|The author and his wife in front of the augmented reality Alma Mater statue at UIUC. Some of the digital statue's production was led by community fab lab organizers, which has been instrumental in producing "bits-to-atoms" outreach.|
When the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign needed to remove its 13-foot, 10,000 pound statute in August, 2012, due to a botched waterproofing treatment, the administration was under the impression that the statute would be back in time for the 2013 commencement.
As these things sometimes go, the effort is taking longer than expected, and is costing much more money. The previous effort at waterproofing the statute had trapped moisture inside the statute and caused much more damage. The budget has swelled from $100,000 to $360,000, with the Alma Mater now scheduled to return to its granite plinth sometime in the 2013-2014 academic year.
Posing in front of the Alma for pictures has been a longtime tradition of UIUC newly-grads. A multi-department collaboration brought back the statute in the nick of time for graduation, which drew expertise and equipment from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS).
Instrumental to the restoration effort were two members from the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab (CUCFL), Robert McGrath and Andrew Knight. McGrath, a retired computer scientist from NCSA, provided software integration, while Knight fabbed up a custom computer mounting solution. More on their lab in a minute.