Virginia Tech and the Smithsonian Institution are leading the second ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival on April 5-7, 2019, at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The three-day festival is a unique opportunity for schools across the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) to convene and celebrate creative exploration and research happening at the nexus of science, engineering, arts, and design (SEAD).

The 2019 ACCelerate festival is programmed by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Visitors will have an opportunity to interact with innovators and experience new interdisciplinary technologies developed to address global challenges. The event is free and open to the public.

“ACCelerate is the first and largest event of its kind, and brings together transdisciplinary student and faculty researchers from across the ACC, from across all disciplines,” said Ben Knapp, director of ICAT and co-chair of the festival. “This is the largest non-sporting event in ACC history and is designed to showcase to the public the breadth and depth of the creative process in the ACC – from imagination to innovation.”

Exhibits, performances, and events will take over the west wing of the National Museum of American History and will feature 38 interactive installations from across the 15 ACC schools. They will be grouped in three thematic areas: Exploring Place and Environment; Exploring Health, Body, and Mind; and Exploring Culture and the Arts.

Knapp said many innovative ideas and projects were submitted by each of the ACC schools and selecting the exhibits and performances to be showcased at the festival was competitive and carefully considered.

“Each university nominated up to five projects to be considered for the festival,” said Knapp. “The steering committee, comprised of one member from each of the 15 participating ACC schools, ranked the proposals. The steering committee, along with the Smithsonian, then met in Washington to discuss the highest ranked proposals and make final selections.”

Virginia Tech and the Smithsonian expect nearly 50,000 visitors from all ages and background to learn and experience — many for the first time — the strength of creativity and innovation that resides in the ACC.

“This event enables the research-intensive universities of the ACC to discover each other’s work and look for emergent networks that might never have happened had it not been for the opportunities we’ve created through ACCelerate,” said Knapp.

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

Fog Harp
Fog Harp uses harp-like arrays of parallel wires rather than cross woven meshes to intercept fog droplets from the air.

Fog Harp

Fog Harp is an innovation in fog harvesting technology. For decades, fog harvesters have provided drinkable water for communities in some of the driest regions on Earth. Fog Harp uses harp-like arrays of parallel wires rather than cross woven meshes to intercept fog droplets from the air. Inspired by the linear needle geometries of Sequoia Sempervirens and other fog harvesting coniferous trees, Fog Harp has demonstrated as much as a three-fold increase in water yield compared with mesh-based fog harvesters.

Principal Investigator: Brook Kennedy
Team members: Jonathan Boreyko, Weiwei Shi, Tom Van der Sloot

Shakespeare’s Garden: An Immersive Sound Stroll

Shakespeare’s Garden: An Immersive Sound Stroll is a multidisciplinary collaboration exploring the possibilities of storytelling through technology. To fully immerse visitors, the installation employs projected graphic designs of poetry mapped onto scrims, processed field recordings of nature sounds composing soundscapes of four seasons played through a spatial audio system, and recordings of Virginia Tech student actors performing Shakespearean texts played through directional spotlight speakers. Evoking a sense of wonder and discovery, the installation encourages exploration.

Principal Investigator: Amanda Nelson, Charles Nichols
Team members: Amanda Nelson, Natasha Staley, Charles Nichols, Meaghan Dee, Tanner Upthegrove, Joe Court, Joseph Fry, Chris Russo, John Ambrosone, Jamie Lindsay

Shakespeare Texts Performed by Ryan Chapman, William Jefferson, Leah Alpaugh, Dani Beggan, Makayla Tobler, Andrew Bartee, Sara Gehl, Mary Pat Gilliam, Catherine McMullan, Cheyenne Clevenger, Erin Atienza

Person walking through tunnel with VR goggles
This Interactive exhibit offers connected experiences of Vauquois – a small French village that became a critical World War I battleground that started in the streets and moved into an underground network of tunnels.

