The technology infrastructure that makes the most sense for our site is a star topology. This works well because of the relatively small amount of computers needing connection and the placement of the computers along two walls within one room. We connected six computers on two tables to a 10-port switch. A seventh, dual-monitor computer on a desk across the room is also connected to the switch by using a cable hidden in the drop ceiling. The dual-monitor computer will serve as a video editing station. The two screens will give ample space for the student to work on a video project, and the computer sits in a back corner overlooking the room to allow privacy for creativity and inspiration. The switch rests along the wall closest to the majority of the computers. Another cable threaded through the drop ceiling connects the switch to the router in the main office on the other side of the wall. A larger sitting area in the middle of the room gives flexibility to the space for various purposes. A large screen TV and a projector sit along the kodachrome green wall. They can easily be moved to allow use of the wall as a “green screen.” Overall, we believe that the lab exposes youth to a variety of media, gives the opportunity to expand their computer literacy skills, and provides a friendly place for youth of all backgrounds to feel safe.
Ideally the equipment will serve the needs of PEG-TV for as long as they desire to use the room as a computer lab and involve youth and staff in their video editing projects. Keeping furniture at a minimum and the major technology equipment along the perimeter of the room allows the lab to be multipurpose. Because WESL has access to limited space, this will be useful for meetings, parties, and other group gatherings.
We believe the lab will be used effectively to fill a specific need for Internet browsing, video editing, word processing, and to develop other computer skills. In addition, the need for a computer station to broadcast the WESL programs directly was brought to our attention near the end of the project. However, due to limited time and resources, this was beyond the scope of our project and would perhaps be a good project to complete at a future date.
- Each wall will be painted a different color. Colors will be bright jewel-tones so as to appeal to teenagers using the space.
- The green paint will be the shade of green used for green screen video production, in the hopes that it might be used for the same purpose at WPEG–it will be used on one of the larger walls
- The chalkboard paint will allow people using the room to write on the wall as part of the collaborative process. We could either paint one of the smaller walls with the chalkboard paint, or we could paint part of one of the larger walls (a rectangle or a design of some sort).
- We will look at decals such as these to put on at least one wall in order to give it a little more personality:
- Square shelves like these could hold books about video production, creating PSAs, or other relevent and/or entertaining material:
Room set up:
- There will be two half-trapezoid-shaped tables on wheels holding three computers each along each of the big walls. They will look roughly like this:
- The space next to the bathroom will have a screen placed in front of it so that it can be used as a more personal work station. It will be equipped with a small rolling desk, a computer with two monitors, a lamp, a small rug, a hanging plant, and any additional video production equipment WPEG can provide (a scanner, a microphone, etc.)
- The middle of the room will be set up as a collaborative space/hang out area for the teens using the lab. It will contain several kinds of floor chairs/beanbag chairs/cushions to sit on and an area rug. Ideas for colors and styles (and chairs/floor cushions) would be similar to this:
There will be a laptop available so that people sitting in the middle of the room can have a portable computer to work on. A second laptop will also be available for people who are working on videos to take out to the field with them.
- We plan to invest in several lamps for the room, as well as plants and other decorative pieces that will make the room cozy as well as productive.
- Depending on the size of the current ceiling tiles and the cost of ordering new ones, we may be able to purchase decorative ceiling tiles for at least the middle of the ceiling from a company such as this one: http://www.decorativeceilingtiles.net/white-styrofoam-ceiling-tiles/
- In the space where the bathroom now stands, the wall where the bathroom door is could remain in tact (in order to section it off from the rest of the room) for a slightly more private area. A removable screen/partition of sorts could separate the area from the rest of the room where the other bathroom wall once was (perpendicular to the wall with the door on it).This could be used for adults who would prefer a little seclusion from the teens, or for small groups who are collaborating and would like to have their own space in which to do it.
- Another collaborative space could be where the computer/desk now sit in the back corner of the room. We could fill the area with comfortable seating (bean bags, stools, comfortable plus chairs), a floor lamp, end tables, etc. and encourage people to sit together and discuss/collaborate. A laptop could be used if technology is required, but face-to-face interaction is the primary focus.
- Chalkboard wall (or portion of a wall) for collaborations/brainstorming, etc.: The “chalkboard” could be either a plain rectangle, or in the shape of an object (such as a tree, a cloud, the letters “WESL”, light bulb, a picture frame, or any other design). We envision this as a place for the computer lab users to be able to express themselves creatively as well as a place in which they could work together/brainstorm on projects or video packages on which they are currently working. We would hope this would be a space wherein the computer lab users would be able to make this space their own.
