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Bldg. 2 Classrooms Receive Face-Lift

By Carina Fung

MIT recently finished renovating 10 heavily-used classrooms on the first floor of Building 2. The renovations, which began shortly after Commencement, modernized the outmoded rooms.

"These renovations greatly improve the teaching and learning environment for faculty and students," said Mary R. Callahan, the associate registrar for facilities and scheduling and leader of the design team for the project.

The renovations also added several new technologies to the ordinary classroom setup. These include an Athena terminal located in front of some classrooms and overhead projection equipment which can be linked to laptop computers in others, Callahan said.

Each classroom also received a VCR, an overhead projector and an MIT Cable connection.

The renovations mark a rebirth of Project 2000, a plan to renovate all Institute classrooms by the year 2000, initiated by the late Margaret L. A. MacVicar ScD '65, MIT's first dean of undergraduate education, Callahan said.

The impetus behind the Building 2 renovation came from Provost Joel Moses PhD '67, Callahan said. The project also received support from the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, the Faculty Planning Committee, and Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams, she said.

New features added to classrooms

Physical characteristics of the rooms were also updated. All the interior finishes and mechanical systems, such as ventilation, heating, and cooling systems, were replaced in the classrooms, Callahan said.

"Anyone who has endured the physical discomforts of these rooms previously - too hot in the fall and spring, too cold in the winter" will benefit from the renovations, Callahan said.

The old furniture was replaced with new tables and chairs, while new chalkboards and lighting were also installed, she said.

"Eight of the 10 classrooms which were renovated make provisions for carry-in use of laptop computers to freely utilize the overhead projector," Callahan said.

Student, faculty opinion included

Members of the faculty were actively involved in deciding how to renovate the out-of-date classrooms. Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Donald R. Sadoway, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Bruce Tidor, and Professor of Mathematics David A. Vogan PhD '76 were part of the design team, Callahan said.

Students were also consulted as to what renovations would be the most useful to their classroom experience.

Students who were taking classes in Building 56, in which renovations were completed last semester, were polled about the furniture in the classrooms. The design team was interested in using the same type of furniture in Building 2, Callahan said.

In addition, other student and faculty concerns were addressed in the renovations. "A student came to us asking for voice amplification, and this was also something we had heard from one of our faculty members, so that feature has been incorporated into the rooms," Callahan said.

The Registrar's Office will be running training programs for interested faculty on how to take advantage of the updated facilities, as well as to help faculty learn about the possibilities that technology might bring to their teaching, she said.

"I think the new Building 2 classrooms are terrific," said Professor of Urban Studies and Planning Lawrence E. Bacow '73, a former chair of the faculty. "When I was a freshman in 1969, my 18.02 recitation was taught in one of these rooms. The room was in need of work back then, and had not changed at all until the renovations began this summer."

Classes make use of new features

One class which relies heavily this semester on the new features placed in the recently renovated classrooms is Introduction to Linear Algebra (18.06). The 11 recitation sections for 18.06 are held in the new computer classrooms, 2-131 and 2-132.

"The computer in each of these rooms is an Athena workstation, with a monitor whose display can be projected onto a large screen for everyone to see," said Visiting Professor of Mathematics Steven L. Lee, a lecturer for 18.06.

During recitation, the instructors use Matlab computer software projected onto an overhead display to help teach new concepts, build intuition, test conjectures, or solve some of the time-consuming subproblems that may arise, Lee said.

"I think this method of teaching, especially in the setting of small recitation groups, is a valuable way to complement what students learn from the lectures, textbook, and problems sets," Lee said.

More buildings await renovation

Similar renovations are planned for selected classrooms in buildings 1, 3, and 5, Callahan said.

"The Building 2 classroom renovations mark a commitment on the Institute's part to respond to one of the faculty's and students' primary concerns, which is the necessity of excellent teaching facilities," she said.

"I am delighted that the Provost has committed to renovating all the remaining workhorse classrooms in the main building," Bacow said.