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The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

New center brings ‘ExCITe’ment

The Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies Center is a work area and showcase bringing together art and science to promote exploration and innovation. The Center is located on the first floor of University City’s Science Center at 3401 Market St. and opened Nov. 28.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and University President John A. Fry both attended and spoke at the opening ceremony.

Research teams from the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, the College of Engineering and the College of Information Science and Technology will be working collaboratively in the Center to build toward an “Innovation Neighborhood” — laid out in President Fry’s strategic plan — around Drexel’s campus.

“I welcome this resource to help propel an innovation incubator ecosystem. Through collaborations across disciplines beyond the many multidisciplinary efforts within the college, we will be able to better meet industry needs. We will be able to make more rapid application of technology to biomedicine and bioinformatics, homeland security, product review analysis, customer analysis and social media analysis to name a few,” David Fenske, dean of the iSchool, said.

Unlike most buildings around campus, the ExCITe Center is not associated with only one college or department. Instead, the Center serves as a neutral space to bring together a variety of disciplines.

“I believe that ExCITe helps raise the profile of the University, demonstrating our commitment to reimagining higher education for the 21st century. A lot of schools talk about interdisciplinary work, but we’re committing a space, people and resources to make that happen. … It’s a place where creative and passionate faculty and students can come together to pursue collaborative multidisciplinary projects,” Youngmoo Kim, director of the ExCITe Center, said.

The Shima Seiki Haute Technology Lab is a major component of the Center. A unique feature of the lab is the four KnitBots, which are computerized knitting machines that turn fashion designs into fabrics. Garments that are designed on the computer, such as a sweater, can be “printed” by the machine and ready for wear. Shima Seiki USA, from which the lab gets its name, donated the KnitBots, which are collectively valued at over $1.2 million.

At the ExCITe Center’s opening, there were major demonstrations going on to showcase a variety of pilot projects. A few projects are Kinect Games for Cerebral Palsy Rehab, which aims for younger patients with cerebral palsy to use Microsoft Kinect games to build up muscle endurance and improve their overall fitness health; the Magnetic Resonator Piano, a hybrid acoustic-electric instrument that uses electromagnets to continually change each note’s sound; and a smartphone application, iNotes, that guides users through a live orchestral performance in real time with preannotated information.

“Technology and arts that combine together are interactive and expressive, and you can actually get your hands on something physical. [The Center] is creating new technology and innovative projects,” Mickey Moorhead, a sophomore mechanical engineer who assisted in presenting iNotes during the opening, said.

Researchers at Drexel have been developing four humanoid robots, or HUBOs. They performed at this year’s University convocation with a dance team, threw the first pitch at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game and made a YouTube video performing the Beatles’ “Come Together.”

The HUBOs were programmed to work with the dancers at convocation, but the team wants to move beyond programming. They want HUBOs to react to the dancers by implementing new features to learn how to track beats. This will be possible with the collaboration of different disciplines in the ExCITe Center. The “creative” side of the robots will be developed beyond basic programming.

The National Science Foundation Center for Visual and Decision Informatics has relocated to the ExCITe Center.

“Principal investigators and students working on the Center’s projects are doing their work here, and progressively the iSchool looks forward to increasing the range of projects related to the real needs of industry and government agencies at the ExCITe Center,” Fenske said, “The iSchool at Drexel will intensify University-industry collaborations to translate student and faculty research into marketable products and services. By transferring new approaches, tools and prototypes to the marketplace, we expect to increase startup businesses and to partner with existing businesses to create new job opportunities for graduates and to help develop new business ventures in the Delaware Valley.”

The ExCITe Center has partnered with a variety of Philadelphia area universities and colleges; education and regional development groups; arts and culture groups; and industry-based companies such as Temple University, the Navy Yard, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, and IBM.

“It’s a great opportunity to partner with the University City Science Center on this project. The location is ideal, next to the new URBN Center, across from the DAC, in front of a subway stop and also very close to Lancaster Avenue. This is part of Drexel’s strategic plan: to push the boundaries of research and innovation by creating an ‘Innovation Neighborhood’ in University City, but doing so in a way that really engages and benefits the surrounding community. We believe this is just one of many steps toward that vision,” Kim said.

Early next year, the Center will be searching for new project ideas and concepts from students, faculty and partners of the Center.

The Center is 11,000 square feet and was converted from an industrial office space to an open workspace for students and faculty by UJMN Architects + Design. All of the projects have a public-facing component for visitors of the Center. Passers-by can see students and faculty working from outside with the addition of large exterior windows. There are meeting rooms designed for conferences and collaboration. The Center will be also used to host events and workshops.

The first event at the ExCITe Center is Random Hacks of Kindness: Hacking for Humanity, which will take place Dec. 1 and 2. It is a global initiative that identifies problems and develops practical technologies to solve those problems.. To learn more about the initiative and to get involved, go to www.rhok.org.