- Walls would be a single understated color (such as pale yellow or taupe) and decorations (posters and/or wall decals) could be added to liven up the design.
- Computers would be on desks (with wheels) that are in the shape of a ½ circle, with the flat end against the wall, each of which could hold 3 computers. The computers could have partial dividers between them if the users prefer more privacy. The desks could also be pushed together to form a circle in the middle of the room for a larger collaborative space.
This space will evolve over time as Harold Lawary’s youth interns see fit. He has stated that he would like them to make the space their own. We contributed to this purpose with lively, colorful decoration and the computers, but they will bring their own uses to the room that we will never know.
Sustainability of the computer center, though not a stated goal of Mr. Lawary’s, seems appropriate as one. The room has held up and seen many uses through the years; before the TV station was located in the building, it was used for medical offices and commercial enterprises. We have installed the most robust computer systems we could afford, to see out hopefully several years’ worth of use from their users.
Flexibility was a part of the computer center from before it was a computer center, as it served multiple purposes to multiple organizations. It can still serve multiple purposes, although it is now tailored to be a public computing center for youth, with a video editing station. Another use that is readily apparent is for screenings of productions made on the video editing station. Station manager Harold Lawary contributed a massive flatscreen TV to the computing center; our group contributed several comfy chairs and rearranged the room to suit the TV’s location. By simply turning around the chairs at the computer tables and unstacking the extras in the corner, there are instantly over a dozen seats available to watch screenings on the TV. Other possible uses include group meetings of all kinds. Since there is a conference table with its own chairs in the station’s lobby next door, two separate groups could meet without interrupting each other by just closing the door.
The computers are easily accessible to be moved around or pulled out for upgrading, as soon as the need arises, or in a period of several years. There is only one laptop; the rest are desktop workstations and can have the chassis opened easily. Plans were announced on the last trip for a reflooring project, which would require pulling the computers away from the wall a few feet. This would necessitate unplugging cords which can be replaced afterwords with no harm done, and only a router reset required to start the network up again.
An introduction to the computers was provided to technology leadership within the organization, and documentation is upcoming.
Maximizing Outcomes and Impact
The integration of technology will supplement the technology already existing at the station. It will allow the station’s full-time support staff to use their own machines without interruption or any difficulties caused by multiple users such as high school students. Now youth interns at the station will have their own computers, their own lab, to pursue their goals: be they video editing, word processing, games, videos, social networking, etc.
Potential unintended consequences could come from the many previous purposes the computing center has seen, including Sunday church meetings, and the personal office of another building tenant. These different uses will have to be balanced by station management to see that youths have priority of use of the computing center.
Steps were taken during design to prevent potential conflict between different groups that use the space and have used it in the past. A desk was left for a tenant who uses it as her office; now it shares space with the video editing station. Another room was designated for church meetings. In terms of maximizing positive outcomes, the best computers and software available were donated and set up, despite various setbacks and challenges.
Project Transition Checklist
* September 9-10: First trip
– Tour of East St. Louis
– Meeting with site manager Harold Lawary
– Measurement of room
– Computer set-up at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee center
– Create one higher-end station with sophisticated video-editing capability (dual monitors & Adobe software)
– Arrange wired Internet connection in the lab
– Paint walls, build tables and order chairs
– Possible bathroom demolition, electric outlet assessment, flooring & fluorescent lights replacement arranged by site building managers
* September 27: Presentation on first trip
– Site analysis, use scenarios, technology implementation plans
* October 14: Conference call to address follow-up questions & budget meeting
– Confirm TIFF funding status
– Confirm Tech Soup registration status
– Confirm paint color scheme
– Budget meeting outcomes: use tables already on site instead of building new ones
* October 25: Begin preparing computers
* October 28-29: Second trip
– Painting and cleaning with help from ESLARP volunteers
– Decided to use chairs already on site instead of purchasing new ones
* November 8-9: Finish preparing computers & shopping
– Setbacks: Tech Soup registration & order delay, dual-headed video card order processing delay
* November 11-12: Third trip
– Computer set-up
– Created & install network cables
– Setbacks: malfunctioning switch, lack of power adapters for speakers
* November 29: Meeting
– Delicious account set-up & bookmarking software documentation
– Final equipment request
* December 2-3: final trip
– Set-up Internet connection
– Set-up speakers
– Set-up dual-headed video card
– Set-up final decorations (acrylic signs, mirror, digital picture frames)
– Setbacks: ISP service installation delay, malfunctioning monitor, drivers for audio cards & printer