Digital skills for everybody

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The faculty of Spatial Sciences (FSS) has recently adopted a strategy in which she expands the possibilities for students to work with digital skills. This new strategy has been driven both by demand of students and demand of the field of activity. The Faculty has asked the Careers Company to start offering digital design workshops in this academic year, and integrates the skills into the curricula of the bachelors in the academic year of 2019-2020. Digital skills will focus on three tracks: graphic design, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Virtual Reality (VR). This article will give an introduction of the possibilities of digital skills, focusing on cool developments in every track. If you like them as well, you can dive into them yourself or by checking the facebook page of the Faculty for updates!

Virtual Reality

This year, Casus, as part of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences, has created a Virtual Reality (VR) Lab. This lab enables students of the FSS to plan by looking directly into the planning environment. The second year course of Methods of Academic Research has been used as a pilot, in which students could alter the face of Zernike Campus by building roads, buildings, fountains, green spots, and lighting among many other things.

Cool, but why a VR Lab?

The idea of VR is more than a hundred years old and there have been quite some moments that people thought VR would really take off (but didn’t). Why would the Faculty jump on the VR train at this moment?

There are a couple of reasons for this. The technology has become cheaper, better and easier to develop for. Furthermore, as Gerd Weitkamp, one of the initiators of the VR Lab puts it, there is a professional demand for VR because of its immersive capabilities.

An example out of the field of activities is an application developed by ‘Tauw’, which enables users to use a Microsoft Holo Lens and to deduct a 3D image out of a 2D blueprint of a building. This makes visualizing the building in its surroundings much more easy.

Graphic Design

Whether you are presenting data for your study, an informative poster for your research or a report for your empoloyer, graphic design is of huge importance for attractiveness and perceived significance of your results.

Graph of global migration, published in Science (2014) by, among others, former FSS employee Nikola Sander.

How can such skills be achieved?

Although being able to handle professional design applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign you also have to learn how to make attractive design choices.

The workshops offered by Careers Company will focus on both aspects, namely handling the tools to create attractive design and making attractive design choices. After this, students should be able to apply their knowledge into the courses and field of activity, to produce better looking and more informative results.

Geographic Information Systems

Geographic data, such as GPS data, is often viewed and adapted by using a Geographic Information System. At the Faculty, a lot of students see GIS as the art of making beautiful and informative maps. However, there is a lot more to it when we look at the field of activities of GIS. Not seldom GIS is used without producing a single map, for example to analyse and to manage geographical data. Today, there is a lot of development in Geographic Information, of which the applications below are an example.

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing, as opposed to on-site sensing, enables you to monitor and act upon conditions without actually being in place. Last summer, Europe and many other regions experienced long lasting drought periods, during which the appearance of the continent changed immensely. As everyone could see in their direct environment, vegetation withered and grasses turned yellow. However, in-situ observations don’t give a lot of information about the impact of the drought on the whole continent. This is where remote sensing comes into place. By the use of analysing photographical data, of which the source could be drones, aircraft and satellites it is possible to compare current conditions with the conditions of previous years and expected values and finally, assess the damage.

Smart Cities

Every city gathers a lot of data about what is going on in that city, such as data about air quality, congestion, energy, logistics, economical feasibility and liveability. However, we see that this data is often gathered by using parallel systems.

The smart city concept urges cities to combine data, to evolve into overall smarter, interactive and more adaptable cities.

The city of Amsterdam noticed the city is full of parking spots that aren’t used all the time. Therefore, a lot of space goes to waste while at the same time, logistic transporters are finding it difficult to find a place to unload their goods. To  solve this spatial problem, the city experiments with smart parking places, monitoring the use of the spots and enabling citizens and logistic transporters to make reservations for them. This is a nice example of a movement towards a smart city.

CASUS: Interview

What is CASUS?

Asof one year ago, the Faculty of Spatial Sciences has access to a Centre for Advanced Studies in Urban Science and Design: CASUS. Girugten did an interview with Gerd Weitkamp, one of the initiators of CASUS.

The centre  has been founded to make the use of advanced digital skills more visible, to connect researchers who make use of those skills, and to improve education; teaching programmes with applying innovative and advanced digital skills. The centre does research how people use the spatial environment, for example by modeling human behaviour, and translates the conclusions of the models and the data to applicable planning and urban design theories.

CASUS in education: VR Lab

Gerd explains the VR Lab of the Faculty has been made possible by the grant he and Claudia Yamu have received for e-learning. According to Gerd, the lab is a bridge between innovative learning and urban design.

The pilot of the lab, with a model of Zernike Campus, has been received very well, although it could have been interesting have more flexibility by creating own models in VR. It is expected this feature will be added later on. It is a goal of CASUS, in collaboration with the Reality Center, to enable users to build a library of models from all around the world.

CASUS in research

The centre aims to be a hub of applicable technical knowledge and to bridge this knowledge to the rest of the Faculty and beyond. Connected researchers specialise for example in agent-based modeling, gps-analysis, space syntax, and VR, of which the concluded knowledge is combined with knowledge about urban design. The themes under research connect very well to the faculty goals, like healthy ageing and environment friendliness.

Want to know more? CASUS

This article was first published in the First year edition (Year 49 of Girugten – issue 01 -september 2018).