Rewarding Innovation

Excerpt from article published in the Post-Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times Publications
By Jane Bokun, Post-Tribune Correspondent

Chenn Zhou director Center for Innovatithrough VisualizatiSimulatiaccepts Chanute Prize for Team Innovatibehalf CIVS team during an award ceremony Hammond Ind.

Chenn Zhou, director of Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation, accepts the Chanute Prize for Team Innovation on behalf of the CIVS team during an award ceremony in Hammond, Ind. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

Where do you go if you want to see the Gary Airport expansion before it’s finished, or if you want to follow the optic nerve in your brain in 3-D?

That’s easy. Purdue University Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation, where problems are solved using a combination of innovation,application and education.

It also helps if you have a curiosity about the world of virtual reality and a penchant for wearing 3-D glasses.

The team of faculty, staff, administrators and students involved in the CIVS program is so good that it recently was named co-recipient of the 2012-13 Chanute Prize for Team Innovation, presented annually by Ivy Tech Community College Northwest and The Society of Innovators.

Located on the PUC campus, the interdisciplinary 6,300-square-foot research center features a 70-seat theater for advanced research projects and 3-D virtual classrooms. On Nov. 29, the CIVS featured an open house to announce its award, a new master of science degree program, and to showcase the work done there.

Together, a team including Chenn Qian Zhou, director of the center; John Moreland, senior research scientist; Bin Wu, research engineer; students and others use 3-D computer drawings to solve problems that heretofore had to be solved using only brain power.

For example, the team has taken on projects such as Borman Expressway transportation simulation and visualization and an analysis of a blast furnace bosh. Its findings have led to significant savings for companies such as ArcelorMittal and the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. CIVS is working with NIPSCO to develop a virtual power plant for training purposes.

“Here, we do a real lab within a virtual classroom,” Zhou said.

The program will serve as the lab for the new master of science in modeling, simulation and visualization degree at PUC starting in the spring semester.

The school is sometimes paid for its work and students like Matthew Cross, a freshman, are sometimes hired through the program.

“I wanted to work here, so I am volunteering now,” Cross said.