New Year’s card features Engineering and Science Building in augmented reality

The Augment app allows users to see a 3-D image of the new Engineering and Science Building.

Circumstances standing in the way of a traditional groundbreaking at the School of Engineering led to a high-tech solution – all in a day’s work for our professors and students.

When stakeholders in the new Engineering and Science Building met to work out a schedule for the event, one hurdle after another presented itself. Then Christopher Rowe, director of engineering communications and associate professor of the practice of engineering management, had an idea: Why not make it a virtual groundbreaking that thousands of people could enjoy?

He’d been inspired by an augmented reality experience created by McLaren Automotive to promote its P1 sports car, which appeared to jump off the page when viewed through his smartphone’s Augment app. Rowe wanted to use the same idea for the Engineering and Science Building, distributing a 3-D image through the School of Engineering’s annual New Year’s greeting card.

School of Engineering Dean Philippe Fauchet was an immediate fan of the idea.

“I liked that this year’s card would come with an augmented reality feature,” he said. “Friends of the School of Engineering could see both our new building and the kind of excellent work our students perform every day.”

Rowe collected plans for the site and worked with Meng Wang, a graduate student in computer science, who converted the CAD model created by the building’s architects into a format the Augment app could read. The result was a lifelike, high-tech rendering that the greeting card’s recipients – and now everyone who sees this article – can enjoy.

The majority of the 230,000-square-foot, seven-story Engineering and Science Building is expected to be completed in the summer of 2016. Estimated to cost $109 million, the building will contain a cleanroom and an Innovation Center, among other specialty tech spaces.

CLICK HERE to print your own card, then download the Augment app and see the building.



Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering