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NEWSLETTER: VOL IV, #6, April 23, 1999

Prof. Lynn Gilles, Interior Architecture
Gives UW-Stevens Point New Vision of the Future

by Jesse Messerschmidt*

*This article first appeared in the Sundial: ‘Leading-Edge Teaching and Learning’ 11 (October 23, 1998), a weekly UW-SP newsletter for faculty and staff.  It is part of an ongoing series on technology, one of many topics covered in the newsletter.  It is reprinted with permission by the author and the newsletter. Jesse Messerschmidt is a staff writer for the "Sundial." Professor Gilles
Imagine this scenario: You are an executive and a guide is leading you on a tour of the reception area for your new corporate headquarters. As you look around the room you are surprised by the detail, right down to the miniature corporate logo on each chair. Warm light radiates from the chandelier, but you want to inspect the grain of the mahogany desk, so you ask your guide to open the window. Sun streams into the room and seems to ignite the rosy, semitransparent vase next to you. Smiling, you say, "Excellent. But how does it look at night?" "One moment and you’ll see," your guide smiles back, punching a few commands into his computer. Evening falls before your eyes, revealing recessed lighting cleverly hidden in the ceiling tiles.

This scene isn’t just a view of the future in computer-aided design (CAD). It’s the future that Assistant Professor Lynn Gilles has in mind for interior architecture (IA) students at UWSP.

Anyone who has seen blueprints can appreciate the time and effort involved in creating them. When you see CAD software in action, you quickly appreciate how much time is saved. CAD seems light years ahead of hand-drawn illustrations, creating and displaying three-dimensional (3D) models of everything from a home office to an Indy car. However, both pale in comparison to "3D Studio Viz," which goes where CAD has never gone before.

With support from a faculty technology grant, Gilles is creating a new course that will teach IA students how to use this software to make their designs come alive. The most exciting feature is the software’s 3D visualization. Now, instead of presenting a pen-on-paper drawing of an office layout, designers can give their clients a guided tour of the building in a full-color, computer-generated, three-dimensional "world." The user can display the project as it would appear anywhere, during any time of day, complete with the angle of the sun and working lights and doors.

All IA majors are required to take 370, "Computer Applications in Interior Architecture," the course that teaches CAD, during their sophomore year. The new course will be an elective, offering more advanced computer training for interested students. Gilles says the higher level of experience with both programs will make students "more marketable" to potential employers.

The grant provides instructional replacement for Gilles, who will learn to use the software she acquired for UWSP through a post-tenure grant. Gilles will also evaluate comparable courses using similar technology.

The grant also means improved printing for students, because a portion of the funds will be used to purchase a color printer with a larger printing capability.