Campus News in Brief

‘Virtual’ showcase to take place

On Wednesday, the students of this semester’s Building Virtual Worlds class will showcase their work in a colorful on-stage show in McConomy Auditorium. The show will display the best work that the students developed over the course of the semester in a mix of performance art, video games, computer animation, and audience participation. Since its inception more than 10 years ago, Building Virtual Worlds has become a university tradition.

Building Virtual Worlds isn’t a typical lecture course — it’s an interdisciplinary project course housed in Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center that brings together students from computer science, drama, engineering, art, and other disciplines to combine their talents to develop interactive virtual environments. The ETC was created in fall 1998 as a joint program between the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.

The class was developed more than a decade ago by computer science professor Randy Pausch. The course is now taught by assistant professor of entertainment technology Jesse Schell. Prior to joining the Carnegie Mellon faculty, Schell was the creative director of the Disney Virtual Reality Studio. He is also the CEO of Schell Games, an independent game studio in Pittsburgh.

Students in the course use ETC platforms, such as the Jam-O-Drum (a multiplayer audiovisual game device), Quasi the robot (the first robot created by Carnegie Mellon’s Interbots initiative in 2004), and the Panda3D engine to view the virtual worlds. Other tools include Maya, Photoshop, Adobe Audition, and Pro Tools.

The event begins at 6 p.m.

Students win letter-writing contest

Four Carnegie Mellon graduate engineering students won first place in a prestigious competition in which they teamed up to write letters to presidential candidates demonstrating their awareness of current environmental issues by asking the candidates to elaborate on their own positions regarding energy and sustainability.

The students were Shahzeen Attari, a Ph.D. candidate in engineering and public policy and civil and environmental engineering; Ines Margarida Lima de Azevedo, a Ph.D. candidate in engineering and public policy; Benjamin Flath, a master’s student in civil and environmental engineering; and Constantine Samaras, a Ph.D. candidate in engineering and public policy and civil and environmental engineering.

The contest, “Tomorrow’s Energy Ambassadors, Managers and Scholars” (TEAMS), was sponsored by Johnson Controls, Inc., a company that works to create smart environments. The letter appeared as a full-page advertisement in the Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. regional editions of USA Today on Nov. 20. The students also received $10,000 for Carnegie Mellon’s scholarship fund and a $2500 grant, both from Johnson Controls.

Johnson Controls invited students at over 200 member schools of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to participate in the challenge. Students were judged on their awareness of energy and sustainability issues and creativity and originality of the call to action.