MEC expands resources for students

Samuel Beaumonte, Staff Writer

Last Thursday, Oct. 12, the Multimodel Education Center (MEC) held an open house in Black Hall where they showcased some of the new equipment they received for the year, including new virtual reality and augmented reality kits.

Last year the MEC got its first virtual reality (VR) set and began checking it out to students. Now they’ve extended their collection to two sets of Vive equipment and two sets of the Oculus Rift. The sets are available for checkout after completing a “safety and use” course that is held at the MEC on Fridays.

“I know that due to my informal tracking, we’ve doubled the numbers [of people] that have come in from the previous year, and we’ve doubled that from the year before so each year it seems like we’re doubling the amount of people using the resources that we have here,” Chad Schone, the director of the MEC said.

With such an increase in student interest, the new equipment is meant to bolster availability as checkouts and reservations are expected to rise.

“I think the new [VR] sets will bring in a lot more students,” senior physics major Jani Jesenovec said, who is an employee at the MEC and helps teach the instructional courses.

“We’ve already experienced an increase in students coming to the MEC, it hasn’t been around too long, so not a lot of people know about it and once they do, they use it a ton,” Jesenovec said.

Aside from the VR sets, the MEC also ordered a Hololens, a headpiece designed for augmented reality (AR) by allowing the user to overlay animated graphics, photos, or games in their immediate surroundings.

“When we first did our workshop last week, we had people come in at 2 and they stayed until 8 just exploring virtual reality and how it works and what they can do with it,” Schone said. “I’ve noticed an uptick in all of it, rather people are using the computer labs or the create space.”

Earlier in the year, the MEC also started ordering new material for their 3-D printers. Included were new materials that make prints look like a wooden product, as well as a rubber based model that can bend without breaking.

“Our 3-D printing prices have massively gone down. [Prices are] dependant on the amount of material we use now and it’s about a fifth of the price it was before,” Jesenovec said.

The equipment that the MEC purchases is dependent on student interest and is evaluated based on check-out records.

“Whatever we get, it’s based on what we have checked out. If we’re out of laptops at the end of the quarter, then we get more laptops,” Jesenovec said. “It’s much more unique and it makes the space a lot more educational. It’s such a unique way to learn that students learn the content a lot more.”

Checkouts for VR sets and the Hololens are available after a student completes the safety training and then checks out a set through their Student Outlook.

Aside from the new VR/AR sets, the MEC plans on ordering new 3-D printers and has ordered four more DSLR cameras and 20 more laptops, as the current equipment is consistently checked out and on reservation.

“We’re hoping to get two more 3-D printers, and one flow 3-D printer that prints in a different way. Instead of printing layer by layer, it uses a resin system that uses oxygen and lasers and is much faster,” Jesenovec said.

Rental and print orders are handled at the MEC’s front desk, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

“I think students need to know how accessible the technology is, and if they can’t make the training sessions they can just come in and ask the staff to train them if they need it,” Jesenovec said. “These things are really expensive, but you can use them for free. You can just walk up to the front desk and ask for it to be checked out.”