In a landmark move for the School of Engineering, the Engineering Commons was inaugurated in April, creating a new identity for the School and a central hub for students to engage in ideas sharing, collaborative learning, and mentoring.
Located at the entrance to the School, the Commons comprises three main areas and forms the backbone of a multi-dimensional learning community, a key objective of the School's revamped education approach. The Commons is intended for all engineering students, but it is expected that first-year undergraduate students will find the areas particularly useful, ahead of their selection of a major and a department.
One area features the School's pioneering Center for Engineering Education Innovation (E²I), set up to enhance teaching and learning of students and faculty by drawing on and contributing to the latest findings in engineering education research. The School’s student advisory services are located at the Center, with a team of professional advisors based there full-time.
Next to the advising office is an academic interaction zone. Flexible furniture arrangements enable the area to serve as a gathering place for students for project planning, group meetings, peer mentoring, tutoring and assisted learning, or simply a quiet space to work individually. The zone has already become a popular meeting place.
In the central foyer area, multi-purpose 360-degree projection displays function as state-of-the-art communicators, demonstrating the integration of the virtual and physical worlds that is expected to play an increasingly large part in the future. The platform provides up-to-date information to members of the School as well as real-time applications such as e-polling with instant display of poll results. The eMessage Board allows greetings to be sent via the "SENGer" app developed by School of Engineering students.
The third area comprises a showcase of the inventions and achievements of the School's six departments to highlight the cutting-edge nature of research and development by faculty members. This section incorporates a quiet area for meetings, with flexible partitions fitted with glass panels that can be used like a notepad for writing down ideas sparked by discussions that take place there.
Speaking at the grand opening ceremony, President Prof Tony F Chan said that the Engineering Commons reflected the quality and innovation in education and research for which the School of Engineering was renowned.
Dean of Engineering Prof Khaled Ben Letaief said that the cool Commons area provided superb physical support for the School's "total learning experience". He expected the Commons would give inspiration to students and a greater sense of belonging by providing a location where different members of the School community can gather together.
Joining Together Toward Commons' Goal
In keeping with its goal to bring people together, the Engineering Commons has been set up with the help of faculty, students and alumni, highlighting its role as a hub of creation for all members of the School. Academics from the School of Engineering's six departments have been involved in creating the foyer displays that demonstrate the exciting developments and discoveries in different engineering fields, enable people to relate to the work associated with the disciplines, and highlight the significant role of engineers in generating change.
There is also an example of the pioneering work of the School's HKUST-NIE Social Media Lab in the form of the WoW display, providing state-of-the-art touch-based communication technology. The lab focuses on research and design of next-generation social media systems, networks and applications. The WoW display, developed by Prof James She and his students, demonstrates how images taken by a mobile device (equipped with the lab's specially designed app) can be “flipped” to the WoW display through a simple hand gesture and from the WoW display to one of the overhead screens in the central foyer area. Videos can also be flipped.
The technology was highlighted at the grand opening of the Engineering Commons, with a demonstration of the WoW display and later through the memorable appearance of a virtual Chinese dragon on the panoramic screens. The virtual dragon was created by alumnus Cheuk Lam Chan, 2011 BEng in Mechanical Engineering. The "dragon dance" closed with an uplifting Chinese calligraphic message "Technology Builds A Great Nation"（科技興邦）, originated and written in Moxi digital ink by alumnus Nelson Chu, 2007 PhD in Computer Science. Nelson is the creator of the Moxi software package that can simulate Chinese painting and calligraphy on screen.
Another innovative feature of the Engineering Commons is the PicknPoll e-polling system, designed by alumni Angus Kai Chit Luk and Cheuk Sum Wong, 2012 and 2013 BEng in Computer Science respectively. The ingenious and fun interactive system allows regular online opinion polls on different topics to be undertaken, with results instantly displayed on central foyer display screens.
To provide a new social communication platform for HKUST students, faculty and staff, particularly the engineering community, five current Dual Degree Program in Technology and Management students created the eMessage Board. Ki Hong Chan, Ho Yin Chow, Sze Long Ho, Kwok Shiu Wong and Ka Cheuk Yung set out to provide more opportunities for the University community to exchange ideas and access the latest School news and events. Using the students' specially designed “SENGer” app, users can post messages and photos as well as leave comments via the web, Android and iOS devices. Their words and pictures are then displayed on the Engineering Commons central foyer screens.