Inspiration Studios Proves a Hit With Campus Community
By Tim Meehan
Before its recent renovation, the media production studios at Cal State San Marcos was a nice space for students, faculty and staff to explore and create utilizing a pair of traditional video studios with control rooms, overhead lighting and a large green screen.
Now it’s quite literally a place for inspiration.
Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS) recently held a grand opening of the new Inspiration Studios, which is located in Kellogg Library 2302. The opening was a huge hit with students, faculty and staff as amazing technological advances of today and the future are on display for hands-on use.
“Technology is a great avenue for inspiration as it creates new learning pathways, and the technologies in our new space definitely aim to inspire both faculty and students,” said Kevin Morningstar, the dean and chief information officer for IITS. “The Augmented and Virtual Reality equipment — all top of the line — are literally gateways to different worlds. With new 3D imaging and production facilities and a number of special use studios for video, music and online content development, the creative opportunities and new technological possibilities of this space will truly inspire all who come here to use these tools.”
One of the most popular features of Inspiration Studios is sure to be the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) stations. Extended Reality (XR), which blends VR and AR, is not only used in entertainment, but it has become mainstream in areas such as job training and education.
There are enough workstations where a class of 32 students can fully engage with VR experiences throughout a semester. Yuanyuan Jiang currently teaches Computer Science 497-9 Topic Course Virtual Reality in the space. The course helps students develop 3D VR simulation software.
Graphic arts professor Tony Allard plans to move one of his art classes into the studios with the goal of teaching art that goes beyond two dimensions.
“We know that educational institutions and companies are increasingly adopting VR and AR to enhance learning and training beyond what was possible using traditional approaches so we wanted to ensure we are providing experiential learning that sets our students up to succeed in their future studies and employment,” Morningstar said. “For example, virtual reality can be used to help students overcome their fear of public speaking, explore countries and spaces they cannot easily access, restore towns through historical research and digitally enhanced photos, explore oceans or even step inside the human body.”
Inspiration Studios was born from a 2018 conversation between Jiang and Katherine Kantardjieff, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. Jiang was interested in teaching a class on a programming language used to build VR games called Unity but CSUSM didn’t have the necessary lab computers and technologies.
So the IITS team met with more than 20 campus faculty members who were either utilizing AR/VR technologies or were exploring their use in their respective classrooms. The department then partnered with various technology companies to purchase the latest AR/VR products available. After getting Facilities Development & Management on board, the inspirational environment was created.
“The studios have helped me and my fellow classmates in the VR development course have a place to constantly develop and test our projects that we could not do elsewhere,” said software engineering student Anthony Garcia, who leads the AR/VR student club that meets Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon in the Inspiration Studios. “It is a great asset to the campus. It provides state-of-the-art hardware, software tools and a space for technical and creative minds to come together and create some really engaging and exciting experiences.”
The studios also feature 3D scanning, modeling and printing, an immersive 360-degree video production area, a Learning Glass that is basically a transparent whiteboard, and a laser fabrication machine called Glowforge that uses a laser the width of a strand of hair to cut, engrave and shape designs from a variety of materials.
CSUSM student Christopher Delgadillo is working on a physics research project with professor Ed Price. He visited the grand opening and was blown away by the space’s capabilities.
“This place is the foundation to build a great community,” Delgadillo said. “It’s a great way to bring students in to learn about VR technologies and what it has to offer for educational and job opportunities.”
Inspiration Studios is open to all CSUSM faculty, staff and students. Students are free to drop in to look around any time Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Faculty are welcome to reserve the space for instructional use, projects and research. The CSUSM community can reserve a time online.
The former media production space has come a long way in a short time.
“Just like other IITS projects — such as the Kellogg 2000 computer lab update — Inspiration Studios is an example of rethinking our usage of space and technology across campus and ensuring we are doing all we can to prepare our students for the opportunities and challenges of the future,” Morningstar said. “CSUSM is committed to offering students the best educational opportunities and student experience, and Inspiration Studios is a space specifically designed with that principle in mind. This project is also driven by the themes of Innovate, Engage, Connect and Inform, which were developed for the campus’ 2018 CSUSM Technology Strategic Plan.
“Through the implementation of this plan, CSUSM will provide students and faculty with the kinds of technologies that improve learning and better prepare our students for near-future opportunities.”
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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