One year. One million visits. And one broken keyboard.
As the TECH Center celebrates its one-year anniversary, the facility has surpassed the expectations of its directors and administrators, said Jerry Hinkle, director of computer labs. Since opening its doors Jan. 5, 2006, the Technology, Education, Collaboration and Help Center has received more than 1,085,000 visitors.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by not only the numbers, but by the reception,” Hinkle said. “We’re not just calling it a computer lab. The TECH Center is more than a place to work – it’s a social place, a collaboration place.”
The center, which is known as the largest facility of its kind in the nation, has a laid-back atmosphere, Hinkle said. Students
are allowed to have drinks in the lab area, which is a risk that cost the directors $30 in more than a year of operation to replace a keyboard that was destroyed by liquid.
But the TECH Center is more than just a student hangout, Hinkle said. It has also become a model for college computer
labs around the world.
“Temple’s really gotten on the map with this,” Hinkle said, adding that representatives from Columbia University, Penn State and the University of Brazil have visited Temple to use the TECH Center as a blueprint to build their own facilities.
And for good reason. The development and execution of the TECH Center has won the university awards such as the Innovative Achievement Award from the National Association of College Auxiliary Services. The facility has also been profiled in many trade magazines, Hinkle said, including information technology magazine “CIO Magazine”, which ranked the university among the “Bold 100” for embracing a significant risk for the sake of a great reward.
The center received media coverage from FOX 29 News when it conducted a live broadcast from the lab area. Michael Dell, chief executive officer of Dell Inc., also made an appearance, taking a tour of the TECH Center during his visit to Philadelphia.
Averaging 6,000 visits a day, the 24-hour facility often has a line of students waiting to enter outside its main doors. But Hinkle said feedback and suggestions from students are taken seriously since they are the primary users of the area.
“Change is one of the things we pride ourselves on,” he said. “This is not a static project.”
Over the course of the year, the directors have added a copy machine to the print lab and a dub rack that assists students in transferring video from one format to another in the video editing lab. Both of those additions were based on students’ ideas, Hinkle said.
In addition to the lab area, the Computer Services Help Desk has thrived in its new location with a 36 percent increase in student usage since it relocated from the ground floor of Wachman Hall last year.
On the first floor of the TECH Center is the Welcome Center, the first stop for prospective students and their families when they visit Temple. Niki Mendrinos, assistant director of admissions, said visitors have different opinions of the center.
“There’s always a mixed reaction,” she said. “Some students and parents expect a lot of computers in today’s age, and others are fascinated and overwhelmed by all of the technological advancements.”
The Welcome Center, which has a reception area and a 100-seat auditorium, has had more than 11,700 visitors since January 2006, Mendrinos said.
Still, one of the most popular attractions in the TECH Center is the Starbucks. The franchise also has been successful in its year of operation, manager Ben Hamilton said.
“We’re an extremely high-volume store. We’ve done very well here,” he said, adding that the TECH Center location has been the No. 1 store in Philadelphia in terms of sales.
Students should not be discouraged if they see a line to the door, Hamilton said. The average wait for coffee from that point is four minutes and 45 seconds, he said.Temple is the second university in the United States to have a Starbucks franchise on campus. The University of Arizona was the first.
“College campuses receive Starbucks very well,” Hamilton said.
Junior political science major Rahul Gaitonde said he embraces the versatility of the TECH Center.
“It’s a very interactive area because you can watch TV, listen to music, do your work, socialize and work with others all in one convenient location,” he said.
Junior Matt Shichtman, who commutes from West Philadelphia, agreed that convenience
is one of the best aspects of the Center.
“It’s the easiest place to get a computer on campus,” the film and media arts major said. “You can always find a computer and I love the free printing.”
The success of the TECH Center has also had an impact on the campus’s other computer labs because the directors are applying what they learned working in the Center to other Temple projects, Hinkle said.
Similarities to the TECH Center can be found at the new Ambler Learning Center, which has 90 workstations, a lounge area and a breakout room. The new medical school building on the Health Sciences Campus and potential renovations to Tuttleman Learning Center will also use the TECH Center as a model for design.
For the next year, Hinkle said the TECH Center will continue to see changes as the new Windows Vista operating system is in testing stages. Replacement computers have also been lined up for five years from now when they may be needed, he said.
“The one thing that will not change is the atmosphere that students seem to love,” Hinkle said.
“The TECH Center has exceeded our wildest expectations. But actually seeing the students and the traffic is what counts,” Hinkle said with a smile. “It’s become a home away from home.”
Chris Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.