College of Engineering & Computer Science Dedicates Renovated Collaborative Classrooms

 a student uses a syringe in a bioengineering lab

November 15, 2017

With the unveiling of three newly renovated collaborative classrooms in fall 2017, the College of Engineering & Computer Science now boasts a suite of state-of-the-art learning environments thanks to a generous gift from alumnus Avi Nash G’77 and his wife Sandra.

Previously, Link 331 was a space shared by an electrical engineering lab and a molecular biology and many students found it to be cramped and awkward to work in. The new Link 331 features an open space and modular desks that can be arranged in a variety of ways for different labs.

“Last semester we had class there so coming back this semester, so we walked in the door the first day of class and I think everyone’s mouths dropped,” said bioengineering senior Kristen Casella ’18.  “It was more spacious looking, brighter and really didn’t resemble the old room at all”

“I usually sit on the right side of the room and I have another screen right next to me so if the teacher is working on a circuit board, it is like the smallest thing imaginable – I can still see that,” said bioengineering senior Alyssa Anderson ’18.

“It really maximizes the outcome for them I think to be able to stay there and do their best work and learn from each other in a more modern teaching environment,” said bioengineering Professor Dacheng Ren

“Bioengineers can use it, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and I think a civil and environmental class is even using it. It is just ease of access for everyone,” said Anderson. “Everyone can learn from there, everyone can benefit from using that room.”

New desks, multiple large screen monitors were added to Link 373 before it was dedicated as the “Thomas Waaland Collaborative Classroom.” The room honors Thomas Waaland, a former CFO at Corning Glass Works who was a father-figure and mentor to Nash.

“I love the technology that is in those rooms,” said chemical engineering Professor Katie Cadwell.

“This is a direct plug and play. I can bring in lots of other media. Anything I can see on the iPad, I project right up to the screens,” said mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Melissa Green. “On those moveable chairs, essentially I end up at the podium but I end up stepping out a lot and it is almost like a theater in the round at that point because they are sort of all around me. There is a lot of back and forth so I have a sense everyone is paying attention.”

New furniture and a greatly improved teaching station including webcasting technology were also added to the Indira Auditorium in Link 105. The auditorium is dedicated in memory of Nash’s mother, Indira Manudhane.

“We have many auditorium type classrooms around campus but this is the one I like the most because – we are engineers – we need space to move and do our work and I have like a whole table to do that. I’m not trying to cram everything on a small desk,” said Anderson.

The previously dedicated “Sandra and Avi Nash Classroom for Collaboration” in Link 369 is in such high-demand that faculty have to submit a special application in order to teach in it. Computer science professor Kevin Du says it has been an essential part of his international cybersecurity conference each year.

“70 professors from other universities, they come and they are not easily impressed but they are by this room. Basically many of them said they wished they had the same thing in their own universities,” said Du. “One of the attendees, he was thinking that, while I am holding the workshop here, he is going to host a satellite workshop in his own places. So we are going to do it basically as stream casting from here.”

In the Center for Science and Technology, 3-116 was dedicated as the “Tara Mehta Computer Classroom.” The renovated classroom honors the memory of Nash’s mother-in-law Tara Jasubhai Mehta. It features new computers, new monitors and new furniture.

“The fact that it is new gives it more of a livelier atmosphere to learn in,” said mechanical and aerospace engineering senior Melissa Alva ’18.

“Now we have all those screens. I sit a little towards the back so having a TV right to my left is a lot easier,” said mechanical and aerospace engineering senior Alex Filip ’18.

“All the monitors are on three point axis arms so you can rotate the computer to show somebody working in front you,” said mechanical and aerospace engineering senior Andrew Lorah ’18.

“I think it gives a good opportunity to collaborate with other students, talk with them in a more interactive way of learning with your professor,” said Alva.

Students and faculty say the newly renovated classrooms have greatly improved the student experience.

“Teachers definitely stress the importance of teamwork. Being able to meet in class really jump starts a project,” said Casella.

“I like not having to think, will this classroom work for me? I just walk in to the classroom and start teaching.  I think about my students, I think about the material I am going to show them, the things I want them to do together,” said Cadwell.

“It is important to be an engineering and computer science school and be up to date because we are competing with other schools and colleges essentially,” said Casella. “With all those tools and resources, we are able to come out on the top.”