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March 1998


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Virtual Corporations Designing Products, Conducting Studies

In little more than a semester of full activity, Virginia Tech's two student-run virtual corporations have structured their organizations, completed some preliminary market and design studies, and begun developing the first of their systems.

The virtual corporations are a new professional educational paradigm involving student-run organizations that design real products, systems, and technology, based on actual market conditions. The virtual corporations go beyond the conventional student project experience, and simulate the professional corporate workplace. Students gain valuable, hands-on, interdisciplinary teamwork experience in which they can incorporate what is learned through their course work.

Distributed Information

Distributed Information Systems Corporation (DISC) is currently developing a prototype for a distributed information storage and retrieval system for the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine that will integrate multimedia data ranging from paper notes to real-time monitoring images with in-site hospital and remote access for veterinarians. When complete, the system will give decision-makers speedy and accurate information and help them with intelligent decision-support systems. The system has wide application in human hospitals as well.

Transit Technology

The second organization, called Personal Rapid Transit Systems (PERTS), is building a 20-foot model of a magnetic levitation system using switched reluctance motors, and conducting market and product research for dual-mode rapid transit systems in urban and national park areas. PERTS is also developing a simulation of the cargo movement within and around Norfolk seaport, in order to define business process difficulties and to help improve efficiency as the seaport expands.

Students have been involved in every effort of starting up both virtual corporations, including market and product research, recruiting, developing an environment conducive to teamwork, and developing secure intranets for intra-corporate communication, marketing, and financing.

According to student reports, in addition to gaining technical expertise, they are enjoying the experience and challenges in teamwork, personal responsibility, research - and working with others from different academic backgrounds.

"I have learned a lot from dealing with an engineer," stated one marketing major. "There is definitely a difference between how an engineer's mind works and a marketing student's works. We all started with the same thing and we all came to different conclusions."

The Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Virginia Tech

Last Updated, April 29 1998
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