New Academic Technology Commons Aims to Inspire Creativity
“If you could do anything in this space, what would you want to do with it?" This was the question that led the thinking behind Saint Louis University’s Academic Technology Commons, the new 14,000 square-foot creator space in Pius XII Memorial Library.
The space, which is scheduled to open in early October, aims to provide the SLU community an opportunity to learn and interact with the latest technologies. Students, faculty and staff will have access to 3D printers, 360 cameras, recording studios and hologram technology.
"The Academic Technology Center is a collaborative project of the University Libraries, Information Technology Services and Student Government Association,” said David Cassens, dean of University Libraries. “The ATC will be staffed by library and ITS specialists who will support students and faculty in their academic and research goals.”
Plans for the first phase of the Academic Technology Commons were announced in May. The SGA provided critical financial support to the project. Over the next 5 years, $1.5 million from existing student technology fees will fund a portion of the costs for the project. No future fees or tuition increases will be required to fund the new commons.
“The Academic Technology Commons will provide an excellent resource for students and faculty seeking the latest technologies, with plans to provide access to some new and innovative technologies before they are generally available to the public," said David Hakanson, vice president, CIO and chief innovation officer for SLU.
A Beneficial Partnership
The Academic Technology Commons is the result of a partnership between ITS and University Libraries. Members of both units worked together on a task force that led its development and implementation for the past two years.
“One of the space’s biggest strengths is the collaboration between ITS and the library,” said Kyle Collins, assistant vice president of ITS technology transformation. “Additionally, the vision and design process for the ATC engaged numerous faculty, students, facilities staff, IT staff, and library faculty and staff — along with our architects and design team — to insure the success of the resulting plan.”
Members of the task force traveled to academic libraries around the country to see how other universities were working to provide their patrons technology and the expertise to use it.
“This has been such a positive collaboration where the end user is truly the most important force," said Martha Allen, a librarian and faculty member at Pius Library.
The task force has already made plans for the second and third phase of the Academic Technology Commons, which include the creation of two new active learning classrooms, a flexible recording studio and small group study spaces.
Space to Create
Designed to be a flexible and innovative resource to support a variety of technology needs and working styles, the Academic Technology Commons will feature modular seating options and work areas to support individual and group work. Library users will have access to computer workstations with a variety of productivity, video editing and creation software.
The space will feature charging and quick print stations. Library users will also be able to check out equipment, including laptops, tablets, cameras.
Beyond the common area, the ATC itself will feature spaces that each offer different services and specialized technology.
Think SLU’s own Genius Bar. Students, faculty and staff can work with University Library and ITS staff to figure out what technology and tools will help them reach their goals. There are no lines at this help desk. Rather, it was designed to be a place to ask questions and quickly find answers
Collaboration Studios will allow groups to brainstorm and create in an adaptable work environment with writable walls and mobile whiteboards. Displays in the space allow presenters to show off their work via wireless presentation.
This space was designed from the ground up to provide a flexible and creative environment for brainstorming and collaboration. Lightweight and movable furniture will allow groups of any size to better come together. The space’s floor-to-ceiling whiteboards and embedded touch displays will offer space to get their ideas down.
The Innovation Studio within the Academic Technology Commons will serve as the epicenter for creation within the new space. Users will be able to sketch out their ideas using large, touch-enabled displays and virtual reality technology. They can then bring their concepts to life using 3D printers and scanners, laser cutters and hologram projections.
The Print Studio will offer professional grade printing, scanning and finishing options to support student projects, conference presentations and other needs.
Loaded with high-quality AV equipment, the Quick Record Studio will allow users to create content for the classroom, homework assignments, interviews and student organization promotions. Editing Pods will include workstations with multiple displays and audio splitters for group work.