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IU hosts two high-tech conferences—in the same week

This year’s HPSS User Forum and Campus Alliance for Advanced Visualization co-shared the Indiana Memorial Union for a few days of workshops and networking

Research and discovery Nov 4, 2019

On a crisp fall week in October, people at Indiana University’s Alumni Hall were transported to the most unlikely of places—the inside of a dog.

With the help of a virtual reality headset, IU’s Advanced Visualization Lab (AVL) gave people a sneak peek through not only the internal structures of a canine, but also a rattlesnake and an alligator. The AVL also let people hold renowned IU administrator Herman B Wells. A miniature, 3D printed version of his iconic campus statue, that is.

Meanwhile, the IBM TS4500 Tape Library, only a few feet away, was a remarkable sight. While it looks like a vending machine for tapes, this model of IBM’s tape library provided a literal window into the next generation of storage solutions for different types of enterprises.

Two very different fields of technology under the roof of the country’s largest student union. What exactly is going on here?

The woman behind the CAAV

Emma Jane Alexander, manager of the Shell 3D visualization center at the University of Wyoming, collaborated with the Mechdyne Corporation to bring the CAAV to life.

It was all part of two different events, the HPSS User Forum (HUF19) and the Campus Alliance for Advanced Visualization (CAAV) conference, both hosted by IU’S Research Technologies division in October.

“Hosting these conferences fits into IU’s strategic plan relating to outreach and education,” said Robert Ping, manager of education and outreach for UITS Research Technologies. “UITS and the Pervasive Technology Institute at IU have become known for bringing user communities together in order to take advantage of expertise and training, share ideas to accelerate IU’s supercomputing prowess, and network with folks in the field to stay abreast of current topics.”


The High Performance Storage System (HPSS) collaboration began in fall 1992 with IBM Houston Global Services and five national laboratories. Its goal was to produce a highly scalable high-performance storage system. HPSS also offers user forums to give people a chance to network.

HUF19 included workshops exploring the importance of HPSS around the world, IU’s 20-year history of HPSS, and the HPSS issues organizations face, among others.

“It’s really good to see what other institutions and organizations in the HPSS consortium are doing with HPSS and what challenges they’re facing,” said Christine Garrison, a system administrator with IU’s Research Technologies division. 

The HUF conference attracted 77 attendees from 11 states and six countries.

Next-gen storage

IBM employees (left to right) Carlos Castro, Robert Reid, Lee Jesionowski, and Keith Neuman stand with the S4500 Tape Library.

The CAAV19

The CAAV is a newer organization and still growing. It promotes the use of large-format visualization displays and advanced visualization software, and brings this community of users together to share their work and ideas.

The CAAV was founded four years ago by Emma Jane Alexander, manager of the Shell 3D visualization center at the University of Wyoming. She collaborated with the Mechdyne Corporation, which specializes in audiovisual and information technologies, to make this volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization come to fruition.

For the first three years, it brought together academic communities. However, they began to get more interest from members who came from non-academic environments. Now they are an organization open to everyone. 

“The real strength of the CAAV is the diversity of who comes and what’s presented,” said Alexander. “Sometimes we can have a technically heavy, pretty intense presentation that might have information to do with mathematics, graphics, compute, and computing architecture, and different methods of rendering. And the next presentation might be someone talking about how to make a multimillion-dollar facility sustainable.”

CAAV workshops included “Immersive Visualization for Women’s Health,” a look at how VR technology can be useful for expecting mothers; and “VR Hot Air Balloon Ride Enhanced with 4D Effect Using cy.PIPES,” which showcased technology that enables wind and heat effects. Forty-six attendees from 19 states and two countries came to Bloomington for the event.

Where networking happens

Attendees of both conferences had plenty of time to mingle with one another at evening receptions. One took place in the Cyberinfrastructure Building (CIB) lobby, where attendees got to see the IQ-Wall and play around with the Science on a Sphere. They also toured the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI) building and IU’s Data Center.

For more information on these events and others hosted at IU, visit

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