Exploring the World War I Tunnels of Vauquois through Virtual Reality

Vauquois was a small French village before it became critical high ground that was fiercely contested for four years by the French and Germans during World War I. In an area smaller than 600 feet wide and 1,500 feet long, the village became a killing ground, starting in the streets, moving to trenches, and finally going underground into a network of miles of tunnels used to set over 500 mine explosions in four horrific years of continuous combat. This interactive exhibit offers visitors a series of connected independent experiences that together will allow them to explore the compelling question: If this place could talk, what would it tell us about the nature and impact of World War I on the people, places, and environment on the Western Front in France between 1914-1918?

Principal Investigator: David Hicks
Team members: Todd Ogle, Zach Duer, Doug Bowman, Scott Fralin, Dongsoo Choi, Thomas Tucker, Erik Westman, Phat Nguyen, Huy Ngo, Dillion Qutaiar, Nick Wyers

Low-cost 3D-Printed Personalized Bionic Prosthetic Hands for Children with Birth Defects

Various critical health care technologies and problems require the need for interfacing materials with biology. Specifically, the challenge of designing and manufacturing multifunctional form-fitting interfaces with biology is a current barrier for developing next-generation smart biomedical devices, such as those with personalized, bio-inspired, and bionic interfaces. Our proposed work is achieved through a combination of structured light 3D scanning, easy-to-use online computer-aided design tools, and low-cost plastic extrusion 3D-printing technologies.

Principal Investigator: Blake Johnson
Team members: Akshay Sharma, David Dillard, Yuxin Tong, Ethan Kywe, Mina Shawky


3D prosthetic hand
3D printed prosthetic hands developed through structured light 3D scanning, easy-to-use online computer-aided design tools, and low-cost plastic extrusion 3D printing technologies.

The Right of Way: A Documentary Play (performance)

Hector Avalos was killed by a drunken driver as he rode his bicycle home from work in late 2013. In the aftermath was a quest for justice. Featuring interviews with Hector's family and friends and court transcripts, this immersive multimedia production looks at the evolution of our city streets over the past century. Who has the right of way? And how do we stop hitting and killing pedestrians and bicyclists? This original documentary play was sourced from more than 100 hours of interviews with urban planners, personal injury attorneys, landscape architects, civil engineers, automobile historians, and alternative transportation advocates nationwide.

Principal Investigator: Thomas Murray
Team members: Tanner Upthegrove, Stephen Balani, Andrew Bartee, Ryan Chapman, Anastasia Conyers, Felysia Furnary, Maya Garcia, Mordecai Lecky, Haylee McGeorge, Rodney McKeithan, Mary Rathell, Andrew Schurr, Alexandra Yau

In addition to the exhibits and performances, eight scholars from across the ACC have been selected to participate in the second Bridging Chasms event during the festival. The Bridging Chasms initiative consists of a series of three-day events that involve “exchanges” between the scholars. The sessions seeks to identify and collect tools and strategies to identify what enables and what impedes understanding across disciplines.

The ACCelerate Festival will also feature an outdoor sound garden and projection mapping installation at the National Museum of American History entrance facing the National Mall. During the day, participants will be able to interact with the sculptures by using LED wands to experiment with a 3D-sound system in real time. During the evening, the project takes on visual layer of interaction. Beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, the event will feature video projection onto the sculptures. Participants can use LED interactive wands to illuminate the space in real time. As participants move around the sound garden area, data is gathered by their movements and used to create new sounds and illuminations on the projected forms.

The sound garden was created by Thomas Tucker (SOVA faculty), David Franusich (SOVA student), Tanner Upthegrove (ICAT), Eric Lyon (SOPA faculty), George Hardebeck (ICAT), Matthew Swarts (Georgia Tech), Jon Hamilton (SOVA student), Caleb Flood (SOVA student), Aline R.S.S. de Souza (SOVA student), Mahshid Gorjian (SOVA student) and Xindi Liu (SOVA student).

For more information, schedule of events, and summaries of all the exhibitions and performances, visit the ACCelerate Festival website.

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