‘Nova’s new technologies

Karen Damara

1. Use of iPod Touch

The latest technological advancement in the communication department is the sleek and shiny iPod Touch. Each faculty member is now issued one of these gadgets to use in lecture presentations. This is definitely a significant step forward for the department.

“Other universities are very impressed when I tell them about it,” says Bryan Crable, chair of the communication department.

This compact handheld device is extremely versatile. Faculty can implement it in their lectures in many ways, such as showing the class photos and movies, and PowerPoint presentations can be shown via Flash Video. It makes for an interactive classroom experience.

“It’s pretty cool to see professors using the iPod Touch to switch between slides, instead of the old-school pointers,” says junior communication major Nico Schillagi.

A prominent advantage of the device is storage. The latest iPod Touch can store up to 32 GB. Faculty can now bring to class everything they need for a lecture – from basic notes to full-length videos – all in the palm of their hand.

“The scholastic purpose behind incorporating the iPod Touch was to make our students aware of the importance of handheld devices,” Crable says. “We want students to recognize the need to be sensitive to such devices, which are sometimes taken for granted. For instance, students in the Media Production class should know how to design their multimedia content to meet the needs of a specific device.”

Crable also mentioned that the next step is to integrate the iPod Touch with the Villanova wireless network so that faculty can have access to online information, such as news and videos, should it be required during a lecture.

2. Energy consumption monitors

As part of the Villanova Commitment to Sustainability, the Facilities Management Office has launched an Energy Conservation Competition between four residence halls on South Campus – Caughlin, Katherine, McGuire and St. Monica’s. As a part of the endeavor, each of the four residence halls has been installed with a sizable plasma screen display, which shows where each hall stands in the competition. The devices are called “Dorm Competition Kiosks” and are operated through touch-screen technology. The kiosks display energy monitoring statistics in categories such as hot water, cold water, hot water energy and electricity. Statistics in each of these categories can in turn be displayed by the day, week, month, semester or year. As of Sept. 27, Caughlin Hall was ranked No. 1 for hourly cold water consumption with a rate of 0.02 gallons per person.

3. The Griffin Room

With the opening of a new instruction lab on the first floor of the library, Falvey’s commitment to being a learning resource for the student body continues. Called the Griffin Room, in memory of Mary Ann Griffin, who was director of Falvey Memorial Library from 1984 until 1995, the teaching room contains state-of-the-art equipment – two 65-inch plasma display screens, a good number of desktop computer stations and printing facilities. The basic purpose of the instructional room is for course-related research.

“Typically a faculty member will call us and schedule a class,” says Instructional Design and Research Librarian Barbara Quintiliano. “Then in conjunction with the professor, the librarian will conduct a presentation that will aid students in their research for coursework.”

When asked how such instructional sessions override the Library Catalog, Quintiliano says that Falvey currently has over 200 databases and that not all students are aware of where to find what they are looking for amid vast amounts of information.

“The Griffin Room was designed by a team of experienced professionals from the library, Facilities and University Information Technologies, including Media Technologies, CIT, Technology Support Services and Network & Communications,” Quintiliano says.

The podium installed in the room is equipped with a Sympodium interactive pen display. SynchronEyes, a software that allows the instructing librarian not only to control the student PCs but also to administer polls and quizzes is available on all the systems. Provisions have been made for the room to be divided in two should the need arise. When not in use for instructional purposes, the room is available to students to be used as a computer lab which is WildCard-entry enabled.

4. Printing station in the Spit

Students living on South Campus need not trek all the way to Falvey Memorial Library anymore simply to print a one-page document. For the convenience of students living on South Campus, UNIT has added a printing location in the Spit. Located at the entrance of the dining hall, it provides easy access to the student who is on the run and wants to finish a quick printing job. As at the other locations on campus, in addition to the printer, it has a print release station, where students must use their VPrint account by swiping their WildCards. The station has two desktop computers, one of which is used to send the print job to the network printer and the other for the print release station.

5. Clickers

A good number of the faculty at Villanova is now incorporating clickers into their classrooms. A clicker is a handheld device with pushbuttons that can be used as a tool to administer quizzes and surveys and for various other purposes. The Law School requires its students to purchase a clicker, as do a few departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“My genetics professor requires us to use them for in-class questions that are meant to help us prepare for tests,” sophomore biology major Billy Pandos says.

Many schools across the nation are endorsing clickers as a means of making the classroom more interactive.

“I can definitely see it having a place in the classroom,” Pandos says. “It’s an interesting piece of technology.”

Some professors use them to conduct anonymous opinion polls, which allow students to express their viewpoint freely. But currently, the most common use of the clicker is to administer quizzes.

“The interesting part about the whole thing is being able to view graphical statistics at the end of the quiz,” Pandos says. “That way we get to see how the whole class did.”

6. Falvey self checkout

Another new effort at Falvey Memorial Library has been the installation of a self-checkout system on the first floor of the library. Using touch screen technology, the system guides the library patron through checkout steps via a user-friendly, graphical interface. With this helpful tool, traffic at the regular check-out desk will hopefully be avoided, thus benefitting both the library staff and the students.

7. The Wavecam

The Wavecam is a new and exciting advancement in the area of broadcasting. One was installed in the Pavilion in January, and a second one is to be installed this November. The Wavecam is an aerial cable-based camera system that is remotely operated, with various controls such as joysticks. So far it has been a success in broadcasting sports and entertainment events that have taken place in the Pavilion. It was implemented in three men’s basketball games, three women’s basketball games, MSNBC’s “Hardball College Tour” taping last spring and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s 200th anniversary celebratory Mass. Among the basketball games, a few were shown on ESPN, while others were broadcast live over the Internet.

In an e-mail to The Villanovan, Ed Dougherty wrote, “The Wavecam is very different and a very new technology.”

Dougherty is an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering Department and was part of a team that won an Emmy Award in 2002 for technical achievement in the development of the Skycam, an aerial robotic control camera system.

“We have installed two Wavecam systems at Penn State for their football program, but the two Wavecams in the Pavilion will be the only ones in use in the world for a university basketball program,” he wrote.

The operators working on the Wavecam not only control functions like pan, tilt, focus and zoom, but they also drive the camera along the court at heights ranging from 0-30 feet. Of the many technologies involved in this novel advancement, a few are fiber optics, motor control, microprocessors, sensors and software.

“But a key technology is a form of what is called a Stewart Platform,” Dougherty wrote. “Stewart Platforms have been used in flight simulators and are now found in some motion rides in parks such as Disney World.”

The Wavecam was an undertaking of five Villanova graduates, who invented, designed, built and tested the system with the consultation of a few faculty members. Other key contributors were Jamie Hyneman of Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” and Ken Salter, former director of systems Engineering at Disney Imagineering.

8. Dining Services blog

Students now have a chance to voice their opinions about Dining Services. Not too long ago, Dining Services launched its very own blog called “The Dish.” Students can post comments about Dining Services. With feedback from the students on areas such as the dining halls, the level of nutrition and the special meals throughout the semester, Dining Services hopes to improve the quality of their service.

“We will be blogging about our new services, sustainability issues, special events and menus offered by our dining locations,” writes Timothy Dietzler, director of Dining Services, on the homepage of “The Dish.”

With the spread of the so-called blog culture, other organizations on campus have blogs. The University Shop also launched a new blog recently, and Falvey Memorial Library has kept its blog up and running for over a year now.