The brand-new £1.3million Smart Zone at Staffordshire University is a centre of invention and innovation. This incredible centre spans two floors and is paving the way for the next generation of creators, allowing staff, students and partners to bring their ideas to life using the latest digital and immersive technologies. On Thursday 7th November this centre was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Gloucester and I was honoured to be part of the ceremony – not only as the High Sheriff, but also as a Staffordshire University alumni!
Myself and my wife, Alison, were presented to HRH by the Lord-Lieutenant as they both arrived at the Mellor Building in Stoke-on-Trent. Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Martin Jones, then introduced HRH to Pro Chancellor David Gage MBE DL, Chair of the Board of Governors Colin Hughes, Dean of the School of Computing & Digital Technologies Professor Eunice Ma, and Dean of the School of Creative Arts & Engineering Professor David Hawkins.
A guided tour of the Maker Space (Digital Shed) was given by Professor Martin Jones, during which we were introduced to Technician Steven Lewis who provided us with an overview of what the students were currently working on. Head of Technical Services, Mr Tyrone Messiah, also accompanied us on our tour to help answer any technical questions we may have.
The tour proceeded past the 3D Printer Room and the 3D Factory (Bureau for Laser Cutting) before moving on to the second floor into the Immersive Technology Space, where we were given a virtual reality demonstration. We were also introduced to Technician Thomas Vine, who discussed the work that was being undertaken at the facility. We also visited the amazing Visualisation and Simulation Suite where we watched a demonstration of 3D scanning and Drone Activity.
The tour concluded with an introduction to students Liam Emery, Charlie Smith and Fallon Jay, who had won a Design Competition to have their artwork featured in the new Smart Zone. HRH presented these students with their prizes, before officially unveiling the plaque which announced the opening of the new facility.
I was blown away not only by the technology on display at the new Smart Zone, but also by the students and the staff, who displayed such enthusiasm, commitment and talent. It is a very exciting time for Staffordshire University, and it was an honour to be a part, albeit small, of its history.