New pilot space debuts in Arlington

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CCI Lab 1
PhD student Yongxin Wang is driving a human-driven vehicle among automated vehicles on a driving simulator in the CCI Cyber Living Innovation Lab on Mason’s Arlington Campus. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

The first floor of Vernon Smith Hall has been converted into an innovation pilot space, foreshadowing work that will be done in George Mason University’s new Arlington Campus building.


Liza Wilson Durant, associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement in Mason’s College of Engineering and Computing, calls the space, which opened in May, “proof of concept. This is to be a microcosm of the new digital innovation headquarters and to mimic the ecosystem we will create in that building.”


The pilot space is home to two research labs and the Antonin Scalia Law School’s Innovation Law Clinic, where teams of students will provide free legal counseling to entrepreneurs, creators and inventors from the university’s internal and external communities.


As a managing member of the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII), Mason is leading CyManII’s East Coast headquarters, which will be housed in the new building. The CyManII Research Lab in the pilot space is occupied by graduate students working to test emerging cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing technologies and products.

CCI Lab 2
Computer science PhD student Daniel Delannes-Molka is setting up the “Skill Boss” conveyor system. The system is a miniaturized version of the type of manufacturing system used in Smart Manufacturing. When complete, wirelessly controlled robots will perform tasks, and the programmer can test the system for cyber-vulnerabilities. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

Mason also leads the Northern Virginia Node of Virginia’s Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI). The CCI Living Innovation Lab in the pilot space is a 5G testbed for researchers working on autonomous vehicles, energy grid security and manufacturing security. CCI university and corporate partners are expected to collaborate on research in this lab.


The space also houses a classroom, meeting rooms and collaboration spaces, drop-in office space for administrators from the Office of Technology Transfer and other areas, and an area for industry partners who want to co-locate in the new innovation ecosystem.


“The pilot space empowers [the Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA)] to work closely with corporate and public sectors, match their R&D needs with hundreds of our talented faculty, and create opportunities for them to engage with our students," said Kamaljeet Sanghera, interim executive director of IDIA, who is also a founding member of the Virginia Governor's STEM commission.


The new Arlington Campus building will feature up to 360,500 square feet of new space dedicated to producing the next generation of Northern Virginia’s technology workforce, both for the public and private sectors. The new building will be a mixed-use, multi-tenant space adjacent to Mason’s existing presence in Virginia Square, and it will house faculty from across the university who are engaged in research with the IDIA and serve as home to graduate programs in the new School of Computing.


Construction is slated to begin in spring 2022, and the building is scheduled to open in summer 2025.