On-the-cutting-edge creativity happens with regularity in Room 127 at Hayes Hall.
So do friendly chit-chats, what-if conversations and technological discussions where it’s always possible a patent-worthy idea will be conceived.
Visitors to Room 127 can take test runs on some of the most advanced technological equipment in the world of 3D and virtual reality.
They are welcome to try a second-generation Oculus Rift, a new HoloLens or use a 3D printer.
Visitors can test their postures and stress levels with a Darma smart cushion or wear a motion-control Myo armband that allows the touch-free use of items such as a phone or computer.
Students can take part in a Stock Market Simulation that tracks students’ stock picks over 10 weeks – with a (virtual) investment of $100,000 and the availability of a loan in that amount. They pay trader fees and interest on the loans.
The large and active room is the office of instructor Tim Scales in the School of Business and Economics. His official IU East role is to teach entrepreneurship.
But his true “business” is providing inspiration and mentorship. It’s pushing the envelope to point students on the path toward personal success.
The high-tech items “get the conversations started about great ideas,” Scales said, noting that the Oculus started in a garage. “You don’t really know where you can take things.”
Senior Ty Butler agrees about the creative aspects of the on-the-edge items.
“It’s definitely useful. Whenever you can use what isn’t available to the public, it puts you ahead of the game,” Butler said.
Butler will graduate next spring with a degree in communications. He aims to pursue a job in social media in Florida.
Making creative and new items available is important for IU East and its future, said Robert Mulligan, the dean of the School of Business and Economics.
“Tech does a lot to excite students,” he said. “It keeps them engaged in their studies.”
Scales’ office is open to students from all departments and disciplines. It’s open to police cadets and political scientists, to math and marketing majors, to nursing and education students.
They all are welcome to relax on a long, comfy couch. Near the door, a 3D printer makes a constant click-click as it turns thin wires of plastic into something mundane or fascinating. On a recent fall afternoon, it was producing a toy elephant that was designed by a student at IU East.
Scales is focused heavily on creative ideas and product development. “The students create it, get it where they want it,” he said. “They own it. They can patent it.”
The ultimate result of that: “We can have students graduating who are making more money than most of us in our careers,” Scales said.
He said one student recently applied for a patent on a cellphone app. “I am excited to see where that goes,” Scales said.
Perched on a cabinet near the front of the room is a second-generation Oculus rift. Visitors can put on the space-age facemask and be immersed in virtual reality. They can walk around campus and see things in entirely new dimensions.
Butler has experimented with Oculus and the 3D printer. “He asked me to come in and play with them,” Butler said about Scales. “It really helps to have a professor you can relax with, but also be serious with.”
The open-use concept is natural for Scales and the school, but far from usual at other universities – big or small. Most schools the size of IU East don’t gain access to high-tech equipment.
“It’s very unique to have people walk into a room and be able to use these,” Mulligan said. “Most schools lock them up because they don’t want anyone to break them.”
That wouldn’t do students or the school any good, Scales said. “I’d rather one get broken than never use it.”
IU East has three 3D printers, Mulligan said. One is used in Information Technology and the other by the Art Department to create such items as ceramic jewelry and art pieces.
Mulligan said the applications are growing and constantly creating new markets. For example, he said, the classic car industry uses printer programs to produce parts that previously were hard (and expensive) to find.
“You can have a virtual inventory,” Mulligan said, thereby cutting down on materials and costs.
Virtual-reality products can be used to “walk” through a house that a buyer is considering. In that realm, they can be used in architecture and interior design.
“What’s so great about this technology is we know there will be applications that they weren’t intended for,” Mulligan said.
Butler said he’s impressed by the availability of the high-tech items at IU East.
“Being a small campus like we are, that’s a nice surprise.”
It’s no surprise to the student from the Evansville area, though, that students have much to gain in creative ways. “It opens new doors … and offers solutions that you never thought of,” Butler said. “It only helps out.”
It only helps for IU East in attracting new students.
Butler said he was headed for IUPUI before being asked by coach Kyle Wright to come and hit with the tennis team at IU East. Butler immediately hit it off with teammates.
“I literally didn’t know anyone coming here, but I felt part of a family already with the tennis team,” he said.
He came to love the small class sizes and the “ease of getting ahold of teachers and resources,” Butler said.
Those resources include having access to high-tech equipment that probably wasn’t possible at another university. In retrospect, he said, “Coming to IU East was a no-brainer.”