Immersive visualization has moved from a novelty technology into an essential tool for discovery and insight. The Shell 3-D Visualization Center at the University of Wyoming, highlighting a four-sided CAVE, assists users with new ways of thinking about data. By utilizing immersive visualization, the university and the state of Wyoming are rapidly gaining ground on their research and instruction, student and faculty recruiting, industry partnerships, and campus facilities planning.

It’s a common misconception that immersive visualization technology in a higher education setting is only used for graduate research and undergraduate teaching. Leveraging immersive technology across diverse disciplines enables different branches of sciences—such as mathematics, chemistry, and biology—to collaborate together on a project. These individuals stretch their own skill set, combining ideas across the education spectrum. By allowing technology to permeate every department, the university takes advantage of campus-wide, multi-stakeholder projects to ensure value across fields.  

Process and Design Review

Although a primary function of the Visualization Center is to educate and teach, the University of Wyoming also utilizes immersive visualization technology to improve campus operations and planning through virtual procedural and design reviews. In a current campus-wide project, a variety of departments utilize a virtual model of the university to ensure their designs and processes work optimally in their spaces. The facilities engineers streamline their processes by performing maintenance walk-throughs. The architecture department finalizes designs based on how a space’s functionality matches an individual building and overall campus layout. 

Energy ResearchVisualization at the University of Wyoming

As one of the biggest states for mining employment, Wyoming mining efforts include coal, natural gas, methane, and oil. At the Shell 3-D Visualization Center, faculty and students analyze oil and gas opportunities, and researchers work to gain new insights in mining locations and resource value. Geologists bring together various datasets to gain valuable insight on developing structure contours of key geological formations. In another application and in collaboration with Shell Oil Corporation, the decision makers use the CAVE to find the most economical, safe, and efficient path to string pipe from an offshore oil rig.

Departmental EducationEducation and Collaboration at Mechdyne

Although cross departmental collaboration and education is common and encouraged, the Shell 3D Visualization Center provides a powerful experience for specialized education and research. 

  • Architecture Walkthrough: Architectural and civil engineering students experience their architectural designs, evaluating lighting, doorway and window spacing, and infrastructure, gaining insights unable to realize in 2D or desktop evaluation.

  • Medical Sciences: The WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) Medical Education Program uses visualization technology to enhance anatomy education. 

  • Bimolecular Visualization: The department of Molecular Biology use the CAVE for molecular and protein analysis. 

This results in students consistently reporting that immersive visualization aids their understanding of complex information; and, faculty report that students grasp teaching concepts quicker. The immediacy of immersion allows students to rapidly see and share their insights with their classmates.

STEM Outreach

The College of Engineering and Applied Science supports professional development for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teachers, enabling them to the use the facility to demonstrate STEM curriculum to their students. For example, drones fly around campus, and users take the data to create 3D models for teachers to walk through and test utilizing technology in the classroom. Additionally, the Shell 3-D Visualization Laboratory is a showcase for the Energy Summer Institute STEM summer camp, open to Wyoming students. 

Energy Innovation Center

The Visualization Laboratory is only part of the university’s Energy Innovation Center. This research and collaboration facility includes laboratories, classrooms, meeting spaces, and highly technical research spaces. The Shell Corporation contributed $2 million for the construction of the 3-D Visualization Laboratory; the university matched the contribution.

For more information on how the University of Wyoming and other universities utilize immersive visualization, please see

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