The second floor of Patrick F. Taylor Hall houses a different world: a virtual one. The MMR Building Information Model Lab, a virtual reality environment, is now open for student use.

The BIM Lab, known as “The Cave,” features 11 PCs, a 300-degree visual and sensors for movement, temperature and humidity making the experience interactive and the environment open to change. It’s an invaluable resource for students who can use the cave to add detail to their projects on an unprecedented scale.

Construction management professor Yimin Zhu, one of the spearheads of this project, said he hopes that the lab will become a well-known resource for all students, and envisions many different uses of this technology.

“Eventually, this will become a teaching and research platform for teachers, faculty and students to use,” Zhu said. “We’re throwing ideas around. For example, maybe this can be a innovation lab where students, if they have great ideas, want to implement it or test it using this facility.”

So far, no policies on cave use have been established. Although the cave is open for all research, engineering majors have been the most engaged with this new technology so far. Zhu hopes to branch out to other departments.

“This offers opportunities for other disciplines, as well,” Zhu said. “For computer science, for example, to learn how to program, and other departments like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering. They can also use the cave for their purposes.”

The cave was built in the summer of 2017 and funded partly by the University Technology Fee program, the Construction Industry Advisory Council and donated technology from MMR. It contains 44 OLED display screens in a 2,400-square -foot room.

It’s a notable part of the recent $116 million Patrick F. Taylor Hall renovations that make the building the largest academic building in the state of Louisiana and the largest engineering building in the U.S. 

The cave is intended to significantly enhance engineering

students’ learning experiences who previously were limited to paper printouts and 2-D models. It also helps with collaboration as many people can work together in the space and watch their codes and projects come to life.

The virtual reality environment is hoped to increase student engagement through data immersion and project implementation. Students can see their ideas reflected back to them by all 44 screens and work more efficiently on changes and improvements. It also gives teachers a way to connect with their students giving abstract ideas a concrete foundation.

“I think this is a very cool facility,” Zhu said. “I hope that word gets out so that students will be interested in using the lab for their studies and their

research projects.”