New media and technology center connects students with Comcast

Center opens door to interdisciplinary innovation, partnerships with businesses to create workforce of the future

March 6, 2017

For Min-Hyung Choi and about 100 people from the CU Denver community and Comcast Cable, the moment to celebrate had finally come. After two years of planning, the Comcast Media and Technology Center is finally a reality, with its gleaming new space in the Tivoli Student Union now complete.

The Comcast Media and Technology Center is a partnership between the University of Colorado Denver and Comcast, which supported the creation of the center and its academic activities with a cash and in-kind contribution valued at $5 million. The College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) and the College of Arts & Media (CAM) will manage the center, and students and faculty will get to work together on projects along with Comcast personnel.

Choi, a professor of computer science and engineering in CEAS, is co-director of the center, which opened with a celebration on March 2. As he looked around the renovated space in the lower level of the Tivoli, he likened the moment to seeing your dream house finished—if your dream house eventually would be filled with enough of the latest technology to make a tech startup jealous.

What students create could include new user interfaces, computer games, virtual reality projects or just about anything that blends technology and art. Choi, who also directs the Computer Graphics Laboratory, already is thinking big.

“We don’t have any predefined limits about what topics we’ll be doing and what will come out of this center,” he said. “This is the starting point for now. I think we have a lot of interesting ideas.”

An enthusiastic partnership

Matt McConnell, Comcast Technology Solutions’ senior vice president and general manager, also felt the excitement.

“I’m excited, I’m thrilled, I’m a bit giddy to walk through these halls and see this come to fruition,” McConnell said. “Where this journey takes us, I don’t know, but I do know with smart people and a great relationship, we’re going to do great things.”

McConnell said Comcast’s hope is that it will deepen its ties with CU Denver and “create the workforce of the future.”

“The world is changing so fast that we need really smart engineers and creative types to solve what’s changing at light speed,” McConnell said. “From our perspective, there’s no greater partner” than CU Denver.

Chancellor Dorothy Horrell said students in engineering, the arts, media and technology will now get the chance to work on interdisciplinary teams “just like they will in the real world.”

The impact also could extend beyond the classroom or workplace.

“It’s a state-of-the-art place where our university works with a leading industry partner to not only meet workforce needs but to develop new thinking and new approaches to the emerging issues of today and tomorrow,” she said.

Beyond academic boundaries

The center looks like the hip new office of an upcoming tech company, with widescreen monitors and flexible space to encourage collaboration. Soon students and the latest digital technology will fill it, and Brian DeLevie, a CAM professor who co-directs the center, expects the center to enable CU Denver students and faculty to unleash their creativity.

“Between the two colleges, there isn’t really anything we can’t create,” said DeLevie, who also is the chair of CAM’s visual arts department.

Comcast Media and Technology Center opening celebration
The Comcast Media and Technology Center during its opening celebration. Robert King Photography

The center will feature the latest digital technology and be upgraded over time to keep up with the latest trends and advances, DeLevie said. He thinks its greatest value will come from helping students and faculty find new ways to work—both with each other and with businesses.

“One of the missions of the center is to break down silos, to be interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary in our research endeavors,” DeLevie said. “We want to take what the colleges do and extend it. We plan to reach out to businesses and say, ‘You have a problem? Hire us to do your research and development.’”

While the opening gave everyone cause for celebration, the co-directors already were looking ahead, thinking about potential projects, classes and partners.

“What’s completed is the construction. It’s like a house—the people make it a home,” Choi said. “We’re going to bring more people here and are looking at a lot of new projects.”