Friday, 22 July 2011

NVision improves the student experience

A project has recently been completed (see http://apslandt.blogspot.com/2010/11/five-out-of-five-bidding-success-for.html and http://www.northampton.ac.uk/info/200284/widening-participation/1132/projects/14 for more details). Originally it was to run a one day workshop for Computing students in Further Education colleges to get a taster of computing in Higher Education, building on the previous events run over the last three years.

With approval the project developed during it’s lifetime. AimHigher ran a related event (AFactor) during the time of the project which met some of the goals of the project
  •  Engaging FE students,
  • Giving them a positive experience of computing,
  • Providing a positive image of women in computing.

This enabled some new and exciting opportunities to be pursued.
1.   The activities

AFactor and the money from this project gave us an opportunity to use a resource unique in this region, NVision, to give the students (and later groups of students) a chance to ‘play’ in an immersive environment.

NVision is a state-of-the-art technology centre designed to help businesses create better value propositions by developing and promoting products and services, using 3D immersive stereo visualisation and computational modelling. Our facilities include a 4m fully tracked ActiveWall, 512 Core High Performance Computational (HPC) Cluster and the UK’s most accessible 5 sided High Definition ActiveCube (CAVE).” NVision (2011)

Kelly Savage from NVision developed a small teaching / demonstration module that has been used in events for Widening Participation events, WISE (Women into Science and Engineering), Aim Higher, an individual Connexions event with Weston Favell, the post 16 sustainability  Conference on 14th July.

The module is a hands on experience in groups of 3 – 4 people by creating a 3d presentation using a professional class design tool called Autodesk Showcase. The students are given a short design brief and shown how to import models, select materials, shots and backgrounds then set up an animation. Designs so far have included both a landscape  garden and a high performance sports car. The students then get to present their show back to the rest of the group on one of our excellent visualisation facilities.

The outcome for each students is that it enables them the opportunity  of working in a business environment, utilising the latest professional software and accessing high-end visualisation equipment. The module encourages them to think about how to promote the best features of a product by choosing, in their opinion, the most appropriate materials, textures, colours and presentation format to suite the design brief. Finally, they benefit from the experience of presenting a 3d show to their peers in a professional setting.

Around 90 students have been through the module. It has also enabled a widening the range of students that can be engaged.


5.   Summary
  • A hands-on module has been developed that has lets students get experience with some high-end visualisation equipment that is only usually available in large companies.
  • Combining the project money with money from other projects and sources has enabled a much richer experience for the participants.
  • The range of subjects areas that this is applicable to, is wider than the original projects goals whilst still meeting those goals.
  •  Feedback has been very positive about experience both from the students who took part and the accompanying staff.  “The Computer Day at Northampton University was brilliant.  All students thoroughly enjoyed the event and those who attended are looking in depth at the courses Northampton offer.” Caroline Freeman (IT Tutor, Tresham) as sent to AimHigher.

NVision was made possible thanks to £2.5m of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)


NVision (2011) NVision Northampton [online]. Northampton: NVision. Available from: http://www.nvision-ipt.com/ [22nd July 2011].