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I/S Commences Experiment to Place Clusters at McCormick and Burton

By Susan Buchman
Staff Reporter

Information Systems is working to make sure that dormitory residents no longer have to trudge to the Student Center in the rain to check their e-mail.

I/S is beginning a one-year experiment to place Athena clusters and Quickstations in residence halls on the west side of campus to gauge demand and frequency of use. These clusters will help I/S to understand the problems and expenses in scaling the experiment to include more residence halls.

McCormick, Burton get clusters

Athena clusters will be installed in McCormick Hall and Burton-Conner House this summer, according to Oliver Thomas, a consultant with Information Systems. They are scheduled to remain there for one year, after which I/Swill consider the success of the trial project.

Burton-Conner and McCormick were chosen because they initially expressed interest in having a cluster, said Naomi B. Schmidt, manager of educational planning and support for I/S.

Five Athena Quickstations are scheduled to be placed in residence halls further from campus, but the specifics have not yet been decided.

According to Schmidt, the clusters are a one-year experiment to see "how they are used, what works, and how financing will be done."

There is also the possibility that ethernet drops will be installed in areas of dormitories where students do group work, Schmidt said. These clusters will also serve as a test model for the new dormitory scheduled to be constructed in the year 2000.

Thomas said that he will be meeting with students in the affected dormitories to discuss what they would like to see. Schmidt plans to distribute a questionnaire before and after the experiment to find out how students are using the residential clusters.

Costs, other details still uncertain

Many issues surrounding the clusters are still undecided. Decisions will be made in the next two weeks regarding the number of machines and the locations within the dormitories. Physical Plant must also be consulted regarding energy considerations.

"House governments and students will not incur any of the cost of the clusters," Thomas said.

The preliminary budget calls for Athena to bear the cost of the machines and yearly support costs, for I/S to cover the network drops, and for other departments to cover incidental costs such as furniture.