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Articles: Hardware

Five years ago, there were no universities offering an undergraduate major in robotics. Today, “robotics is a high-growth area,” says Mike Gennert, the director of the Robotics Engineering Program at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), a 5,700-student university in Massachusetts.

“Nationally, we are seeing a growing number of undergraduate majors, and the number of grad programs has doubled or tripled in the last few years,” he says.

The field of robotics is expanding as the technology becomes more commercially viable.

For years, educators have recognized that children playing with LEGOs exhibit a natural talent in problem-solving and creativity. Because engineering students often have extensive experience with LEGOs, big-name universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Arizona State, University of Nevada-Reno, and Texas A&M are eager to work LEGO into their undergraduate curriculum to engage and retain students.

Although universities are under intense pressure to keep up with tech trends, being an early adopter is not always the best option. The launch of Windows Vista is a good example. In 2006, many higher ed institutions jumped on the new operating system when it came out, only to find it loaded with security issues and bugs.

ASU often takes advantage of its size and substantial budget to pilot and adopt new technological solutions that may be out of reach for other schools. “We are always one of the first schools to attempt to do new things at scale,” says CIO Gordon Wishon. “Over the years, we have been fairly aggressive in challenging some of the long-held assumptions about what sort of technologies can be delivered in the university setting.”

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (UA) is using video conferencing comprehensively to improve learning and control operational costs. Originally used for occasional standard definition applications, we are employing high definition for everything from the classroom to committee work. We’ll soon enable video conferencing on students’ mobile devices, to make distance learning portable as well.

The team that first explored bringing a shared services model to the University of Michigan couldn’t help but notice some vast inefficiencies when it broke down the $325 million being spent on IT. Excluding the university’s massive health system, the analysis revealed multiple networks, data centers, and server closets, with 35 different email systems and more than 150 organizations maintaining computers for faculty and staff.

The State University of New York (SUNY) may have the most talked about shared services program in the nation. As part of an effort to try to reduce administrative costs and funnel the savings toward academics and student services, the system’s administration has been working to adopt a shared service model across its 64 campuses. That model has even included shared presidents.

Working in Groups
Vaddio’s GroupSTATION, designed for mid-to large-size meeting spaces, allows up to 20 people to share a PowerPoint presentation, stream a training video from YouTube, or collaborate with remote participants. Users can connect a laptop or tablet directly into GroupSTATION, which consists of two main components: a table-based MicPOD dock, and a wall-mounted sound bar that incorporates an HD camera in its center. The MicPOD Dock functions as a microphone, speakerphone, and user interface.

Members of Akron's men's and women's basketball teams received iPads to keep them connected to classes while traveling.

With days spent on buses and planes, it’s easy for student athletes to fall behind in class. That’s why The University of Akron (Ohio) is giving them iPads.

Fully funded by donors, the program was piloted last year, with all members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams receiving tablets at a cost of $500 each. Along with improving academic performance, the tablets are meant to make it easier for coaches to communicate with players.

In old-school lecture halls, the rooms would be outfitted with a single projector in the back and a single screen in the front, while large numbers of students quietly listened as the professor spoke. But as the standard lecture experience has become dated, the audiovisual needs of classrooms have evolved to support group study and collaborative, team-based learning. Mark Valenti, president and CEO of The Sextant Group, an audiovisual consulting firm, puts it this way: “We’re basically seeing the beginning of the end of the lecture hall.”

According to Henry J. Neeman, director of the OU Supercomputer Center for Education & Research (OSCER) at Oklahoma University, schools will want to investigate guidelines for their own future HPC platforms. His own institution is seeing ROI from HPC as high as 700 percent from its supercomputer named Boomer.

From where he sits, the keys to a successful HPC platform include:

Imagine thinking thousands of thoughts at the same time. What if each thought was one piece of a really big problem—a problem now solvable in hours or days rather than years because of this simultaneous thought process? That’s what high-performance computing (HPC) does.

Sharing information on the go is second nature to today’s college student. That reality is pushing higher ed leaders to leverage that connectivity to build a more interactive learning environment. Smartphones, tablets, notebooks, and other mobile devices offer flexibility in extending the learning space beyond the classroom and getting students more engaged.