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The Duke of Gloucester unveils new Smart Zone at Staffordshire University

The Duke of Gloucester with Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University Professor Martin Jones

The Duke of Gloucester has officially launched the Smart Zone facility at Staffordshire University in a ceremony held yesterday.

His Royal Highness was invited to view facilities which are designed to equip students for jobs of the future during his visit to the Stoke-on-Trent campus.

The Duke officially opened the £1.3m Smart Zone which provides students with the tools and technologies to undertake project work in areas including sustainable power, AI and robotics, games and visual effects, self-driving vehicle design and wearable technologies.

The largest collaboration space on the University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus, The Smart Zone opened to students in September and is available to those from a wide variety of degree courses and those undertaking Higher and Degree Apprenticeships in creative and digital technologies.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Jones said: “We are excited about the visit and are looking forward to showing His Royal Highness our flagship facilities and the innovative work of our students.”

“The Smart Zone actively promotes the importance of project work and working collaboratively with industry partners who are also invited to make use of the space and equipment.

"Above all, this demonstrates that we are investing in our students who are making the transition from University to industry professionals.”

The Smart Zone spans two floors of the Mellor building and incorporates a ground floor maker-space, known as “the Digital Shed”, with work benches and access to a range of laser cutters, machine and milling tools for use by engineers, product designers and artists.

There is also a 3D Factory which, staffed by technical experts, offers advice and instruction on a wide range of 3D printers.

An impressive high-spec computer room, where new software and hardware is constantly being developed and tested, can be found on the first floor of The Smart Zone close to dedicated project space where students can elect to use one of the PC's provided or work on their own laptops.

Rooms dedicated to immersive technologies – including Green Screens and a VIVE equipped Virtual Arcade – can also be booked by students who are seeking to emulate the physical world in a computer game or app.

Students on a range of specialist computing degrees will also benefit from a dedicated XR development space, helping them take their learning to another level.

Completing The Smart Zone is a large visualisation and simulation room to allow for large scale 3D scanning and indoor drone flight – a facility which is also paving the way for the University’s exciting “connected curriculum” and new subjects including architecture.

The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of the exciting new facilities and met student competition winners whose creative designs can be seen throughout The Smart Zone.

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