George Lucas may not realize that the computer-generated imagery for his 1977 "Star Wars" movie was created at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 1976, California artist Larry Cuba was hired to create a computer model of the Death Star that is used in the Rebel Alliance briefing room scene. Cuba spent several months at the UIC Electronic Visualization Laboratory (previously called the UIC Circle Graphics Habitat) and used its computer graphics hardware and software to create the animation.

The Death Star data still exist, the equipment still exists and, more serendipitously, the equipment still works.

"Star Wars” came out years before Lucas created Industrial Light & Magic, and years before he created its precursor, the Lucasfilm computer graphics research group, which ultimately became Pixar.

Meanwhile, the UIC Electronic Visualization Laboratory continues to educate the next-generation workforce and to advance interdisciplinary research by designing and developing computer graphics, visualization and virtual reality technologies and techniques. Over the years, our students have gone to work for ILM and Pixar and other special effects houses, as well as at companies, national laboratories, museums and universities.

UIC applauds Lucas’ choice of Chicago for his museum, and while he does not yet feel a deep connection to our wonderful city, he does have deep roots here. UIC combines the best of Lucas’ pioneering work in computer graphics with the goals of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which focuses on innovative classes that incorporate digital multimedia and telecommunications technologies to engage and educate students.

The UIC Electronic Visualization Laboratory welcomes a visit, but more so an opportunity, to again contribute to Lucas’ legacy, in helping design and develop some of the museum’s technology-based exhibits.

-- Maxine D. Brown, director, Electronic Visualization Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago