Skip Menu

Return to Skip Menu

Main Content

Building the Skills of the Future Engineer

It’s 8 am on a Saturday morning and a room full of students munch on bagels trying to wrap their head around their newest problem to solve. There is only one rule: No one leaves until the problem is solved.
    Brainstorming Session

Feb. 15, 2011 – This is a typical scene for the students in the Intelligent Manufacturing and Assembly Systems (iMAS) Lab led by Dr. Jaime Camelio, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering. Every other month, students gather to complete one of their innovative “Deep-Dives,” a term originally coined by IDEO, a Design and Innovation Consulting Firm in California.  

In the iMAS lab, a “Deep Dive” is a one-day informal problem solving session aimed at developing a workable solution for a specific problem by a group of interdisciplinary students. The Deep Dive begins with the definition of the problem, brainstorming for possible solutions, and assignment of student groups for the development of modules for the selected solution. Periodic progress meetings allow the group to share current advances or communicate roadblocks. The day concludes with the integration of the group’s modules into a final solution. Typically, a solution emerges after 8-12 hours of intense work.

    Students become familiar with the CAVE


Prior problems that have been solved include the creation of a vision recognition system, a smartphone app for a manufacturing environment, a safety data reporting system via an online portal, quality control of 3D laser scanned parts, and a submission to the VT sustainability challenge for the reuse of wooded pallets in which the team won 2nd place.

However, this time, the group took things to another level. The problem: How can you better visualize quality control data? The solution, which is not short from a scene in the movie “Minority Report,” involves a supersized 3D projection of a SUV body frame in the Virtual Reality at the VT CAVE. Not only is the user emerged into a 3D environment, but more importantly is able to interact with the SUV frame and pull up graphs for various points measured on the model.  

    Group Meeting

The CAVETM is a 10x10x9 feet, multi-person, high-resolution, 3D video and audio environment that became the foundation for this Deep Dive. Similar to a movie theater, viewers are given a set of 3D glasses that bring the projections to life. However, with the use of a remote, the individual is able to fly around the 3D projection thereby being in total control of the environment.

Students began by learning a new programming language called VRML, which is typically used to represent 3D objects on the web. Since the group divided into four teams, each team had a unique challenge to solve. For example, one group was responsible to import the SUV frame, change the background, remove the transparency of the CAD model, and reorient it for better visualization, while another group worked on creating control charts in the 3D environment using VRML. 

    Adding Interactivity to the 3D Model

The Deep Dive provides students with a unique opportunity to move outside their primary field of study and build skills in problem solving, innovative thinking and collaborative group work. With the growing need of cohesive product development teams in industry, these skills are sometimes not stressed enough throughout the traditional engineering curriculums. Based on assessment data and return rates of each Deep Dive, participants enjoy working on new problems and like the challenge that comes with it. While some students have been able to participate in every Deep Dive so far, others are starting to join now and quickly understand the uniqueness of this experience. “The best part was the cohesive brainstorming experience that led to a functional prototype at the end of the day in a field that none of even knew existed” said Greg Purdy, a first year Ph.D student in ISE.   “I am going to put [what I learned today] on my resume. That’s for sure.”

Individuals interested in joining the next Deep Dive are encouraged to contact Dr. Jaime Camelio

View Pictures from the Event Here

    Deep Dive 6 Photo Gallery Icon

Click Here to See More Pictures