  • University of Technology, Sydney's new Faculty of Engineering and IT opened today, as part of the university’s $1 billion buildings upgrade. It is located at the university's city campus, on the corner of Jones Street and Broadway (opposite UTS Tower). The aluminium binary code screens on the outside of the building spell out ‘University of Technology Sydney Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology’. The screens also provide shade, reducing the need for cooling. It is estimated they will deliver energy savings of 10-15 per cent. Solar and wind turbines are mounted on the roof of the building and will produce 40 per cent of the building’s energy needs. UTS is targeting a 5 Green Star rating for the building.

  • The Data Arena is a 3D data visualisation room. Six projectors are placed around curved walls that form a round drum shape. The room was due to be opened today but has been delayed. It will give researchers a [[artnid: 435299|360-degree graphical display of large, complex data sets]]. Researchers in the fields of robotics, computer and human-centred design will benefit most from the virtual-reality-like environment. The dean of the FEIT, Hung Nguyen, said the Data Arena blurs reality and virtual reality together. "You are sent anywhere like the Barrier Reef and you can see how things will change say in 10 years in front on your eyes," he said. The programmers developing the Data Arena, Darren Lee and Ben Simons, are using open source software. Users can touch and cluster datasets as they need, with this highly visual method allowing them to pick up on abnormalities in the data or make discoveries more easily.

  • The Disruptive Lab is akin to a maker space and is a place where technologists and engineers can build their ideas. A wheelchair operated by a human brain is an example of an idea invented at the UTS faculty. Sensors are able to pick up on thought patterns to direct the chair or make commands. The sensors are currently attached to the head via a strap, but the team is currently looking to make sensors connect via electromagnetic waves. An engineering student at UTS who experienced a severe head injury and was not able to move his body for six months came up with the idea of having a brain-controlled wheelchair. The electric glass wall of the lab is another interesting feature. It allows the room to switch from transparent to opaque. In the next few months, a 3D animation effect generated by a person’s movement inside the lab will be developed. For example, a student could be dancing and a figure will appear and mimic the actions of the student on the wall. The purpose is to make the space fun and engaging for students.

  • UTS' PR2 robot inside the 'Magic Lab'. This lab is a sort of maker space for robotics.

  • UTS' Centre for Autonomous Systems.

  • The Software Development Studio is a place where students from different subjects - such as programming, database design and project management - come together to work on industry projects. It’s almost a wall-to-wall whiteboard room where groups can write down their ideas and practise using Agile methodologies to get projects developed quickly.

  • Environmental sensors are placed all around the ceilings of FEIT and on the outside of the building. The sensors can detect humidity, air temperature, pollen, UV and wind speed. Researchers will analyse data collected from solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells.

  • The FEIT also hosts the Electronic Gamers Guild club at UTS, where gamers can take part in some social play or compete in championship playoffs and tournaments.

  • The 'Time Capsule', held in the dean's winter garden, is a vault that stores objects - such as the iPhone 5 and a computer mouse - that are likely to be obsolete in the far future. The objects were locked away today (4 September 2014), and won’t be accessed again until 2045. It’s a fun exercise to preserve history. Documents and papers on the faculty’s current research have also been stored. "Our future colleagues will have some insight into the work of our current staff and students. It will be preserved for the reading pleasure of our future colleagues," said FEIT dean Hung Nguyen.

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