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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
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`Virtual groundbreaking' highlights momentous weekend

By David Nutter

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 04 - September 18, 1997

Some 30 members of the Virginia General Assembly joined with university officials, members of the Board of Visitors and alumni leaders from around the country for a celebration of Virginia Tech's 125th anniversary Friday and Saturday. The weekend was highlighted by the "virtual groundbreaking" of the new Advanced Communications and Information Technology Center (ACITC) building.

The weekend celebration was also a time for the university to honor the General Assembly for its support of the university. House of Delegates Speaker Tom Moss (Class of 1950) presented a resolution honoring Virginia Tech's contributions to the state. Moss was honored Saturday by the university when Research Building #1 was renamed in his honor.

State Senator John Chichester of Fredericksburg, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and Class of 1959 alumnus, presided over the "virtual groundbreaking." U.S. Senator Chuck Robb also attended the groundbreaking and expressed his support for the facility and the work that will be conducted there.

The $25-million building, Virginia Tech's 150,000-square-foot bridge to the future, will be a center for new forms of teaching and learning. The building will be located across the Mall, and will include a wing perpendicular to Newman Library and a wing parallel to the Mall. The most distinguishing feature of the building will be the bridgeway across the Mall connecting the library.

Specifically, the building will allow faculty members to explore new forms of technology-based classes, study human/computer interaction, and teach students in virtual-reality rooms.

President Paul Torgersen was able to secure $12.5 million in funding for the building from the General Assembly and an additional $12.5 million was raised from private sources.

So what is a "virtual groundbreaking?" With the help of Tony Distler, alumni distinguished professor and director of Virginia Tech's School of the Arts, visitors were first treated to a laser light display. Then Torgersen, Robb, Chichester and Professor Lucinda Roy each entered a special code word into a computer, thus activating the countdown sequence. The code words: partnership, university leadership, state commitment, and private support symbolized the effort's needs at the federal, state and local level to build the facility. Then with the magic of digital animation, an "explosion" rocked the Mall and the ACITC building appeared.

The animation enabled attendees to drive down the Mall and go under the bridge and then fly up and around the new building in a 360-degree aerial view. Later, attendees were able to walk virtually inside the building and tour the classroom and research spaces.