New space provides students digital fun, learning, collaboration

What’s in a name? In the case of the new CET Digital Lounge — everything.

The College of Engineering and Technology celebrated its new “collision space” with an open house on Wednesday. Located in rooms 107 and 108 of the Rawl Building, the digital lounge offers students a fun space to explore technology or simply relax.

Student Rachel Price experiments with virtual reality in the CET Digital Lounge.

“We had a lot of debate about what the name of the space should be,” Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the college, told the crowd during the event. “… The name is the CET Digital Lounge. A lounge is a place where you can come and just hang out, but this is a digital lounge. Obviously, you can come and use a computer and plug in your devices. You can hang out and do some homework if you have to or study, or you can plug in to new digital technologies — the AR/VR, the Arduino, the Raspberry Pi and the things that we’re going to develop in the future.”

Ploehn emphasized that the digital lounge is designed for students.

“The idea is for students to come — especially our first-year students and students in transition — this is a place where they can have a home,” Ploehn said. “They can get something to drink. They can get some coffee and just hang out. The idea is to make connections, to meet new friends, meet new study partners, meet new upperclassmen who may be working on the technology too and establish relationships with those upperclassmen. It’s just a place to connect, hang out and build relationships with other people and with new technologies, so it’s a collision space for that.”

Students who attended the open house certainly took advantage of that technology, including a virtual reality treadmill that provides a full range of motions for users in a stationary environment. Getting a quick lesson from one of the lounge’s trained student workers, José Guzman took a turn playing a VR game using Oculus goggles.

“That was a lot of fun,” said Guzman, a junior computer science major from Engelhard. “Even though I was aware I was in virtual reality, it still felt like things were real to me. At one point, I was hitting a ball and when it came back to me, I had an actual reaction to duck like it was actually going to hit me.”

He believes the digital lounge will serve students well.

“It’s really neat,” Guzman said. “All this equipment is fun to use, and it’s going to be used by all the different majors.”

Imaiya Dabney is an art and art education major in the School of Art and Design, but she knows technology is a part of everything these days. She visited the digital lounge and created a fan using a Raspberry Pi.

“It’s fun. It’s such a nerdy thing that I didn’t think I would be good at, but I’m doing it,” she said.

Brad Collier, left, academic advisor and assistant director of first year and transition programs for the College of Engineering and Technology, speaks to students in the CET Digital Lounge.

The digital lounge provides students from different colleges and majors space to work on projects together.

“It’s a great space for students to come and collaborate across majors,” said Brad Collier, academic advisor and assistant director for first year and transition programs in the college’s Student Success Center. “The hope is that we will be able to branch out and to create relationships with other departments and colleges so that this becomes a true collision space for all students. We’ve seen folks from Fine Arts and Communication. We’ve seen folks from Joyner Library. There are a lot of people across campus who want these collaborations with our students, and this will be a good starting point for those collaborations.”

One such collaboration took place during the open house, when a history major met a computer science student to discuss the idea of creating historical battlefields in virtual reality. Ploehn pointed out the digital lounge is right across the walkway from the Isley Innovation Hub.

“We want to be known as the place where the CET students hang out, so if they need an engineer or if they need a construction management student or a software engineer or a computer scientist, they know they can come right over here because this is where they hang out,” Ploehn said.

Beyond that, the college’s nearly 30 student organizations could use the lounge for meetings, and students have a place to meet with faculty and advisors in a relaxed atmosphere.

During Wednesday’s open house, faculty, staff and students cut a ribbon in front of more than 50 people to celebrate the new digital lounge.

“We want as many students and faculty in this space as we can to just have fun, make new friends, put down roots and learn about new technologies,” Ploehn said.

The CET Digital Lounge will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Students should present their 1Cards upon entry.

Students and faculty cut the ribbon to officially open the CET Digital Lounge in the Rawl Building.