Requirements Committee
Judy Brooks, Eberly Center
Connie Eaton, Computing Services
Kimberly Hennessey, Computing Services
Greg Kesden, SCS
Marsha Lovett, Eberly Center
Klaus Sutner, SCS
Shruti Valjee, Computing Services

Design Committee
Guy Blelloch, SCS
Kimberly Hennessey, Computing Services
Greg Kesden, SCS
Kara Knechtel, IKM Architects
Philip Lehman, SCS
Andrew Reilly, Campus Design
Jim Skees, SCS
Samara Wheaton, IKM Architects
Steven Watson, IKM Architects

Construction Committee
Greg Kesden, SCS
Andrew Reilly, Campus Design
Jim Skees, SCS
Samara Wheaton, IKM Architects

Sponsors and Liasons
Mike Baker, Citadel LLC
Steven Belluardo, Citadel LLC
Alex Galperin, Citadel LLC
Merideth Jordan, Citadel LLC
Gregory Kesden, SCS
Philip Lehman, SCS
Lindsay Martens, Citadel LLC
Elizabeth Ori, Citadel LLC
Steven Thompson, Citadel LLC
John Talarico, Citadel LLC

Project Lead
Gregory Kesden, SCS

University Leadership
Randy Bryant, SCS Dean (Immediate Past)
Steve Huth, Vice-Provost and CIO
Andrew Moore, SCS Dean

September 14, 2014

Dear friends:

Although the official grand opening will come later, and we're still finishing up a few details, the new Citadel Teaching Commons is open! The bar seating is always open to the public, the table seating is open to the public until 4:30pm, and then reservable by TAs for office hours via this link.

This marks the completion of the first of three phases of construction undertaken with the very generous support of Citadel LLC, the project's sponsor, and in collaboration with Computing Services, the Eberly Center, and IKM Architects, the School of Computer Science. When complete, the 5th floor will be completely transformed from a fragmented landscape of labs, offices, and carrels into a unified student-centered collaborating, computing, teaching, and learning space. Thank you, very, very much for your input so far.

As the process continues, we'll be announcing the availability of dovetailing Citadel-sponsored resources, including compute clusters, storage clusters, and a student-accessible machine room, among other generous donations. We are very thankful for Citadel's generous, full-package investment in our program. And, we look forward to our continuing collaboration with them.

We want to keep you posted -- and continue to hear your thoughts along the way. This page will be updated as the project progresses.

The 5th Floor Big Picture

After much discussion and consideration, a decision was made to remove the three offices and reception area adjacent to the Pausch Bridge entrance, combine the space with the existing stub corridor, and form a new ~1000 n.s.f. commons area, primarily for use by students in CS classes and their TAs. The running name for this space is the "Citadel Teaching Commons."

A complimentary decision was made to preserve the architecture of the main corridor and with it, the external footprint of the GHC 5201+5208 and GHC 5205 spaces. In so doing, it was decided that we'd resource the various use cases with a diverse portfolio of space, rather than by the creation of fewer, larger "Swiss Army" style clusters.

The Citadel Teaching Commons

The commons area, scheduled to open on September 12th, 2014 will serve as an open-format collaborative and work space. It is envisioned as a space where students will work during the day and that will be supported by TAs in the evenings. It will offer a huge wall of whiteboard that can support a few independent impromptu discussions, as well as a smaller whiteboard breakout area perfect for a small group. The bar-style seating around the outside will be great for individuals or pairs and will have continuous electrical outlets strips under the surface to support laptops and mobile devices. To enable a variety of larger group sizes, a variety of table size were selected. A quad outlet will be located on the floor under each.

Citadel Collaborative Clusters: GHC 5201 and GHC 5208

GHC 5201 and 5208, scheduled to open by mid-semester, will become 20-seat computer-enriched collaborative spaces. The wall between the two spaces is being moved to adjust the configuration from 14+25 to 20+20. The table configuration supports individual work, as well as work in groups of 2, 3, 4, or 6. There is ample space for TAs and instructors to circulate, and full A/V system support. Although designed to favor student collaboration over instructor-focused activities, by aligning the tables along the same center-line, instructor-led presentations are still possible. Much as in the case in the typical conference room, participants will look to the side to see presentation, rather than straight-forward -- but no one will need to turn around.

One of the more exciting aspects of the design of these two rooms is the use of the miSEAT collaboration desks. The desks, through the good works our friends at Citadel, are being custom manufactured to fit our space. Integrated NEC/intel NUC high-performance/small-footprint computers will be integrated -- providing the resource of resident computers, without the interference. The monitors are on fully articulating arms, to ensure they can be perfectly positioned for each person -- and each group. Built in inductive chargers will work with simple dongles to allow the charging of mobile devices -- without distracting cables. Flat, capacitive touch keyboards and mouspads are built into the desks, providing the right technology to augment person-centered collaboration, while USB keyboards will be available for keyboard-intensive hacking. The upshot is a high-tech space that is perfect for people no matter how they want to collaborate -- without computers, with resident computers, or with their own laptops.

Citadel High-Performance Cluster: GHC 5205

There exists a natural tension between space optimized for peer collaboration (look at each other) and space optimized for instructor-led activities (look at instructor). Given the decision made to favor collaboration in the Commons and also in GHC 5201 and GHC 5208, a dove-tailing decision was made to provide a first-class space for instructor-led presentations in GHC 5205.

