“Back to better” on campus with new and improved technology

More than 4,970 new access points replaced or installed for more robust internet performance

 

As the fall 2021 semester kicks off, students have access to new and improved on-campus technology resources including updated internet connections and classroom equipment. The upgrades are the result of several ITS projects aligned with the university’s “back-to-better" goals.

Updates to network hardware in 15 of Iowa State’s residence halls began in fall 2020 and came to a close in summer 2021. The ITS physical infrastructure team managed the replacement of switches, structured and Wi-Fi access points, resulting in Wi-Fi that performs 90-100 times faster than before. Wi-Fi access points are in every dorm room, which rely on the structured cabling and switches to connect devices to the university’s network.

As an added benefit, the project led to increased energy savings. New access points save approximately 35 kilowatts per hour of electrical energy, the equivalent of a Nissan electric car battery at nearly full charge. 

Outdoor Wi-Fi spaces were also established beginning in 2020 with the help of COVID relief funds to facilitate social distancing on campus. The project’s first phase delivered Wi-Fi coverage to high traffic areas like the areas south of Parks Library and to the north and east of the Memorial Union. The most recent greenspaces with Wi-Fi encompass Lagomarcino courtyard, north and east of Pearson Hall and the plaza south of Carver Hall to Simon Estes Music Hall. Additional planned spaces include the area southeast of the College of Design and the area south of Hamilton Hall to the Food Sciences building.

Mike Lohrbach, ITS enterprise services director, acknowledges that there are a lot of moving parts to establish and maintain network upgrades. “It can be difficult to live-test all these improvements in the summer without students and staff on campus. When more than 60,000 devices connected to the internet in August, we had to ensure our networks performed well and respond quickly to resolve issues.”

Network upgrades also reach beyond the student population. Visitors to campus ranging from prospective students to parents and alumni now have an easier time connecting to the available guest Wi-Fi network. Similar to a “coffee shop” model, guests click to join the IASTATE-Guest network, and by agreeing to terms and conditions, have access to the university’s internet for 24 hours. At the end of 24 hours, guests can repeat the process and rejoin.

In addition, students will also see changes to classroom technology, thanks to funds from the university Committee on the Advancement of Student Technology for Learning Enhancement. CASTLE approved up to $1.1 million for upgraded classroom audiovisual equipment in April after the funding proposal was presented in March.

Audiovisual solutions for hybrid and remote isntruction are currently available in more than 140 general university classrooms, the result of Level 1 and Level 2 equipment installations throughout the 2020-21 academic year. CASTLE’s funding will be used to make the same type of technology available in more learning spaces. The funding also will cover other general AV updates like adding Solstice Pods for wireless connectivity, increasing modern digital connections (HDMI) and replacing aging hardware. These AV equipment improvements are slated to begin immediately as classroom schedules allow.

As work and learning at the university advances, ITS will continue providing the right technology tools for students, faculty and staff to succeed. For more information about current ITS projects, please visit it.iastate.edu and select Projects from the main menu.