After much demolition, dust, and drilling and even more anticipation, the Pius Academic Technology Commons (ATC) opened on Wednesday, November 14th. In a crowd of more than 100 people, President Fred Pestello, Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Student Government Association President (SGA), Daniel Carter, and SGA Senator Andrew Budd gave opening remarks followed by a blessing of the space by Father Chris Collins. Participants in the celebration were treated to an open house atmosphere with ATC librarians and staff stationed at various spaces throughout the ATC showcasing the various new technologies. Highlights of the technologies included a one-touch recording studio, 3D printers, a 3D scanner, hologram technology, and virtual reality technology. For many the piece de resistance was NAO, the programmable robot, who responds to over 20 languages. NAO recognizes and responds to the human voice and will be used by students who want to learn about the emerging roles of robots in everyday life.Since the opening, the ATC has been in constant use with students studying in various modular seating options and the many flexible work spaces, faculty members teaching classes in the Innovation Lab, numerous prospective student and family tours, and even a presentation launching a new website created by History PhD candidates.
The ATC is a collaborative project with three main partners: Pius Library, the Instructional Media Center, and the IT Student Help Desk. Together the partners create an integrated, interactive, and supportive environment where content, learning and teaching technologies, and support are located in a single space. The project has a fourth and equally important partner – students. The ATC was a detailed plan that had been in the works for about two years. The project would still be a plan were it not for the senators in SGA, who unanimously voted for a resolution to pledge $1.5 million from the existing student technology fees to partially fund the project. President Pestello was so impressed with the students’ excitement and commitment to the project that the University funded the remaining costs of the ATC.
A cornerstone of the ATC is the flexibility of the space and the resulting myriad of uses of the space. While the task force, that originally planned the space, had ideas on how the space might be used; the group, in the short time the ATC has been opened, is thrilled to see how the students use the space as they enthusiastically take ownership of the ATC and find exciting and innovative applications. The grand opening was just the beginning …. the best is yet to come in this inspiring and stimulating area.