There will be four IBM and four Macintosh computers specifically available for multimedia and collaborative projects. Two smaller rooms in the lab (one for IBM and one for Macintosh) will be devoted to multimedia resources such as authoring tools, scanners, and color printers.
Each computer in Pollock Lab is connected to the university "backbone" enabling high-speed connection to the Internet for research of library titles, Web navigation and e-mail access.
About thirty ethernet ports will be positioned above tables around the sides of the main room for students to plug in laptop computers for Internet access. Several more ports will be available in the collaborative/multimedia rooms.
Eight Hewlett-Packard laser printers continuously serve the printing needs of students in the new lab. The printers have been selected for their high quality resolution and their ability to withstand twenty-four hour high-volume demands.
Six Unix workstations will be available for research, database management and other academic needs.
There will be at least one consultant available twenty-four hours a day at the lab, and during peak times two or more consultants will be on site. Staff will perform periodic checks of the computer equipment throughout the day and night.
It's almost midnight and you're finally ready to type your paper. You haven't printed anything in the labs yet; you may need some help with that. You might also need help sending your paper to your professor by e-mail. What are your options? Thanks to a number of labs that are open 24 hours a day, finding a computer is easy. Even getting help at that hour is no longer a problem, thanks to Pollock Lab, the first computer lab on campus to provide continuous computer support. There will be at least one consultant available twenty-four hours a day at the lab, and during peak times two or more consultants will be on duty.
"I think always having a consultant available here is the big draw for most people," says Tim Taylor, a Mechanical Engineering major and lab consultant at Pollock. "If you have a question, there is always someone available24 hours a day." In addition, he mentions that a large number of printers at Pollock are available, "At some of the other labs, printing can take some time because there are so many jobs queued. But here there are so many printers that the wait is never more than about ten minutes."
The CAC's Network Operations Manager, Carl Knowlton, explains that the facility, nicknamed "the mega lab" was designed to meet the rapidly growing computer resource needs at University Park. "Students today need computers to support their studies and even extra-curricular and personal interests," states Knowlton. "With classes requiring more and more use of software and World Wide Web resources, we realized the pre-existing labs at University Park were not going to provide enough work space, especially for the students who don't have their own computers."
Several departments at Penn State worked together to open the largest computer lab at Penn State. The lab is located on the second floor of Pollock (Undergraduate) Library at University Park. "Pollock Lab is an example of how interdepartmental cooperation (OTC, OPP, the Library and CAC) can produce outstanding results for the betterment of student learning at Penn State. It is also in direct response to student requests to create a large facility so that they would not have to spend so much time going from lab to lab looking for a computer to use," explained Al Williams, Director of Distributed Systems Services in the Center for Academic Computing.
The new lab offers over 200 brand new computer workstations, state-of-the art software, and 24-hour accessibility and assistance. In addition, according to Gary Auguston, Executive Director of Computer and Information Systems, it will be one of the first Internet 2 capable labs. This means that if Internet 2 is developed in the next three to five years, as many predict, computers at Pollock Lab will be able to receive and send information at rates about fifteen times what is currently possible.
What does it take to construct a "mega lab"? The entire Pollock computer lab project, which included gutting and remodeling the upper division of Pollock Undergraduate Library, cost approximately $1.2 million. A student computer fee helped to offset equipment costs of $600,000.
Producing quality work while sticking to a schedule is difficult but essential, agreed Hoffman Popovich, architect for the project. "For me, the real challenge aside from the accelerated schedule was how to introduce 21st century technology into an aging 20th century building without real aesthetic and functional imposition."
Mike Tepsic, Renovation Crew Project Supervisor for the Office of Physical Plant, who served as the contractor for Pollock Lab, states that he did have a few worries during the project, "My biggest challenge in building Pollock Lab was that the first floor of Pollock Undergraduate Library was occupied throughout the construction time period. This situation presented some concerns for me, because the heating and airway systems had to be maintained acceptably for the downstairs. This part of the construction required careful management of time, materials and effort."
Lisa Berkey, Project Manager in the Office of Physical Plant, was responsible for leading the project team, providing the appropriate resources, and promoting teamwork for successful completion of the project. "The most rewarding part of this project was knowing that the students would benefit from a new state-of-the-art computing facility. The challenge of this project was the short time frame for project completion. Thanks to a great team effort, the challenge was met."
The designers, builders and administrators who've helped to create Pollock Lab want to see that their work is of practical value to students. States Tepsic, "What I enjoy most about all of the projects I work on is knowing that when the work is done, students will be able to use what I have constructed. When I am able to see that twenty years from now, something I helped create at Penn State is being utilized, and will continue to serve students needs in the future it's a great feeling."
By Heather E. Herzog, Center for Academic Computing