Web, sweet web
The leap from one wired hall to nine will be accomplished by a $10.5 million project awaiting Board of Regents approval.
Competitive bids from two Iowa companies appear to meet all of the projects specifications, according to Dennis Rublaitus, telecommunications project manager for Design and Construction Services. His job has been to coordinate the work of his staff engineers with engineers from Information Technology Services, the contractor, and Residence Services staff.
For students (see sidebar) and those who recruit them, an all-wired campus today is a standard rather than an exception.
"In about 90 percent of the prospective-student interviews I have, students and their parents bring up campus wiring as a question," says Jill Hullinger, director of scholar recruitment programs for the Office of Admissions. "Especially among high-ability students, I get questions on how easy it is to connect with faculty members on line, how technology is being tied into classroom instruction, as well as how they can access their e-mail, surf the net, and check on their soap opera updates.
"Many families are assuming all the rooms are fully wired," she adds. "Theres a relief among the class of students were recruiting for fall 2000 that all the residence halls will be wired during their first year."
Typically 90 percent of incoming first-year students live in the residence halls, which accommodate 5,500 residents.
In his 14 years at the University, ITS engineer Brad OMeara has seen few projects that rival this one in scope and importance for students. Hiring outside contractors on the residence hall project, he says, is similar to the way work has been contracted on other major campus rewiring projects. Next month, for example, plans call for the eight field service technicians in ITS to finish work with contractors on rewiring 18 campus buildings and begin with another set of contractors to rewire 23 more academic and office buildings.
"Following all the planning and engineering work weve already done on the residence hall project, the work will proceed in three parts," OMeara says. "First, ITS sees that fiber optic cable service reaches each building on schedule. At the same time, contractors are building spaces to house switching equipment and pathways that will carry the wire from room to room. Thats the messy part of the project, the part that residents will notice most.
"Finally, the contractor will pull the wires to all of those connections. In some of the buildings were upgrading telephone service and working with Broadcasting Services to also upgrade wiring for cable TV."
OMeara says the projects specifications call for 380 miles of copper wire to connect each room to a switching closet and three miles of fiber optics to connect 32 closets to the campus backbone. The schedule dictates having three hallsDaum, Hillcrest, and Mayflowerwired by August, and the remaining hallsBurge, Currier, Stanley, Rienow, and Slaterbrought on line as theyre completed throughout the fall.
"In setting up specifications for the project, we worked with Residence Services to put together guidelines for work hours and notification of residents," OMeara says. "Different from classroom or office areas, our contractors will be going into someones home. Theres going to be some inconvenience and disruption, but we hope all involved will make it go smoothly and professionally."
Rublaitus points to a long-term partnership among Design and Construction Services, ITS, and Residence Services.
"We have a good team assembled from all sides," Rublaitus says. "Through our past projects, a good working relationship has evolved."
Maggie Van Oel, director of Residence Services and the client in the relationship, is pleased that a project long in the planning stages is up and running on an accelerated schedule.
"Theres no choice but that we have to make this type of service available to students in our residence halls," she says. "We saw use of the service in Quadrangle Hall skyrocket this year when it was made available at no extra subscription fee. Students are happy to say good-bye to slow-moving modems and having to use phone jacks that tie up their phone use."
Over time, student room fees will pay for the wiring project and on-going service, Van Oel says.
"A project like this can only help attract students to the University and enhance students education," she says.
Hullinger adds: "Five or six years ago it was fine to tell prospective students that theres an extra phone jack in their room to hook up a modem or that near their residence hall theres a computer lab thats open until midnight.
"Today, anytime we can provide more convenience for students, were sending a message that we are concerned with their needs and with having them get the most out of the resources available to them at the University."
by Greg Johnson