Mac Lab drawing rave reviews
Walk down the main hallway in the center of Lafferre Hall, and the sheer newness of the recently renovated area stands out. Modern equipment, big display screens, large and inviting windows and more contribute to that sleek look.
One of the key improvements in the main MU College of Engineering building is a brand new, state-of-the art computer lab, known colloquially as the Mac Lab. This 80-seat, divisible lab space, along with its smaller sister lab on the second level, is key to providing critical resources to educate the next generation of leaders in information technology and computer science.
The main lab has 80 individual workstations with top-of-the-line iMacs. The workstations are divided into small rectangular groups, called pods, with a large 4K display monitor at each pod. Each workstation at the pod can share its screen with the monitor, and the course instructor has the capability to share to each of the display monitors in the room. This room can be divided into two, and typically is divided to support two classes at the same time. When split, the lab becomes one lab of 48 workstations and another lab of 32.
“When classes aren’t in session, what’s really neat about it is students can come in and either use the whole room for a big group project or work at a pod and have several different working groups going on outside of class hours,” MU Engineering IT Desktop and Technology Support Manager Brandon Rodewald said.
“From other people that have come into Engineering from other departments, everyone I’ve talked to has said it’s the nicest lab on campus.”
The additional space on the second level offers ports for students to share their laptop screens with the provided monitors. This space is used mostly for the IT Program’s Mobile App Development course.
Dale Musser, an associate teaching professor in the IT Program, was one of the key voices in the creation of the lab. He said that multiple brands of computers and equipment were demoed for faculty, and that the iMac systems were chosen for several reasons. First, iMacs can run both Apple’s OS 10 operating system and Windows. Also, they don’t generate much external heat, and their lack of external fans keep noise pollution to a minimum.
Those planning the lab during the Lafferre Hall renovation process also consulted with Campus Facilities to determine the most efficient layout of the rooms, as well as furniture. In the end, the College of Engineering ended up with a world-class, efficient, powerful and flexible computer lab to better serve its students and faculty.
“Based on a variety of people who have interacted with it … it’s pretty unique,” Musser said. “The exact kind of setup, 4K video distribution and other stuff makes us very unique.”
The lab also represents the massive gains made by the IT Program since its inception in 2005. The move up from smaller spaces to a cutting-edge facility corresponds nicely with how the program itself has evolved over time.
“That early experimentation and those early experiences helped us evolve the idea and formulate it to the point where it was a really cool thing,” Musser said. “If we had just jumped to the day where we were doing the renovation, we would not have what we have now.”