Why Don’t Sci 101’s Power Sockets Work?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Gazette caught up with Jan Semler, the Director of Planning & Construction to ask her why the plugs embedded in every Sci 101 seat don’t actually give computers (or any device) a charge.

Apparently, when the Science Center was designed, the school wasn’t sure what the future of technology would hold—-but they were sure that they didn’t want to have an outdated building a few years down the road. In particular, Semler explained, there was debate about “whether students would move from pen-and-paper note taking to using laptops.”

To prepare for this possibility, Sci 101 is crisscrossed with 1,500 feet of piping to facilitate running electric and data cables. “The conduits connect circuit breaker panels and data rack locations behind the chalkboards to each row of seating, in a giant fan-shaped pattern,” Semler elaborated.

These days, while some students certainly do take notes using laptops, the vast majority don’t. Moreover, internet access is primarily provided through the wireless network, making the data connections basically obsolete.

So for now, those pipes remain empty, and nothing is connected to the electrical outlets in every seat. “If and when a majority of students transition to laptops for note taking,” Semler noted, “we might want to make [the necessary] investment.” Until then, they’ll remain officially offline.

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