Relevant unomaha.edu links:

feature
Jerry Wagner
Art meets technology in the Via Design Lab. Students are encouraged to use artistic and technological abilities to create software that results in a pleasant experience for the end user. Pictured is Jerry Wagner. photo by Tim Fitzgerald

Art Meets Technology in PKI's Student Multimedia Lab

fall 2004

In the not-too-distant future, businesspeople around the world — no matter their language or physical limitations — will assess their on-the-job skills online. Liver transplant candidates may play a role in evaluating their eligibility. Fitness consumers could benefit from a three-dimensional stretching machine.

They're all ideas that can become a reality because of projects under development in the Via Design Lab at The Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI). Jerry Wagner, a professor and distinguished research fellow in the UNO College of Information Science and Technology at PKI, and six students founded the multimedia lab in June 2003. Their goal, Wagner says, is to create an environment where students can experience the design and development of interactive multimedia applications. Multimedia — also known as digital media or new media — is the most rapidly growing area in computer software applications today."We're encouraging a new breed of software developer and engineer here, a combination of artist and computer scientist." he says. "Our students are focused on creating software that's engaging and not frustrating so it makes a pleasant experience for the end user."

A Resource for Area Business

Not long after the lab began, the six student founders were recruited by Omaha-area businesses as interns. Today, the number of interns has grown, as well as the demand from area companies for Via Design students. Gallup University hired several students to help the company create interactive, e-learning modules for its StrengthFinder product so the modules could be deployed to more users. Gallup's online course offerings draw businesspeople from around the world and in other countries. To date, 80,000 people have participated in more than 120,000 classes offered in English and Spanish. "We wanted to redesign these courses so they would be more efficient to roll out in more languages," says Eileen Frost, project engineer for e-learning and Gallup Online. "We also needed the courses to be handicap accessible, where everything could be controlled via the computer keyboard." The Via Design students' familiarity with multimedia creation tools and languages has enabled Gallup to grow technologically and meet the demand for its products. Frost says she's been impressed by the caliber of the Via Design interns. "The students have been very professional and responsible," she notes. "The big advantage for us is that they arrived so well prepared that very little training was required to get them up and running and productive. They've been a great addition to our team."

Zach Zaiss, a senior computer science/math/psychology major, is one of the Gallup interns. He says the experience has shown him that "there's a way to take my knowledge and apply it in a real world setting."

Creating Tools to Inform and Educate

Senior computer science major A.J. Pierce learned the value of putting himself in the software user's place while creating new applications. When he and Wagner met with members of the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Lied Transplant Center team, he found himself thinking of ways to involve transplant candidates in the decision-making process. Pierce created a prototype program that asks users to evaluate themselves by several criteria, including having a support network, coping skills, ability to comply with the regimen and ability to care for themselves. The rating information would be reviewed by the patient's medical team and used in discussing the patient's eligibility for a transplant. Dr. Jim Sorrell, division director for university psychiatry at UNMC, says Pierce's out-of-box thinking highlights the importance of involving the patient in a life-or-death decision. "Evaluation of transplant candidates requires two-way communication," he says. "A.J. was able to take that idea and make it explicit. He found an innovative way to approach the situation."

Helping Move Ideas Forward

When local entrepreneur Doug Anders needed to develop a unique product idea, his friend, UNO Professor Steve Bullock, knew the Via Design Lab was the place to go. Anders, owner of Cybotic Health Technologies, had a patented concept for a robotic stretching machine — a flexibility device that takes the user through a set of carefully calibrated stretches based on their individual tolerances. "Our engineers were working on operational drawings," Anders says. "But I wanted a 3-D model that would show the robot's functionality and cosmetic appeal so that others could visualize how it works."

Lingyun (Liz) Zhu worked from a drawing Anders provided to create the three-dimensional computer model. Knowing he wanted to show movement, the senior Management Information Systems student relied on her own artistic skills and special 3-D modeling software to imagine and simulate what the machine would look like from all angles. The design provided Anders with a dynamic illustration to show others interested in his invention. Because of Zhu's work, he says, his company has partnered with KUKA Robotics, an entrepreneurial business housed at PKI's Scott Technology Transfer and Incubator Center. Anders will be working with KUKA to build a prototype of the machine — bringing his idea to fruition. "We're very happy with what Liz and the lab have provided," he says. "She's taken an idea and given us a real-life experience through animation that we are expanding on."

