UTSA dazzles budding scientists, engineers at Austin science-engineering fair

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SiVirt haptic device exhibit

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(Nov. 5, 2010)--UTSA was out in full force at the Austin Convention Center Oct. 23-24 for the Austin Science and Engineering Festival, a regional celebration to entice young minds into considering careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The festival, which was free and open to the public, was organized by the Society of Mexican American Engineering and Scientists (MAES) and hosted in conjunction with the first U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival.

The Center for Simulation, Visualization and Real-time Prediction (SiViRT) in the UTSA College of Engineering offered fairgoers a chance to interact with haptic devices to demonstrate principles in real-time control for computer-generated models. Haptic devices use computer technology to mimic the sense of touch with three-dimensional computer models in cyber space.

Students interacting with UTSA's haptic devices make surgical "cuts" on three-dimensional computer-generated livers, kidneys and other organs. During the emulated surgical process, they could feel the texture of the tissue and the force and resistance caused by the simulated puncture. Additionally, the SiViRT presented a three-dimensional cancer model using a three-dimensional projector, allowing festivalgoers to "see" and "feel" inside a cancer cell.

The UTSA Interactive Technology Experience Center (iTEC) display included many sizes and shapes of robots, three-dimensional models, the UTSA blimp, a nine-foot-square playing field featuring five robots and video footage of UTSA's summer robotics camps and competitions.

Funded in 2007 by the AT&T Foundation, iTEC is a four-year project in the UTSA College of Engineering to inspire youth by creating an environment in which they can understand how engineering, science and technology shape lives and the future of the world. The center's areas of thrust include robotics, telecommunications, scanning electron microscope applications and manufacturing design.

Approximately 22,000 people attended the Austin Science and Engineering Festival, which featured more than 100 interactive displays.