sealPurdue Education and Career Briefs

December 1998

Virtual campus visits make real-life easier

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- College campuses are notoriously difficult for visitors to navigate -- public parking is limited, one-way streets abound, and buildings are frequently known by several different names.

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But a technical graphics professor in the School of Technology at Purdue University has found a way to take some of the trepidation out of navigating the school's West Lafayette campus. Using a software program that until recently has been applied almost exclusively to creating animated computer games, James Mohler has designed a two-dimensional, interactive map that allows a "virtual visit" by way of the World Wide Web.

While the software is not new, Mohler says Purdue is the first university in the country to use it in this manner.

"One of the difficulties I had in developing the virtual campus map was the lack of information on how to build it," Mohler explains. "The city of Bangkok in Thailand is the only other entity I could find that was applying the technology this way."

Mohler says the Macromedia Shockwave software produces something far more interesting and useful than the typical static street map you see on the Internet.

"Not only can you zoom in on a particular area of the campus, but we've set it up so that all of the buildings 'pop-up' when touched by the mouse pointer," Mohler explains. "Then you can click on the building to see a picture of it and learn more about what's housed there."

Web surfers also can click on various landmarks and points of interest that have been photographed in Quicktime video and then pan through a 360-degree view of the surrounding area.

"We're adding things to it all the time," Mohler says. "Right now you can see what it would look like to stand in the center of the football stadium or the basketball arena."

But perhaps the most useful feature is the building finder, which provides a complete list of campus facilities on a drop-down menu and then shows the user the precise location on campus.

The virtual map requires both Macromedia Shockwave and Apple Quicktime software, which are downloadable from the Web.

CONTACT: Mohler, (765) 494-9089; e-mail,

Students with 'right stuff' can get right starting salary

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Studying to become an astronautical engineer may not necessarily launch students into space, but it may very well land them a lucrative career.

"Astronautical engineering isn't just about being groomed to become an astronaut, although Purdue is proud to have many of its graduates go on to 'clock-in' among the stars, " says Kathleen Howell, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue University. "Our program is designed to make students employable in every aspect of space research, development and exploration."

According to industry experts, one area in particular is booming -- satellites. Pagers, cellular phones, direct TV and syndicated radio all depend on satellites to do their jobs. And before anyone can get beeped, buzzed or zoned-out in front of the tube, these satellites have to be built and launched into orbit. Industry reports indicate that more than 1,500 satellites -- mainly commercial -- will be launched in the next 10 years. Getting them built and launched is where astronautical engineers come in.

"And demand far exceeds supply," says Stephen Heister, Purdue associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. "This year alone, our office at Purdue received inquires for more than 400 jobs, and we know these companies could only find enough astronautical engineering graduates to fill half the positions. The 43 students graduating from the program in May received, on average, two to three job offers apiece."

The average starting salary for those who accepted employment was $41,388, according to Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities.

CONTACTS: Howell, (765) 494-5786; Heister, (765) 494-5126

Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

James Mohler, an assistant professor of technical graphics in the Purdue School of Technology, used a software program for designing computer games to create a Web site that provides a "virtual visit" to the university's West Lafayette campus. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
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