Class to design student-friendly Internet cafe

Leslie Arntz

No food or drink in the lab. Turn cell phones off. Be quiet.

These signs are posted in labs of residence halls, the library and buildings across campus, displaying the rules for computer use.

But computer hardware instructor Linden Adkins envisions something better.

“I want a place built for students by students,” he said.

As a semester project, seven students from Adkins’ Computer Hardware class will design and complete an Internet caf‚ to be housed in Room 209 of Van Deusen Hall.

“The students and most of the faculty (in the College of Technology), to have a working space, have to go to the library or computer labs,” said technology graduate student Ayhan Bektas, who is leading the design team. “If you have a center for daily uses … word processing, e-mail or just relaxing … we want to be able to do it without going anywhere.”

The lab will be open to more than just technology students, though.

“People with different interests can meet and keep in touch (there),” technology graduate student Sabiha Zia said. “We want to have an upscale, innovative environment where people can enjoy the benefits of the Internet and sit in a well-kept place to enjoy coffee.”

Bektas, Zia and the five other members of the team will be exempt from normal course work in order to get the caf‚ up and running by Dec. 12, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the class won’t be part of the process.

The computers for the caf‚ will come from Adkins’ lab. He said students would be building, diagnosing, repairing, installing parts in and networking the computers.

“You learn so much more by diving into it,” he said. “Every semester I get garbage computers (from around campus) to repair and put operating systems on. (The caf‚ computers) will be entirely built from scrap parts. These will be garbage computers anyway, so if you screw them up, throw them out.”

Most of the computers will contain Pentium II processors and will run Windows 2000. To judge the speed of the processors, Adkins chuckled and said to “picture a snail on Valium.”

“Right now we’re still getting computers that are six years old,” Adkins said. “My theory is that the first Internet caf‚ in the College of Technology does not have to be the best – the second one does.”

He added that the computers will run Microsoft Word, Excel and have Internet access. Other services, such as scanning and printing, will also be available. Students will be able to download any software of their own that the computers can support.

In addition to the actual computers, the team is responsible for carpet, paint, air conditioning, wiring, printers, desks, chairs, vending machines, music and any other ideas members come up with.

If the first caf‚ is successful, Adkins said his ultimate goal is to have similar caf‚s set up in classroom buildings across campus, each built by students.

Adkins said students are learning skills beyond hardware and networking.

“We are not just teaching computer technology,” he said. “(We’re teaching) how to live, how to work out there. We’re teaching to have breadth rather than just depth.”

Contact College of Technology reporter Leslie Arntz at [email protected].