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Released July 14, 2003


HATTIESBURG - The University of Southern Mississippi has teamed with a Spanish university to explore scholarly and economic development opportunities using virtual reality technologies.

On Monday, members of the International Center for Engineering Education (ICEE), a multidisciplinary educational development and research hub housed at Southern Miss, hosted Dr. Jorge Capote, director of the Grupo de Investigacion y Desarrollo de Actuaciones Industriales (GIDAI). The purpose of the trans-Atlantic visit was to discuss an initiative that would allow the universities to share information and collaborate on engineering projects in real time, using both existing and newly developed methods.

Housed at the University of Cantabria in Spain, the GIDAI focuses on the application of modern techniques for the design, planning and organization of construction projects.

"Virtual reality is a visual tool," said Dr. Tulio Sulbaran, professor of construction engineering technology at Southern Miss. "Most of our engineers are visual learners, therefore we believe that using virtual reality in English and any language, including Spanish, should enhance the learning experience of our students - whether in construction, polymer science or industrial safety."

The author of numerous books and monographs about construction equipment and fire safety, Capote has participated in the planning and construction of numerous industrial, commercial and residential projects in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Through an interpreter, Capote said that construction engineering and fire protection are the two main lines of investigation for his group, GIDAI.

"We're delighted to welcome Dr. Capote to Southern Miss and to discuss prospective areas of collaboration between our institutions," said Susan Steen, director of the Center for International and Continuing Education.

"We believe our conversations will lead to terrific opportunities for partnerships in research, economic development, and student and faculty exchanges that will benefit both institutions."

Project possibilities discussed in Monday's day-long visit with Capote included voice communication in virtual reality environments and characteristics of virtual environment education. Others included virtual reality environments of a building construction timeline and the evaluation of professional scheduling practices and related training issues in Mississippi.

William Crosby, an instructor in the School of Engineering Technology, said the initiative would enable his students at Southern Miss to expand their educational opportunities by collaborating with students in Spain, and eventually, across the globe.

"My seniors currently do a project and collaboration, and they must be able to have meetings in a virtual way," Crosby said. "They talk in real time and put their projects online. That same idea, we feel, can be expanded globally."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM