New Hulman Student Union Experience | Rose-Hulman Institute of TechnologyOn February 1, 2020 by Raul Dinwiddie
The core of innovation is the desire to do what has never been done before. To employ creativity in a way that’s tangible, and fundamentally changes our world. With the new student union, we’re combining engineering, art and architecture in a revolutionary way to provide an extraordinary student experience. The lego R is an incredibly powerful symbol of the work that rose does, and the environment here that nurtures innovation. Capturing its essence was absolutely essential. The focal point of the interior space will be a virtual waterfall, expertly crafted from more than 1 million translucent Lego bricks at Rose Hulman Ventures. The individual pieces are affixed to a remarkably sophisticated mechanical system, and lit from within using fiber-optic LEDs, to create an illuminated, crystalline masterpiece. Each brick will be attached to a nano-sized linear actuator that we developed at Rose-Hulman Ferrofluids combined with specially polarized permanent magnetic shafts will create what we’ve nicknamed “Rose Rods.” All controlled by a central processor We asked students in the finite elements and E-mag fields classes to develop the cell boundary equations using the topology of the rock-wall in the sports and recreation center as the excitation. This enables the cells to appear to “trickle” from top to bottom. As the number one undergraduate engineering college in the country, we’re no strangers to skimming effortlessly along the apex of technological tidal waves. So we weren’t afraid to push the envelope a bit with our union expansion project. Students told us they wanted interactive features similar to things like Instachat and Snapface. So we leverage the same technology that we use for the waterfall to create a way for students to take three dimensional larger-than-life selfies. But the most popular feature may turn out to be the “Snack Collective,” our team of 250 Mindstorm robots that have been specially adapted to deliver mobile app orders from the kitchen to any students location in the Union. I mean, a fair trade kale and quinoa power smoothie right at your fingertips–how cool is that? The interactive fireplace will use concealed stereo cameras and sophisticated image processing algorithms to capture and isolate people from the background. The image will then be broken into spatial and spectral information so that a map of Z values can be sent to each actuator while hue information is sent each bricks fiber optically connected LED. Resulting in an image that is not only shown in high relief but in 32-bit color as well. For the Snack Collective, we’ve worked with the mathematics and computer science and software engineering departments—using the latest Metaheuristic theories involving Ant Colony Optimization to incorporate real-time route planning. By integrating a secondary zigbee network we’ve enabled the robots to adapt their route based on obstacles, backpacks, and other obstructions encountered by nearby robots. And in the spirit of innovation and collaboration, we’ve made all of this groundbreaking technology open-source. What makes this project unique is that we’re creating something that is truly evocative of the childlike wonder which is the very heart of innovation. Each Lego brick is remarkably simple, and yet from them we’re making something infinitely sophisticated. Something that is beloved by the students and yet perfectly foreshadows the world-changing engineers, scientists or mathematicians that they will ultimately become.