Biology Study Area Upgrade
The Biology Study Area (BSA) has served students as a computer lab and study area for 20 years. This proposal requests funds to upgrade 5 year old computers (funded by a previous STF grant) with current hardware. A key component of this proposal is the move away from monolithic desktop computers in favor of compact computers and independent monitors that can be quickly connected to student laptops. This configuration will increase working space, augment student laptop displays and enhance collaborations.
Many students use the BSA: up to 200 each day across all majors.
Students hear about the BSA from several sources: announcements in Biology courses, Biology advisers, the map of campus computer labs and the SpaceScout mobile app.
The BSA is used by courses less than 5% of its open hours (8 am - 5 pm Mon-Fri) and even while courses are using the room there are computers and study tables reserved for drop-in use.
The BSA is also available for multi-day software sessions - primarily simulations - by arrangement with the staff.
The BSA is one of two general access computer labs on South Campus. It is a 4-minute walk from Red Square.
The number of computers and tables is appropriate for the need: students almost never have to wait for a computer or a table when they need one. Both Windows and Mac operating systems are available on each computer.
By making connections between laptops and large monitors quick and easy, the BSA becomes more valuable to students who bring their own laptops. Students with laptops have ready access to their own files and software while also being able to use power outlets, work with a second, larger monitor and print to a high-quality printer.
The Biology Study Area (BSA) has served 100-200 students/day for the last 20 years. Initially funded by a 4-year Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant, the computers have been kept current by three previous STF grants. Because of the quiet, spacious and helpful environment found there, many students work in the BSA on a daily basis. The BSA is staffed constantly by both biologists and computer experts and its operating expenses are supported fully by the Department of Biology. Textbooks can be checked out, questions about software or Biology can be answered, study groups can meet - the BSA strives to provide for any need a student may have to succeed in their studies. But it can an even better, more flexible resource.
While many students bring laptops to campus, built-in computers in computer labs still provide a consistent suite of software, dedicated network connections and relatively large displays. This proposal would fund the transition from a room where laptops must compete for space with built-in computers to one where built-in computers are mounted below each work surface and displays can be connected to either built-in computers or student laptops simply and quickly. This provides students with more than one option for getting their work done: if they need to use specialized software they can use the built-in computers; if they have a laptop, they can work on their own computer and take advantage of access to power outlets and a larger display. Or they can use both simultaneously if one machine is running a lengthy process. Students without laptops are not at a disadvantage as built-in computers are always accessible. Students are overwhelmingly in favor of this plan. In a recent survey of BSA users, 77% believed dual-input displays would add value to their work.
In addition to the reconfiguration of computers and displays, the department has funded the purchase of a replacement projector that is capable of wireless connecting to any computer in the room. This combination will provide all students in the BSA with the ability to project from their laptop or a built-in computer - to their group or the entire room. This is an exciting strategy for augmenting collaborations and facilitating presentations.
Benefits to Students and the University
The BSA is a resource for students to acquire skills as they expand their knowledge. They routinely practice collaboration, analytical thinking, communication and meta-cognitive reflection as well as a wide variety of computer-related tasks. With the assistance of BSA staff, students can augment their computer skills in a number of ways, including but not limited to office applications, graphics, video production, statistics, simulations and modeling, programming and informatics. These skills make students more attractive as prospective employees in any discipline and serve as a foundation for lifelong learning.
This request will directly benefit hundreds if not thousands of students. By direct count, 100 to 200 students use the BSA each day during the regular academic year. These numbers are lower in summer. Because Biology is currently the largest major on campus (approximately 1,500 majors) and one quarter of all UW students will take the Introductory Biology series in the same building, the potential number of students who could benefit by the BSA is in the thousands.
The Biology Study Area is used extensively both for formal classroom instruction and for informal gatherings of students to collaborate on computationally-demanding coursework. In my role as an instructor, I have scheduled the BSA to give students hands-on experience with data analysis and visualization using a variety of software tools. As Biology’s department chair, I have observed that the BSA is a hub of constant student activity, well-supported by staff who offer helpful advice to students, as well as keep the computer hardware and software fully functional. Biology is by far the largest undergraduate major on campus, so the BSA serves an enormous clientele.
