Tech Center Transformation
While many college students still cram for exams by sitting quietly in a corner of the library, more students are studying while sitting in front of the television or listening to music. Philadelphia's Temple University designed its new Teaching, Education, Collaboration, and Help (TECH) Center with these students in mind.
The VBrick enables Temple to connect with the students by offering entertainment resources, Hinkle says. “We have found that students enjoy having the ability to view the television stream while working on assignments,” he says. “Most students have become accustomed to multitasking by studying and writing papers while viewing live television and listening to the latest on the pop charts.”
Students can watch videos, practice presentations, or meet with study groups in the multimedia breakout rooms.
While Temple installed the VBrick primarily to offer entertainment to its students, the TECH Center staff is aware of the its other capabilities and is currently investigating their potential, Hinkle says. For example, other universities stream video of classroom lectures over the network.
Because Temple is a public research university with an urban campus and a growing residential population, the university made it easier for students to work on team projects by building 13 multimedia breakout rooms within the TECH Center. Each room features flat-panel displays, white-boards, surround sound, and AV racks including VCR, DVD, and mini-DV units.
The TECH Center also features specialized labs for video editing, graphic design, software development, and music composition. The video editing lab is equipped with Dell computers running Avid video editing software and Macs running Apple's FinalCut editing software with Sony HD DV decks. The Macs in the music lab run such programs as ProTools and Digital Performer and offer DigiDesign Mboxes and MIDI keyboards. Temple is also installing two WhisperRoom sound isolation booths, which will allow students to create audio recordings and vocal narrations.
The TECH Center is open 24 hours a day, and students come to the center to not only work on academics, but also to socialize with others.
“Students come here all hours of the night to do work,” Hinkle says. “If you come here at three or four in the morning during peak times in the semester, you'll see 300 or 400 students working.”
Designing the TECH Center
Temple renovated a former regional data center, which was used by a company with facilities on the campus. The raised floors worked well for the wiring, but because the mainframe computers were generating heat, the university had to retrofit the HVAC and do other physical alterations, Hinkle says.
Temple set aside more than $3 million just for the technology, which includes a $650,000 budget for AV, Hinkle says. The university installed 31 wall-mounted plasma and LCD displays throughout the facility to display information and entertainment for students including cable TV, PowerPoint presentations, and real-time displays of computer usage. The TECH Center linked these displays together at a head-end using AMX control systems.
Temple's technology budget also covered the cost of the wired coffee tables, 100 loaner laptops, and 600 desktop computers. The center added 25 percent more PCs on campus without increasing IT staffing by consolidating the other campus computer labs into the TECH Center.
The TECH Center is the first stop on Temple's campus tour. In addition to the breakout rooms, lounge areas, and music and video editing labs, the facility also features a student lounge on its second floor, a student-run radio station, and a faculty wing.
Many prospective students have made the decision to attend Temple University after visiting the TECH Center, Hinkle says. “It blows them away,” he says. “When they see that they can watch MTV and do work on their computers, they get excited.”
Amy Fischbach is an Overland Park, Kan.–based freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.