Virtual educations: possibilities abound

Hunter said virtual reality also holds promise in another area: training.

“Because this is fairly new, we really have not yet had a chance to brainstorm all of the possibilities,” he said. “But seeing that ‘flow’ is a huge part of our business, and computational fluid dynamics and virtual reality is all about observing flow at the micro level, there may be an opportunity here.

“For example, we may be able to use virtual reality to take live walk-throughs of the crude tower overhead system. This may help us to train our operators better and educate them before they even go out onto the units.”

Zhou emphasized that mechanical engineering is merely one application of virtual reality and that the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation is a resource that can be utilized by many disciplines. She sees a future in which a virtual reality lab is used to simulate an operating room for medical students, the universe for astronomy students, capital flow for management students, a classroom for elementary education students, a bridge or building for architecture students, and more.

To learn more about the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation visit