As we get ready to start the new semester, we wanted to let everyone know about some changes we’ve made to the computer science student lab. We try hard to keep keep our facilities set up in a way that matches the ways that our students work. These days, this increasingly means providing support for students using laptops. We’ve had “laptop stations” in the lab for a while, with a large monitor, external mouse and keyboard, and power connections for students using laptops.

This summer, we removed a few of our traditional desktop workstations in order to provide some additional options for students wanting to use their laptops, read, or just interact with each other:

New lab furniture for students using laptops, reading, or otherwise just hanging out.
New lab furniture.

Another way some people like to work in 2016 is by standing rather than sitting. We had the opportunity to bring a stand-up desk in as an experiment, just to see how students like it:

A stand up workstation for student use in VWF 115
A stand up workstation for student use in VWF 115

A last, perhaps more radical, change we are evaluating is reducing the number of physical workstations even more, by providing students with a “virtual machine” that they can use on their own laptops. This combination of software and hardware allows the department to provide a standardized set of software for students to use, while still allowing them the freedom of using their own computer. Dr. McFall’s summer research team used this environment successfully during the summer of 2016, and the students in CSCI 481, Senior Project Seminar, will be piloting the environment during the coming fall semester.

Got ideas for other ways we can improve our facilities? Feel free to make suggestions in the comments!

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