Professor and Chair
Department of Biology
In Biology 356, I use BSA computers for four of the 10 labs. Using them for the statistics lab is particularly important, because
the online resources that demonstrate important concepts are notoriously hard to get to work on individual computers (Java-
based). But, because of the good work of the BSA staff keeping workstations updated, they always work there. Google Earth is
also reliable there, and less so on individual laptops. So thanks for making those resources available to students - it really helps
Dr. Jennifer Ruesink, Professor
Department of Biology
I use the BSA computers for Biology 355, to teach students about protein structure and interactions. The students work with a very specific application for molecular modeling in three-dimensions, which they are able to interact with by changing aspects of the model, rotation and zooming. It really only works if all students are together in one computer lab, where we are able to assist them with the application and answer questions, as well as project examples onto the screen. They then are able to return to the BSA at any time to review and complete work. It is a fantastic resource.
Mandy Schivell, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Biology
"The BSA has been absolutely indispensable to my Biology 481 course. In this course, we have students design, troubleshoot, execute and analyze their own experiments using the digital evolution software platform, Avida-ED. The staff at the BSA has worked with my TAs to download the latest versions of the software and test their functionality every year we offer this course. Together, we use the BSA to introduce the students to the program (and conduct sample exercises on the machines in the BSA). In order to conduct their experiments, the students need access to computers with this software for several hours outside of class. The staff at the BSA has been extremely helpful and flexible, answering questions about the software when students ask and allowing the students to run their experiments over nights and weekends using the machines in the BSA. This experience of running real-time evolution experiments on digital populations is deeply impactful for many of our students. Indeed, conducting these experiments illustrates evolutionary concepts that are difficult to learn in any other way. The BSA makes this transformative experience possible."
Professor, Dept. of Biology
All hardware and software can be installed and configured within 1 week of delivery.
Resources Provided by Department
Staffing by Biology and computer experts (1 1.0 FTE plus 2 student assistants).
Dawg Prints color printer
Power at each table
Projector with wifi connection capability
Video adapters for student laptops
Access Restrictions (if any)
None. The Biology Study Area is open to all UW undergraduate and graduate students regardless of major.
"This upgrade would be monumental to students. I’ve always wanted to connect my personal laptop to a display.”
"Great hidden gem of Hitchcock. Wish I know about this earlier."
“The BSA computers are starting to show their age and could easily become an even better resource if they were upgraded/replaced.”
“The added versatility of external monitors for laptops plus new computers would definitely benefit a lot of students who use the BSA.”
“Easy collaboration is a big reason to come to the BSA and bigger monitors with the ability to hook up laptops would make sharing/presenting work to other students a lot easier."
"Thank you for providing this room for students!!"
2.6GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz) with AppleCare Auto-Enroll
This model provides the best cost/performance ratio. In addition, it has the smallest footprint of any desktop computer while still providing the most commonly-needed ports for data transfer (USB 3, Thunderbolt and SD card). By using standalone CPUs instead of all-in-one iMacs, students with laptops will be able to plug into the same monitors used by lab computers.
ViewSonic VX2452MH 24-Inch LED-Lit LCD Monitor, Full HD 1080p, 2ms, 50M:1 DCR, Game Mode, HDMI/DVI/VGA, VESA
These monitors have been used extensively throughout our department. They are clear, bright and very inexpensive for their feature set and performance class. They provide three of the most common input types (HDMI, DVI and VGA), enabling us to have each monitor cabled for connections to the built-in computers or any kind of laptop computer a student might bring to the lab, including very old models.
Tryten Mac Mini Mount
The Mac Mini is small enough to be easily stolen if not secured. This mounting bracket secures the CPU to the table while allowing free access to USB and other ports.
BlessingYou HDMI to DVI Cable 3.2 feet Male-Male
These cables would connect each built-in computer to a monitor. Separate HDMI and VGA cables would be pre-connected to each monitor for easy switching between built-in computers and student laptops.
AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable - 3 Feet (0.9 Meters) Supports Ethernet, 3D, and Audio Return
These cables would be pre-connected to a monitor and would be free to connect to student laptops. Separate DVi/HDMI and VGA cables would be pre-connected to each monitor for easy switching between built-in devices.
Sabrent Premium 4 Port Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub (30" cable) for iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, or any PC (HB-MAC3)
Since computers will be mounted under desktops, USB hubs will provide easier access as well as more USB ports at each location.
Total requested: $28,442.88
Total funded: $14,748.16
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