Reach Higher Showcase Banner in the DeVos Center Plaza.

Five innovations we saw at the Reach Higher Showcase

About 150 projects were presented to a crowd of over 400 people at the Reach Higher Showcase on April 12.

The exhibits were presented in line with GVSU’s Reach Higher Commitments to an empowered educational experience, a lifetime of learning and a culture of educational equity.

There were many innovative and impactful projects on display at Reach Higher. Here are five examples of presentations from the event.

Experiential learning inside a virtual courtroom

While courtrooms are generally open to the public, some students face challenges fitting an in-person courtroom observation into their schedules. Through virtual reality, the courtroom can be brought to the students.

Developed by GVSU’s Legal Studies faculty and IT Innovation and Research teams, the VR Courtroom provides students with a 360-degree tour of a courtroom located in the 61st District Court in Grand Rapids. Students receive an immersive and interactive experience designed to facilitate a stronger connection between theory and practice.

Through a VR headset, phone or computer, users explore the courtroom’s layout and design while learning foundational concepts related to the court system. The program also provides behind-the-scenes views of less commonly visible courtroom features, such as the judge’s chambers. 

The development team has high hopes for expanding off the foundation of this VR experience. Courtney Topic, assistant professor with the School of Criminology, said the group hopes to expand to live-action VR experiences, giving students opportunities to practice in an authentic setting.

GVSU Digital Twin

GVSU Blue Dot introduces the Digital Twin, a dynamic, virtual representation of a physical object. Innovator in Residence Joseph Van Harken and Senior VMA Jeff Staub said the tool can be used for campus planning, student orientation, improving learning environments and personalized education.

The exhibit featured two use cases for the Digital Twin.

The Digital Doppelganger can be used in External Reality experiences. A photo-realistic digital human avatar is created using an eight-camera depth capture array. The avatars can be utilized in virtual campus tours, allowing prospective students to explore Grand Valley without stepping foot on campus.

Pre-visualization allows prospective architectural renderings of future projects such as the Blue Dot Lab to be presented in augmented reality. Users can place the Digital Twin onto the surface using their phone and walk around the experience to explore.

The Dragoncillo Puppet Troupe: community outreach through puppetry

Beginning more than a decade ago, the Dragoncillo is a puppetry troupe dedicated to imaginative, bilingual (English and Spanish) storytelling that educates while it entertains. The group performs across the country and abroad at universities, K-12 schools, festivals and other gatherings.

The custom designed, 3D-printed figures allow volunteers to join the performance with minimal rehearsal time.

The group's performances range from 30-75 minutes and feature a variety of original and adapted works.

Jason Yancey, Dragoncillos’s artistic director and Spanish professor at GVSU, said the shows include interactive elements after the performances. He said this can be especially insightful to young students who have never experienced puppetry in person before.

Each show ends with an opportunity for the audience to ask questions and handle some of the puppets.

GVSBrew: Two new brewing badges

The Cell and Molecular Biology Department created two new stackable Brewing Badges. Students learn to design and brew beer, identify various beer styles and assess beer through sensory and scientific methods.

The Homebrewing Badge is earned through a single course, CMB 350, Foundations in Brewing. The class focuses on the historical, social, economic and health impacts of beer.

The Craft Brewing Badge is earned by completing two courses, CMB 430, Brewing Science and CMB 431, Advanced Brewing. These classes focus on the analysis of beer and brewing methods from a scientific perspective. Students have the opportunity to advance their brewing skills and recipe design to produce high quality beers.

Casting Club African Spear and Halligan bar

The Casting Club presented two projects at the Reach Higher Showcase. Their African Spear was entered into a 2023 competition held in Cleveland by the Steel Founders Society of America. Their spear took home first place in design criteria and won third place overall at the competition.

This year, the students are producing Halligan bars. The tools are used by firefighters for forcible entry. The multipurpose tool can break down doors, create openings for other tools among other things.

Rock Phelps, an engineering student, said their design includes a flat shaft which makes it easy for an ax to slide along the bar as well as a handle designed to make the tool easily handled with firefighter gloves.

-- By Thomas Chavez


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