Virginia Tech and the Smithsonian are spearheading a national research exhibition this month that showcases cutting-edge connections between art, science, engineering, and design at universities throughout the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The first ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival, a three-day celebration of creative exploration and research, will be held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 13-15, from 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. daily.

Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology and the museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation are the festival’s hosts.

The event is free and features 15 ACC universities in an opportunity for the schools to display their work to each other and to the public. Student performances, conversational talks and 47 interactive exhibits will feature digital humanities projects, musical performances and creative art displays, 3-D printing, robotic processes and multimedia exhibitions, among others.

More than a year ago, Thanassis Rikakis, Virginia Tech executive vice president and provost, launched the idea for this event because it emphasizes the university’s mission.

“Creative exploration and innovation are at the core of the VT-shaped learning experiences we provide every student at Virginia Tech,” he said. “The ACCelerate Festival parallels this experiential philosophy and offers a unique opportunity for our students and faculty to work together with our ACC colleagues to explore the many forms of innovation happening in our ACC network, across all disciplines. The festival aims to highlight the innovative education components of the ACC network and the opportunities for academic collaboration and cross-cutting inspiration across the different ACC institutions. This academic network becomes one more avenue for providing Virginia Tech students with opportunities to learn, lead, and serve in a global 21st-century economy.”

Partnering with the Smithsonian gives the festival and Virginia Tech a national stage, said Ben Knapp, director of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology at Virginia Tech and co-chair of the festival.

“We’re excited for this opportunity to partner with the Smithsonian to showcase the most creative and inspiring work happening across all of the universities in the ACC,” Knapp said. “In particular, we’re pleased to bring a collection of premier Virginia Tech projects that are living examples of how the university fuses science, engineering, art, and design to craft innovative approaches to real-world challenges.”

Exhibits will be featured on all three public floors of the museum’s west wing.

An animated projection mapping show, designed by several Virginia Tech faculty, will be displayed on the side of the museum’s exterior National Mall entrance. Creators used two digital projectors, at 20,000 lumens each, and a surround sound system for the show, which runs in four-minute interval loops. Lumens measure brightness or light output.

“Guests entering and exiting the festival will experience a study in aesthetic design,” said Thomas Tucker, an associate professor in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech and the projection show’s director.

Virginia Tech will present the following exhibits, which involve research faculty in colleges throughout the university:

16 Squares

This online augmented and virtual reality history of downtown Blacksburg mirrors the grid that made up the town’s original design when it was chartered in 1798. A team of students took photos of structures in Blacksburg’s original 16 squares and modeled and texturized the 96 buildings in 3-D. The team also acquired terrain data from a quadcopter, capturing images and creating 3-D data by using photos and maps.

Researchers: Thomas Tucker (College of Architecture and Urban Studies), Todd Ogle (Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies), and David Hicks (College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences)

Design Robotics: Robot-Assisted Fabrication

Robot-operated machines come to life in this exhibit that features a demonstration of a large-scale robotic arm 3-D printing system, alongside other work. The exhibit takes place inside an experimental wooden grid shell structure created using robotic fabrication techniques, traditional craftsmanship, and manufacturing processes. Other pieces made with robotic devices include sculpted foam structures and 3-D-printed glass.

Researchers: Chris Williams (College of Engineering), Joseph Kubalak (College of Engineering), Cam Buss (College of Engineering), Nathan King (College of Architecture and Urban Studies), and Ed Coe (College of Architecture and Urban Studies)

Emotion in Motion

According to research, music may have an impact on the human body. For this exhibit, participants listen to a 90-second music clip through headphones while viewing their body's physiological response to the sound using heart rate monitors and skin conductance. The project is an ongoing experiment with music, emotion, and physiology.

Researchers: Brennon Bortz (College of Engineering), Deba Saha (College of Engineering), and Wei Huang (College of Engineering)

Crowd-Sourced Sculpture

About 1.8 billion photos are shared every day via searchable online networks, such as Google, Yahoo, and Flickr. Using tourist photos culled from Google image searches for such popular icons as Venus de Milo, Michelangelo's David, and Rodin's Thinker, this exhibit shows the flawed and incomplete likenesses stitched together in photogrammetry software, rendered, and 3-D printed. The result: Sculptures that show jagged and mottled figures as physical manifestations of their web presence.

Researcher: Sam Blanchard (College of Architecture and Urban Studies)

Dense Space: Il Mobile Featuring "Beyond the Dark"

This audiovisual exhibit consists of spheres in varied sizes and made of epoxy-impregnated glass fiber that when illuminated by light, cast shadows perceived as three-dimensional through 3-D glasses. The 3-D shadows make the boundary and depth of space uncertain and the location of objects in space ambiguous. The accompanying soundtrack, “Beyond the Dark,” by music faculty member Charles Nichols, is a multichannel piece looping 22 minutes of synthesized sound.

Researchers: Paola Zellner Bassett (College of Architecture and Urban Studies), Charles Nichols (College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences), and Adam Burke (College of Architecture and Urban Studies)

“Salt Marsh Suite” - Virginia Tech performance

Salt Marsh Suite,” directed by professor emeritae Carol Burch-Brown and Ann Kilkelly, is a collaborative, inter-media arts installation and dance performance based on fieldwork, data collection, and close observation of a North Carolina coastal estuary. The project combines art, science, and technology in an immersive environment, engaging viewers in the magical quality of the tidal marsh and the life within it.

Hokies in Creativity and Innovation

Virginia Tech alumni and friends are invited to Hokies in Creativity and Innovation, a networking event and panel discussion on Oct. 13 with some Virginia Tech researchers who are part of the ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival, along with Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. The event, sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, will be held at the Westin Arlington Gateway from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Click here for more information and to register.

Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone

Dense Space exhibit
Dense Space is a Virginia Tech exhibit to be displayed at the ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival.
16 Squares exhibit
The 16 Squares exhibit maps downtown Blacksburg's original layout.
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