Research Projects: VizClass

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Project Name VizClass - Expanding Engineering Thinking: Interactive Visualization Of Numerical Models
Team Members Tara C. Hutchinson, Falko Kuester, Dirk Groeneveld, Mike Elkin, Mark E. Phair and Kai-Uwe Doerr
Assessment Team Mark Warschauer and Doug Grimes (Department of Education)
Project Sponsor National Science Foundation (NSF) and HP Philantropy
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Though the field of engineering has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, the study of engineering has changed relatively little. Students continue to passively listen to lectures in chalkboard-based environments that afford them little opportunity for visualization, hands-on manipulation, interaction, or creative design. Indeed, almost all of these skills- which are vital for engineering- are learned through on-the-job practice, rather than at universities. A continuation of this trend threatens to weaken the relevancy of engineering and computer science study at the university. This project targets the development of a combined research and interactive learning environment—incorporating both a specially designed lecture room and laboratory- called VizClass.

VizClass provides a completely digital, interactive workspace for research and education in the areas of Computer Science and Engineering. Application courses include computer graphics, scientific visualization, and numerical methods (finite element methods) in structural engineering. The IT-space serves as an educational environment as well as a space for interdisciplinary research centered around simulation and visualization, providing an IT development test bed advancing system level research and education.

A 65 square meter classroom in the Engineering Gateway building on the UC Irvine campus was allocated for the development of VizClass. In the original room, approximately 20 students passively listened to white board lectures provided at the working front space of the room. Since 2003 the room was reconstructed, redesigned and remodeled to provide support for a new advanced IT-hardware layout incorporating a range of 2D and 3D displays, driving computational systems, and interactive devices

VizClass integrates 2- and 3-dimensional spatial learning by coupling a series of interactive projection display boards (2D white boards) and a semi-immersive (3D stereo equipped) wall display controlled by a dedicated visualization server. Each of these spaces (devices) is connected to a numerical solver. Test bed verification of VizClass is focussed on finite element methods applicable to civil and structural engineering problem solving at the graduate education level. Faculty and student researchers from the Departments of Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering and Education are collaborating on this project.


This research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number EIA-0203528 and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering (HSSoE). The above support is greatly appreciated.

Courses Taught in VizClass


  • Hutchinson, T. C. and Kuester, F. (2004). Developing an advanced IT-based visualization classroom for enhanced engineering learning, Chapter 18, pages 189–200. Edited by Win Aung et al., Begell House Publishing. Engineering Education and Research - 2004: A Chronicle of Worldwide Innovations.
  • Hutchinson, T. C. and Kuester, F. (2004). Hardware architecture for a visualization classroom: Vizclass. Computer Applications in Engineering Education, Wiley Press, 12(4):232–241.
  • Kuester, F. and Hutchinson, T. C. (2005). A virtualized laboratory for earthquake engineering education. ASEE Journal of Engineering Education. Accepted for Publication, December 27, 2005.
  • Grimes, D., Warschauer, M., Hutchinson, T. C., and Kuester, F. (200x). Graphics Programming in a Graphics Classroom: Experiences with VizClass. ACM Journal on Educational Resources in Computing (JERIC). Accepted for publication.

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Tools Used In This Project

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