Wagner says the interest and support for what's happening in the Via Design Lab continues to grow in the business community. The lab has become such a sought-after resource that demand has overtaken the supply of students. To address the need, PKI has introduced special topics courses to rapidly educate more students so they can be involved at Via Design in the near future.

archive

October 2012 > A Closer Look at IS&T's NUCIA

October 2012 > UNO Engages Students, Community for 2012 Elections

October 2012 > National Cyber Security Month Highlights UNO Programs, Research

May 2012 > Dan McDermott Named Employee of the Year at UNO

December 2011 > Conference Tags

September 2011 > Roskens Hall: An Educator's Dream

July 2011 > Arts and Sciences Hall: UNO's Cornerstone

June 2011 > The ABCs of the Alumni House: From Adolf Storz and Mary Shirley to William H. Thompson

June 2011 > The Strauss Performing Arts Center: Making Music for Decades

May 2011 > The Durham Science Center: Theory Put Into Practice

May 2011 > The Gene Eppley Administration Building: Philanthropy at Work

April 2011 > Milo Bail Student Center: From Snack Shack to Student Center

April 2011 > UNOCCC: Twenty-Five Years of Caring

March 2011 > UNO's Libraries: A History

March 2011 > The Henningson Memorial Campanile

February 2011 > Mammel Hall

February 2011 > The Sapp Fieldhouse

January 2011 > Heydays of the Hayden House

December 2010 > UNO Faculty/Staff Earn WELCOM Light of Wellness Team Award

October 2010 > New children's financial literacy book supported by UNO alumni

August 2010 > Anna S. Forman Commencement Remarks

May 2010 > John Treinen Commencement Remarks

March 2010 > My Ties and Cliff Hillegass

January 2010 > Megan Schuster Commencement Remarks

December 2009 > Man Killed by Pheasant

November 2009 > New Molecular Modeling Lab Key to Chemistry Research Work

September 2009 > Midlands Voices: Goals of liberal arts college remain vastly important

September 2009 > Technology and Term Papers – A Photo Essay

May 2009 > USSTRATCOM Commander Hears UNO Intern Ideas on Cyber Security, Global Stability

March 2009 > Early Usage of the Kerrey Bridge: Some Empirical Findings and Thoughts on the Future

March 2009 > The End of an Era - UNO's Public Intellectuals and the Omaha World-Herald, 1997-2006

January 2009 > Going Green on Campus: Kathy Hartle Evokes Her Recycling Charge at Work

October 2008 > Zero to 65 in 80 Semesters

October 2008 > Embracing tests UNO should be praised for bucking establishment, scoring well

September 2008 > H.RES.1372: Celebrating the 100th

September 2008 > UNO Researcher Spotlighted

March 2008 > Culture on Campus

February 2008 > In Her Own Words: Technology is crucial to spurring growth

December 2007 > Pacific Street Memories

November 2007 > WISE Women

October 2007 > Vincent Empowers Teachers, Students With Technology

September 2007 > A Model of Success: UNO-Western Hills Partnership Thrives at Six Years

August 2007 > Orientation Leader Represents UNO with Exuberance

August 2007 > In His Own Words: On Summer School

July 2007 > Changing Faces

June 2007 > MVHC @ 50

May 2007 > In His Own Words: My Fulbright Year in Leipzig

February 2007 > At Your Service

December 2006 > A Job Well Done

September 2006 > Australian Finches Aid UNO Professor's Research

July 2006 > Finding His Way

May 2006 > Calming the Anxious

April 2006 > The Kid's Doing All Right

March 2006 > Shot of a Lifetime

March 2006 > Going for Four

February 2006 > Standing Tall with Sierra

January 2006 > In-Your-Face Geology

January 2006 > Religion Meets Film

January 2006 > Finding a Home Port

December 2005 > Man of the Cloth

November 2005 > Volunteer Field Work

November 2005 > Charting the Unknown

October 2005 > Developing Business Overseas

October 2005 > After The Storm

September 2005 > Building Better Officers

September 2005 > Saving the Planet

August 2005 > Making the Abstract Tangible

August 2005 > Helping Neighborhoods Help Themselves

July 2005 > Improving Health through Technology

July 2005 > Reading the Signs

June 2005 > Small Steps to a Better Life

April 2005 > Women's Walk Brings the Benefits to UNO Student-Athletes

April 2005 > Honest Art

March 2005 > Sharing The Wealth

March 2005 > Engineering His Own Masterpiece

February 2005 > Native Daughter, Native Dreams

February 2005 > Puck Stops Here

January 2005 > Stressing the Familiar

January 2005 > Connecting the Community

January 2005 > Ticket to Cooperstown

December 2004 > Spirit of the Season

December 2004 > Nicholas Stergiou: Research in Motion

fall 2004 > Alzheimer's: Caring for the Caregiver's

fall 2004 > Part of the Heart & Soul of Our Community: A message from Chancellor Belck

fall 2004 > David Hawk: All In

fall 2004 > Anadelia Lamas: Planting Roots

fall 2004 > Dean Olson: Assessing the Threat

fall 2004 > Student's Wireless Application Earns Him $25,000 Price from Microsoft

fall 2004 > Tom Warren: From the Chiefs to the Chief

fall 2004 > UNO Theatre Graduates Start Companies in Their Community

fall 2004 > Host Families Provide Welcoming Environment for Afghan Guests

fall 2004 > CADRE Project Celebrates 10 Years of Preparing Effective Educators

fall 2004 > Business Owner Raises Awareness, Funding for Real Estate Program

fall 2004 > Media Executive Chooses Omaha as Place to Build a Career and a Life

fall 2004 > UNO Partners with Metro, Takes STEP to Grow Science-Related Degrees

fall 2004 > Art Meets Technology in PKI's Student Multimedia Lab