If You Build It, They Will Compute
by Jeffrey van de Pol
Prompted by the success of The Station in the Memorial Union, IT-Information Resources in March opened a third open-access computer facility on campus.
Located in Room 301B of the Surge IV annex (west of the Silo), the new computer "lab" opened its doors the first week of March and was quickly discovered by students.
"The facility opened at 4 p.m., and by Tuesday afternoon the room was already filled and lines were beginning to form," says Peter Blando, operations manager for Lab Management. "Signs were posted at the other computer rooms, and it appears that the word has spread very quickly."
Open-access computer rooms, different from mixed use labs in that the rooms are never reserved for classes, have become an increasingly popular choice among students looking for a quick, reliable method of accessing the campus network while on campus.
The new computer room is equipped with 18 PC-compatible computers and 12 Macintosh computers, each with a standard package of campus software (including Microsoft Office). The room is open for use seven days a week.
The new open-access computer room in Surge IV is equipped with 30 computers.
As with The Station, the new computer room is in a convenient location. Situated next to the Silo (a hub of student activity), "The Surge" is close to a parking lot and several Unitrans bus stops, providing the quickest access of any on-campus computing facility.
Space for the new facility was made available through the assistance of the Office of the Registrar and the relocation of IT's Visualization Lab, which allowed Information Technology to come in and prepare the classroom for computer access.
The preparation was no simple task. While a computer room designed for classroom usage already exists next door in 301A Surge IV, extensive renovation of 301B was necessary to make the new space a viable computing workspace.
"A room full of computers and people produces a large amount of heat," says Blando. "Without sufficient ventilation, the area can quickly become uncomfortable. The previous ventilation system, while adequate for the room's original uses, wasn't deemed capable of handling the additional load and was completely renovated. The entire electrical system was also upgraded."
While the new facility is modeled on the success of The Station, recent studies by Lab Management have led to a few changes in the new facility.
The Surge IV computer lab features a higher percentage of PCs, reflecting the higher usage patterns of PCs in other labs. The PC stations are also equipped to read PC formatted ZIP disks, as an increasing number of students need a portable large-file alternative to the standard floppy disk.
Absent are the quick stations which require users to stand while accessing the campus network.
Blando says future expansion plans include a new computer classroom in 1 Olson by the summer, and general consensus is that it will prove as popular as its predecessors.
One can almost hear it in the air on campus: If you build it, they will compute.