Chinese university models facility after Decision Theater
Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) opened the doors last week to an immersive visualization environment called the Visdec Electronic Decision Theater and modeled after ASU’s Decision Theater. R.F. “Rick” Shangraw, Jr., senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development, represented ASU President Michael M. Crow at the ribbon cutting ceremony and during subsequent meetings to discuss joint projects. The construction was supported by the Ministry of Education in China.
The HUST facility boasts 240 degrees of ceiling-to-floor arced screens brought to life by vast computational power and a sophisticated rear projection system. HUST officials first visited ASU in May 2005 when Shangraw was serving as the founding executive director of the Decision Theater. They made additional trips over the years and temporarily assigned two university staff members to the ASU facility in order to learn more about its construction and operation.
“From the beginning, HUST made it clear they saw enormous value in building a China Decision Theater and in collaborating with ASU on joint projects related to everything from energy and the environment to urban planning and public health,” Shangraw said. “President Crow early on articulated a vision for the ASU Decision Theater which included expansion into a global network of platforms all working together to address grand challenges. We are seeing that vision realized with partners now at HUST and Harbin Institute of Technology, also in China. We also have commitments from others seeking to build Decision Theater-like environments.”
Lu Gang, a senior HUST administrator and chair of the university committee, cited ASU’s success with using the platform as a primary reason for investment in a similar facility housed within the university’s College of Public Administration. He said it will help evolve decision making from traditional to modern approaches and result in more scientifically and democratically based decisions.
“This is a perfect union of government and the university,” said Lu, referring to the role of the Decision Theater as a government decision-making resource. He went on to say he would be making a request to the government that ASU and HUST collaborate to assist high-level officials.
Following the ceremony and discussions, which included the signing of a joint agreement of on-going collaboration, HUST and ASU officials traveled to Shanghai to meet with other China university officials and representatives from the international business community. This led to the announcement of a Global Decision Theater Alliance during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the theme of which is urban sustainability and quality of life. ASU and HUST are the founding members, joined by Harbin Institute of Technology and Renmin University of China, with expansion plans including other China-based institutions and organization during the initial development phase of the alliance.
Xu Xiaolin, Dean of HUST’s College of Public Administration, has long been a proponent of this type of international collaboration. He said he believes the alliance has the potential to deliver real solutions to major challenges.
Shangraw echoed Dean Xu’s sentiment, adding: “We have a firm commitment to communicate regularly and to pursue research projects of mutual interest and benefit. Our goal is to announce the kick-off of our first major collaborative project by the end of the year.”
He went on to say he was optimistic the alliance will expand to include representatives from Europe and the Middle East in the not-too-distant future.
The ASU Decision Theater, established in 2004, uses advanced visualization, simulation and collaboration tools to assist policymakers and others in reaching optimal decisions. Clients have ranged from federal government agencies and Arizona state departments to municipalities and industry.
Written by John Skinner
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