There exists a similar tension between filling space with people and filling space with equipment. Those who've wrestled with large-form factor computers on their desks, or at their feet, know this all too well. The use of advanced NEC/intel technology integrated into the miSEAT tables provides an excellent way of providing for the every-day computing needs of students, including programming and systems courses, while virtually eliminating the computers' footprints. But, everything has limits. Although computing is moving into the cloud (stay tuned for an announcement about the Citadel High-Performance Compute and Data Clusters), some students continue to require hands-on access to truly high-performance workstations. To meet this need, full form-factor computers, with a lot of memory, and high-end GPU-rich "graphics" boards are required.

To meet these needs, GHC 5201 will reopen in the last third of the semester with a somewhat familiar instructor-centered design. But, those who use it will find that it feels more spacious and user-centered than ever before. In particular, there will be more shoulder and legroom and none of the dreaded "desk leg straddling" seats. And, those with a need to speed will find the large-profile computers hold the nVidia-donated high-performance graphics boards that have previously been scatted throughout out facilities.

Citadel Student Machine Room

The mechanical and electrical capabilities of the planned student-accesible server room, designated for the 65 n.s.f. space attached to GHC 5201, are currently under development. The goal is to mitigate the universal transition of production machine rooms from workspaces to secure, but inaccesible, "information vaults" by providing a modest, but accessible capability to students who need access to bare-metal hardware. It is believed that the demand will be limited, because most needs for hosting will be met through local virtualization, cloud- and server- based offerings, resident workstations and/or personal hardware. For this reason, this space, by design and intention, will be relatively light-weight -- but critical, enabling, and empowering to those students who use it. This space is also supported through Citadel's generosity. Get ready to build it from the ground up!

Capabilities Summary

By designing each of the three clusters with the same 20-person capacity, it is possible to simultaneous schedule recitations into any two of the clusters, while ensuring that the third is available for independent student work. By selecting cluster designs that, while agile, are each best-tuned for different use cases, it is possible to have space that is well-tuned for the need, without having to design for certain uses and neglect others. This is especially true when viewed in the context of the Citadel Commons as a first-class collaboration-centered space.

The four existing oversized study carrels are incorporated into the new space design. Each carrel provides seating for 5-10 people, 1-2 tables, a whiteboard, and a great view of campus to the east. Each will continue to provide semi-private break-out spaces for study groups, project groups, individuals, student meetings, and TA office hours.

Thanks to the the central location, spanning from the building's main "Warner-Cyert courtyard" entrance to the north and the "Pausch bridge" entrance to the south, the space will be both accessible to those coming from any location and a centerpiece for campus, including those visiting the "Pausce Bridge/Gates" stop along campus tours. For those coming from different floors within the building, the space is also adjacent to the east stair case and the "Helix" continuous ramp, which provides access to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors.

Taken together, the space provided along the newly re-envisioned undergraduate corridor includes first-class support for a wide variety of use cases, inspiring views, tons of natural light, a wide, unifying corridor to facilitate circulation, and easy accessibility. The commons area is designed to support collaboration-centered use cases, whereas 5205 will remain an instructor-focused space, 5201 and 5208 will provide balanced spaces that support both collaboration and instructor-led presentations, and the carrels will provide semi-private break-out space for groups.

Transition/Construction Plan

  • Commons area to be complete on September 12th
  • TOC is the following week, the week of the 15th
  • September 22nd (after TOC), GHC 5201 and GHC 5208 are shutdown for construction. GHC 3000 is transisitoned from an unreservable "open lab" into a stand-in for GHC 5201. Recitations proceed as normal. GHC 5208 has been off-line for reservations. Casual users transition to other clusters.
  • Approximately Halloween, we get to trick and treat. The new GHC 5201, 5205, and server room come online. Classes and reservations in GHC 5205 transition across the hall to GHC 5201. Construction on GHC 5205 begins. Seat count is reduced from 45 to 40, but by this point in the semester, approximately week 10, attrition is far in excess of 11% -- there is plenty of room. (Note, typical undergrads sign up for an "extra" class and drop one, e.g. they sign up for 6 classes and drop to 5 -- the freedom to do this guarantees attrition at approximately 17%.)
  • Construction within GHC 5205 is expected to take 4-6 weeks, likely bringing it online for "Crunch time" at the end of the semester.
  • Official Grand opening in January. Beginning in spring, GHC 3000 and GHC 5201 are open labs (GHC 5201 replacing GHC 5208). Recitations held in GHC 5201 and GHC 5208.

Renderings, Drawings, and Photos

The renderings below shows the new corridor layout:

The renderings below show the planned commons space, presently under construction and set to open September 12th, 2014, "TOC Week Monday".

If you are curious about the gorgeous view, please find below some recent photos showing the space and its exterior window walls:

Below are the drawings and renderings for GHC 5201+08:

Below are the drawings and renderings for GHC 5205:

Thank you!

On behalf of the requirements, design, and construction commitees, it is my pleasure to thank you, very, very much for your continued participation in the process. We look forward to hearing from you. Please feel free to call (8-1590) or email (gkesden@cs) me anytime.

Thanks again!

Gregory Kesden
Director, Educational Computing
Coordinator, Teaching Assistant Programs
School of Computer Science