The room hums with activity: A navigator consults digital charts of the busy strait and directs the helmsman at the wheel, while technicians check the radar for surface vessels and other navigational hazards.
It looks and sounds like a day spent manning the nation’s maritime defenses, but these naval personnel aren’t operating a vessel at sea. They’re NC State Naval ROTC students training in the immersive environment of the Hunt Library’s Creativity Studio.
The Hunt Library is home to the most advanced version of the Navy’s Mariner Skills Simulator, a software program that helps midshipmen learn to navigate and communicate in real-world operational scenarios.
“The naval ROTC does this all over the country, but they’ve never had a classroom as immersive as this,” says Brian Bouterse, an academic technology librarian at the Hunt Library.
"The cutting-edge technologies being employed at the Hunt Library are a radical departure from our typical MSS classroom," said Eric Pfefferkorn, training systems program manager at the Naval Air Warfare Center. "Being located at Hunt (Library) gives the Navy the opportunity to teach in a truly virtual environment.
The room itself is as advanced as the gear inside it. With sliding screens and revolving walls, it can shift and split to become whatever a user needs.
The Creativity Studio is only one of the Hunt Library’s many immersive spaces that bring information to life. The library’s Teaching and Visualization Lab will take students to 17th-century London to hear sermons by poet John Donne, recreate crime scenes for forensic scientists seeking case-closing clues, and transport forestry students to the frigid Alaskan taiga and the sweltering Brazilian rainforest.
“Technology finally caught up with my ambition,” says John Wall, the English professor who is creating a digital simulation of Donne’s London.
The Hunt Library gives users the tools to build a world and step inside.