COLLEGE PARK – After a three-year wait, the University of Maryland officially christened the opening of their new state-of-the-art, $152 million computer science and engineering center that will usher in a new era of computer technology inside the College Park campus.
University officials, donors and state dignitaries all came together on April 26 to officially open The Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, which will house the school’s growing science and technology classes. The building will also house a robotic center as well as research areas for cybersecurity, quantum computing, data science, virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
“The symbolism of the Iribe Center, in addition of its wide-open spaces, is between traditional academy and the technological future and economic development of the state of Maryland,” President Wallace Loh said.
Brendan Iribe, alum and co-founder of the virtual reality company Oculus VR, and the namesake of the building called the opening of the building “an important moment” for the school and an excellent replacement to the A.V. Williams Building and Computer Science Instructional Building.
He recalled visiting the campus in 2014 with fellow classmate and Oculus VR co-founder Michael Antonov and seeing the lack of growth of its computer science division.
“It was the same computer science building when I was here,” Iribe said. “It was unrenovated; they did not clean it up too much… And when we were walking around, I thought this was not super inspiring… this was not the space I remembered.”
The tour was the catalyst of creating the center. The cost of the project – $152 million – was largely funded by the state, placing $104 million for the new center, while Iribe, Antonov, professors and donors footed $38 million. The university also contributed $9.7 million in the construction costs to complete the project.
The building has already been in use by students as Maryland officials have slowly been opening parts of it before the grand opening ceremony. Four classrooms and three study areas were open to start the spring semester and going forward, the whole building will be use as the remaining floors have passed final inspections.
Gov. Larry Hogan attended the ceremony and presented Iribe with a state decree. State Senate Speaker Mike Miller said the location of the Iribe Center, located in front of the University’s main entrance on Route 1 on the east side of the campus, perfect and” the crown jewel of the campus.”
“This center will be celebrated as a point of pride for our state’s flagship university,” Hogan said. “And will insure Maryland continues to be a national and global leader for cutting edge technology and innovation.”
While the three-year project was completed on schedule, the ceremony, which was done on the school’s annual Maryland Day fair, experienced its own delay when hailing winds forced the local fire marshals to stop the outdoor ceremony. The official ribbon-cutting was completed inside the new Antonov Auditorium with Iribe joined by Hogan, Loh, Miller and other university officials, with a drone delivering a pair a scissors to end the ceremony.
The growth of the computer science curriculum has already triggered the addition of new programs moving from other universities to join Maryland in its ambition project. Research Assistant Professor Aniket Bera will be bringing his robotics program and graphics research from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to College Park after learning more about the enhanced possibilities.
Bera will be joining the GAMMA group as well as bringing his latest work of an “emotionally intelligent” robot that can read one’s facial and real-time emotions in order to best help a person during a difficult time. If one is sad, it will approach a person and tell them a joke. If a someone is angry, it will back away and give people more personal space.
In the future, maybe the robot can detect depression and anomalies in order to automatically alert authorities to follow up, Bera said.
“It tries to learn human personalities, traits,” Bera said. “So, you can be sad or aggressive, all these different feeling in a psychological perspective to try and give the robot a little bit more of a human aspect.”
Officials stressed at the start of the ceremony the Irbre Center will enhance its rating as a computer science school. However, the main goal of the center will also be a location that students can be creative and innovative with their projects with the university going forward.
“Those are those moments that you have to lead with your gut,” Iribe said. “And everything was pointing that to ‘yes, we have to do this’ and I encourage all of you to trust in your guy and lead with your guy because it can lead to extraordinary things.”