Extreme Makeover: Computer Lab Edition

In less than three months, Gavett 244 was completely renovated and transformed into a spacious 66-seat computer lab equipped with the latest educational technology. Reopened in January 2011, the lab offers nearly double the number of student workstations with a suite of applications for Arts, Sciences and Engineering undergraduates, with an emphasis on meeting the special needs of the engineering disciplines.

Panoramic view of the new workstations in Gavett 244

“The expanded space makes economically viable the new, required, first-year engineering course CSC160,” said Christopher M. Brown, Ph.D., professor of computer science. “Without the new space, we would need the professorial teaching equivalent of four classes. In the new room, only two sections are needed.”

The project began in October 2010 with the demolition of the wall separating the existing classroom in Gavett 244 and Gavett 247, which was formerly a lounge. LeChase Construction gutted the entire space, removing everything from the ceiling down to the carpet. To improve traffic flow through the expanded room, two doorways were filled in with brick matching the existing material, and two new entryways were created to meet current code.

Technology upgrades began in mid-December 2010 with the installation of an audio/visual system, including two widescreen projectors and screens at the front of the room, a pair of 46-inch LCD panels, a wireless microphone for presenters, and speakers throughout the ceiling for better sound distribution.

Control panel screen in Gavett 244
Touch panel control system

The new instructor station contains a computer, laptop connection, and DVD/VCR player to provide faculty with a range of presentation options. A touch panel control system also allows faculty to manage the room’s lighting, sound, and displays at their fingertips.

IT staff replaced the student workstations with new computers equipped with high resolution 24-inch monitors, whose built-in SD card readers let students upload media directly to their computers. Each computer features more than 40 applications, including specialized engineering software that was not previously accessible.

The workstations now have access to two signal networks that allow students to plug test equipment into the network and analyze and visualize test data in a program such as MATLAB.  Brown explained, “The versatile wiring in Gavett 244 also supports demonstrations and experiments done in front of the class.  Sensor data from the single experiment can be shared in real time with each student workstation… so the analysis phase of such experimental work can be done by everyone.”

Mat Felthousen ’96, assistant director of classroom technology, helped coordinate the effort and fast turn-around. “It has been satisfying to see the project progress from concept to implementation,” Felthousen said.