Leadership in Science Education: Fresh Spaces, Innovated Places
The new face of undergraduate physics
In 2017, four physics lab rooms were completely transformed to provide next-generation physicists with fresh, ultramodern learning spaces. Years later, the renovated labs continue to catch the eye of curious passerby — and attract visiting physicists who tour the facilities to better understand its design and implementation.
“There’s a clean, modern elegance here. When the doors are open, students often poke their heads in and think they’ve entered another world. It’s a great space for students. The response has been really positive.”
Each room is colour coded — bright yellow, orange, green or blue — with plenty of white space and furnishings that can be configured for multi-purpose use. Workstations are clean and uncluttered, including desktop
machines, radiation-free simulated
scanners, ultrasound sensors and all manner of physics equipment. Interactive smartboards line the walls and line of sight is clear, allowing for efficient, effective teaching.
Labs for the new reality
Technology is seeing the second wave of virtual reality (VR), and the Department of Computer Science has been aligned. Enrolment in Professor Tim McInerney’s project-based VR course has ballooned, and his lab is stocked with expensive equipment to train VR innovators of tomorrow.
Applications for VR are diverse and ideal for situations in which cost, location or logistics make it difficult — if not impossible — to directly access, repair or practice on equipment such as oil rigs, rare medical machinery or even military weaponry. For many TMU students, training to develop these virtual objects begins inside Prof. McInerney’s VR lab.
Inside the space, headsets and cameras immerse students in virtual environments of their own creation. With powerful computers, graphics cards and the same software used by industry animators and game designers, students are well positioned to launch into careers in VR.
“On an ordinary day, the VR lab looks no different from any other room, but when it’s full, that’s when it gets interesting. The students design very realistic games, applications and training, and it’s very fun showcasing their results. They often tell me VR is their favourite course!”