Jammed printers, unavailable computers and labs closing early are some of the problems students say they have in computer labs on campus.
Computer services hopes this will all change next semester when the Technology Education Collaboration and Help Center opens.
The 24-hour TECH Center will unseat a computer center at Virginia Polytechnic State University as the largest computer lab in the country. It will be housed in the Bell Building, on 12th Street and Montgomery Avenue and will open its doors to students and faculty on Jan. 5, 2006.
“The whole focus of campus will change,” Jerry Hinkle, director of computer labs operations, said. “This will become a social hub. It will be able to accommodate more people.”
According to Timothy O’Rourke, vice president of computer and information services, the combined cost for the TECH Center will be $17 million. The center will include the university welcome center, the student-run radio station, a help desk center, instructional center and Starbucks Coffee.
Hinkle said he thinks having these resources in one place will add to the overall convenience of the building.
“This is a technology hub. One-stop shopping,” Hinkle said.
Sheri Stahler, associate vice president for computer services agreed.
“When individual labs close around campus, students have nowhere to go. With these labs being open 24-hours, students will always have somewhere to go to get help,” Stahler said.
With 700 computers, it will be the largest computer lab of its type in the country, O’Rourke said. There will be 600 fixed computers and 100 laptops available for student use. About 15 percent of the computers will be Macintosh.
There will be six color-coded computer zones, which will include lounges for students, on the second floor. Also on the second floor, there will be 30 quick computer stations, which will only provide Internet access. There will also be 32 plasma screen TVs throughout the center.
Of the $17 million spent on the center, $5 million was spent on technology, Hinkle said.
“I think that this will be a good place to go to kill time between classes,” John Senay, a junior finance major, said. “Right now computers are at a premium in the library, so it will be good to go somewhere and know I can get on a computer.”
Six specialty labs will also be available for student use. These will include 25 ‘high-end’ computers equipped with video-editing software, CADD, music composing equipment and any other programs students may need to use in classes.
The center will also have 13 breakout rooms, which can accommodate up to eight students each. These rooms will provide areas for students to work on group projects and are available on a first come first served basis.
“Part of the idea of the TECH Center is collaboration,” Stahler said. “We’re hoping that this will provide a place where students can work uninterrupted.”
Two years ago, O’Rourke and his team toured various universities around the country including Howard University, Pennsylvania State University and Virginia Tech to get ideas for Temple’s new computer lab. Virgina Tech’s computer lab previously held the record as the largest computer lab in the country, totaling 500 computers.
“We wanted our lab to have a comfortable feeling. That is why we have it set up as a lounge,” O’Rourke said. “We are building this so that students can have a place to study.
“There won’t be any classrooms in the center,” he said. “We’re not trying to replace the Student Center. We’re hoping that this will complement it.”
Currently, the bulk of complaints students have about the computers is the dot-matrix printing, O’Rourke said. There will only be laser printing in the TECH Center. There will be a 500-page limit per semester.
“I’m excited for the new printers,” Chris Schaffer, a broadcast, television and mass media major said. “It’s pretty ridiculous the way things are now. I go into the library and I see a sign that says ‘printing jobs may be an hour and a half behind’ and a university this big really can’t have things like that going on.”
According to Hinkle, the university made a special arrangement with Dell to allow students to use Napster free of charge on computers in the TECH center.
Students will not be permitted to download songs.
In addition to using Napster, there will also be a video TV on the desktop. Students will need headphones to listen to the TV, but they will be able to watch the screen and do homework at the same time.
“This can only help us,” O’Rourke said of the TECH Center. “We have already established ourselves as a leader in technology. We want to continue the tradition.”
Rebecca Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.