‘The Dude’ marks 25 years of innovation and creativity

While the technology inside the James and Anne Duderstadt Center has certainly changed since 1996, one thing has not changed: the center remains an innovative hub where collaboration, experimentation and creativity flourish.

“The Dude”, as it is affectionately known, is famous for its vast collection of the latest technological tools. These tools – and some of the work they helped produce – will be on display during a week-long 25th anniversary celebration that kicks off on October 4.

James Hilton, vice-president for academic innovation and dean of libraries, said the Duderstadt Center is one of UM’s busiest and most vibrant spaces. With more than 400 computers spread over 250,000 square feet, it is the university’s largest computer space. It has several studios, laboratories, performance halls, and meeting and study spaces.

Up to 6,000 people have surrendered each day before the pandemic.

Prospective students explore the Michigan Immersive Digital Experience Nexus, or MIDEN, the immersive reality space at the Duderstadt Center, as part of an “Explore Engineering” event in 2019. (Photo by Joseph Xu, College of Engineering)

“I think it’s a gem,” said Hilton, who is also an Arthur F. Thurnau professor and information professor. “I don’t know of any other place in higher education that students can enter, and if they are willing to put in the time (to learn how to use the equipment), they can have access to tools that students from other universities do not have access.

Deans of North Campus schools proposed the center in the early 1990s as a way to provide students with access to rapidly changing technologies. At the time, the internet was relatively new and the transition from physical books to digital libraries was just beginning.

Originally named Media Union, the facility was intended as a common space for technology-intensive innovation where students, faculty, and staff from multiple disciplines could come together to create, invent, and design things.

James Duderstadt, then president of UM, was instrumental in securing the public funding that made the project a reality. He and Dan Atkins, who served as interim dean of the College of Engineering and later founding dean of the School of Information, made several trips to Lansing to convince the governor and key lawmakers to provide $ 45 million for the project.

“When the Media Union finally opened in 1996, there were probably less than a dozen people on campus who understood what it was,” Duderstadt wrote in a report on the history of the center. . “But the students learned quickly and within a month it became the most popular institution in the university.”

Duderstadt said the installation sends a powerful message: that the University and State of Michigan prioritize investments in “creating art, creating technology, creating the future.”

In 2004, the board approved the renaming of the Media Union complex to Duderstadt Center in honor of Duderstadt and his wife, Anne. James Duderstadt, president emeritus and university professor of science and engineering, still has an office there.

The James and Anne Duderstadt Center opened in 1996 as the Media Union and will mark its 25th anniversary with a week of open house type events from October 4-8.  (Photo courtesy of Center Duderstadt staff
The James and Anne Duderstadt Center opened in 1996 as the Media Union and will mark its 25th anniversary with a week of open house type events from October 4-8. (Photo courtesy of Center Duderstadt staff)

From the start, the Duderstadt Center has given members of the UM community access to the latest generations of information technology and digital media tools, as well as expert support. Access to expensive and complex resources and training in their use are available free of charge.

Technology is updated and upgraded often. Currently, the centre’s management is working with a number of schools and colleges to acquire a BigRep Studio G2 3D printer, a large machine that offers 10 times the build capacity of most standard 3D printers, with several materials available for use. adapt to various applications.

Many of the centre’s resources are directed to the North Campus school programs: the College of Engineering; the School of Music, Drama and Dance; the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Town Planning; and the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design.

An executive committee made up of the Deans of the North Campus and the Dean of the School of Information works closely with Hilton and Kathleen Bauer, Interim Chief Operating Officer, to shape the vision and priorities for the center.

The Duderstadt Center houses the Library of Art, Architecture and Engineering, the College of Engineering Computer Aided Engineering Network, the Digital Media Commons, Arts Engine, the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Millennium Project.

Alec Gallimore, Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, said when Duderstadt opened, it housed the college’s first IT cluster, a very early prototype video conferencing system, and the first virtual reality and visualization studios.

The center still provides important resources to engineering students today. The Michigan Electric Racing team recently used it to create a video to launch their latest car, and mechanical engineering classes took virtual reality course design reviews there.

Student Will Stanton's video shooting thesis project featured a spiral-shaped net, which gave the piece an ethereal feel.  (Photo by Kathi Reister, Duderstadt Center)
Student Will Stanton’s video shooting thesis project included a spiral-shaped net, which gave the piece an ethereal feel. (Photo by Kathi Reister, Duderstadt Center)

“As a space where students could access technologies that were beyond their reach elsewhere, it was and still is a place to help students explore what is possible,” said Gallimore, professor. of Engineering Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Aerospace Engineering.

In addition to hundreds of computers with advanced software, the center has many unique studios and laboratories. Visualization Studio has advanced tools and resources for creating extended reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality experiences. The Manufacturing Studio contains 3D printers, laser cutter, CNC router, 3D scanners, dedicated computers and electronic workbenches.

State-of-the-art audio studios contain equipment that meets or exceeds current recording industry standards. A 4,200 square foot broadcast-quality production studio is available for video recording and live broadcasting of performances and events.

“It has cutting edge technology,” said Hilton. “He has a huge soundstage. When it was built, it was said to be the largest soundstage east of the Mississippi outside of the New York City limits.

Visitors will be able to experience the studio and other features of the Duderstadt Center during the 25th anniversary celebration October 4-8. Several special activities are planned for the open house style event, including building tours, film screenings, and 3D technology and virtual reality demonstrations. Some activities require prior registration.

Reflecting on the past 25 years, Duderstadt said he was proud of the people who had the vision to make the Duderstadt Center a reality and the students, faculty and staff who continue to push that vision forward.

Hilton said that while the centre’s technology may look different today, its mission isn’t.

“What I find interesting about the 25th anniversary is that because of its emphasis on innovation and collaboration, it is as relevant to the North Campus and UM in general today as it is was on the day it opened, “he said.

A motion capture demonstration is filmed in the Duderstadt Center video studio while staff monitor and record audio and video content from the video studio control room.  (Photo courtesy of Center Duderstadt staff)
A motion capture demonstration is filmed in the Duderstadt Center video studio while staff monitor and record audio and video content from the video studio control room. (Photo courtesy of Center Duderstadt staff)
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