Technology and innovation at UW’s Stratford Campus

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When students think of innovation and entrepreneurship, they will most likely think of programs such as Velocity or GreenHouse; however, not many think of the Global Business and Digital Arts program (GBDA), that is, unless they&rsquo;re going into it. This unique program offered by UW is located in the heart of Stratford and combines business, technology, and art, giving students the opportunity to explore and hone their skills in the digital arts while also becoming knowledgeable in areas such as marketing and entrepreneurship.</p>

Interesting features of the campus are its non-traditional approach to teaching and its creative project rooms. For example, the classrooms have movable tables that are usually set up in different patterns depending on what the professor or students are feeling, and are rarely seen in straight rows outside of exam time. Brandi Gillett, the outreach and events manager at the campus, mentioned that embracing this non-traditional classroom style allows students to think outside the box. 

Angelica Maglinao, a third-year student in the program, also explained that she loves the project rooms because “you have the white boards and that area to think and draw your plans.… It’s a quiet space where you can meet with your groups, and it’s something different that I don’t see in other schools.… Even now companies are trying to build that kind of space.”

Because of the nature of this program, the campus is equipped with many resources the students can take full use of if they wish, such as its large Mac Lab, their creative project rooms, UX test labs, and audio and video editing rooms. There is also a Media Services Office run by Mark Byerly, the information technology support specialist, where students can take out DSLR cameras, Playbooks, microphones, and anything else a student might need for a project. 

On top of that there is also the Engage Lab, which includes all sorts of cool tech, such as a Mini MicroTiles wall, a 3D printer, and an Oculus Rift. Byerly defines this space as a sort of “sandbox” where students can see what’s available if they want to develop something in the future. 

Another cool resource they have is a massive, three-story tall Christie MicroTiles wall, the tallest in North America, with 150 tiles in total. Usually students in their classes work on creating displays and infographics for the wall, but Lauren Noble and Calen Siddall, two students at Stratford, took the initiative to create a never-done-before interactive game with the wall. 

“Our goal was that we had all this equipment and we wanted to find a way to combine it all together … and then the open house was coming up and we had the Kinect working … We decided to try to make something that would be more interactive and fun,” said Siddall.

 “The [Kinect] library that we found online … draws an outline of the body’s skeleton, but to connect that with Physica, you have to recode all of the lines again in Physica, so they interact with each other. … We’d only figured that out the weekend before the open house,” explained Noble. 

“My favorite part was probably seeing people who were really nervous to use it; their parents were like ‘you should go try it,’ ” mentioned Siddall.

The program encourages students like Noble and Siddal to explore their environments and resources, yet many students aren’t aware of all the available resources such as the tile wall and the Engage Lab. 

“There’s this barrier of entry,” said Filip Jadczak. “[For example] we have this 3D printer, but people don’t know that they can use it, or even if they want to [find out] how to use it … people usually figure it out on their own … Getting into [the Engage Lab] is another barrier … a lot of students don’t know that they can go in here when ever they want.”

What can you take away from this? Don’t let the resources available to you go to waste! Even if you’re not a GBDA student, there are still many programs and opportunities you can take full use of as a student, and this doesn’t just involve entrepreneurship. 

Even just joining clubs you find interesting can help you create a network of awesome, like-minded people that you can talk to about ideas you have or thoughts you were just thinking about. UW has a broad Entrepreneurship Society and many different opportunities that can fit your needs and interests.