High-tech dorm rooms still feel like home

With the school’s limited air conditioning and old-fashioned key hole doors, many students agree that Swarthmore is not the most technologically advanced campus. Although many students bring basic technology to their dorm rooms, some go above and beyond. Lanson Tang ‘18, George Woodliff-Stanley ‘18 and Eli Kissman ‘18 find ways to update their rooms and make them feel like home with high-tech gadgets.


Tang’s room looks like a standard Willets double — a carpeted room a bit on the small side, with two opposing beds and desk sets — aside from the two massive speakers surrounding his desk and desktop computer. Upon closer inspection, one notices thin white strips running around the walls of the room. With the lights off and the speakers on, these LED strips light up the room in patterns and sequences that synchronize with the beat of the music.


Tang uses most of his sound system and lights to throw parties on Saturdays. He began DJing at parties his freshman year and continued this year, also getting involved in the campus audio program Swaudio.


In his blockmate’s room across the hall are two even larger homemade speakers hidden under lofted beds.


“The stuff in my room we mostly used in parties last year, but this year we have Zach’s new speakers and some other bigger toys,” Tang said. “If we’re pregaming in my room, we use my old stuff.”


Tang says while the “toys” in his room are great for entertaining and wasting time, he struggles to focus because of the interruptions they create.


“I honestly don’t think I spend as much time as I used to in our room because there’s too many distractions, but if you have free time there’s lots of fun things you can do,” Tang said. “Most of this is really just toys. Instead of playing with Legos and stuff, now we play with electronics.”


Woodliff-Stanley uses his hi-tech gadgets for a very different purpose from throwing parties. His energies have been spent on setting up mood lighting throughout the room.


“Ultimately, we want the room to feel like home. The lights help a lot because they make the room feel like uniquely our room, not just a generic dorm room,” he said.


Woodliff-Stanley’s room is arranged around a central carpet and “tea station,” where his roommate’s kettle sits on top of the mini fridge next to a lounge chair. In the corners of the room are a set of Phillips Hue color-changing LED’s. The light has different settings that can be edited through a phone application on Woodliff-Stanley’s phone. A central command button that controls the lights rests on one of the many command hooks in the room.


“Since the lights can be changed to create countless different ambiances, the room can take on many different functions and feelings — relaxed, energized, focused, or fun — making the room seem bigger by making it feel more versatile. The lights make our room a bit like the Room of Requirement in Hogwarts — exactly what you need it to be whenever that’s what you need,” Woodliff-Stanley said.


Leisure time is important in a rigorous school like this, and setting up a room with lots of technology can be particularly helpful when the pressure is on all the time. Kissman’s Willets first double boasts a 60-inch plasma flat-screen TV facing a set of recliners under a lofted bed. His room also contains a PS3, a computer he built himself — complete with a blue light keyboard — three sets of speakers, and an amp for his and his roommate’s basses. Running along the walls of the room is an HDMI cable that allows Kissman and his friends to stream videos from the computer to the flatscreen for Friday night movies and Sunday night football.


All of this technology helps cultivate an environment that is enjoyable and comforting. “I’m gonna live here in this room, so I want it to be as nice as possible. A lot of the stuff is not ‘necessary,’” Kissman said.


Kissman says one of the ways he uses his tech as an escape from schoolwork is through gaming. “I’m as into [gaming] as I have time to be here, which is probably a few hours a week at most, so not really that much,” Kissman said.


As for the computer, building electronics is another one of Kissman’s hobbies.


“I know a lot about building computers, their different parts, hardware stuff. I built my first computer in eighth grade, which was also the first computer that I owned,” Kissman said. “I also recently bought a printer for this room as well, because the printer in Willets never works.”


“We often have people hanging out in our room; I think the electronics kind of draw them in. But sometimes we just have people doing homework in here, so it’s not always focused on the electronics,” Kissman said.


Whether it’s through custom lighting or state of the art audio equipment, Swarthmore students find that high-tech gadgets can make a room more inviting and lively, and are often a good choice when laying out a new dorm — although Swarthmore’s electric bill may disagree.


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