JDUC goes wireless with students’ help

Darren Ho, Mark Liu, Prakash Menon and Benson Yang will leave a lasting legacy at Queen’s, all because of their final year term project.

The graduating computer engineering students collaborated with Information Technology Services [ITS] Director Sean Reynolds, and JDUC Director Robert Burge to install wireless capability in the JDUC, allowing students to surf the internet inside the building from computers with wireless access hardware. The access area includes the lower and upper ceilidhs and the Common Ground seating area, with minimal access in the QP and the area directly outside its doors.

Liu said neither Sodhexo nor the QP wanted access in their areas because it would slow turn-over rates if customers lingered in their establishments surfing the internet.

“Financially it wouldn’t be beneficial for them because of a slow turnover,” he said. “We pretty much designed it so the signal would be very weak.

“The main access points are for the lower and upper ceilidhs and the common ground,” Liu said.

Reynolds said he jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with the students.

“We recognized that the expertise they wanted to develop and our campus needs intersected,” he said. “There was a wonderful opportunity to solve a real- world problem.”

Ho said the group decided it would be more interesting to do something practical with a real application, rather than a theoretical model.

“Initially our professor’s plan was just to do a wireless reading,” Ho said. “We contacted ITS and it came to the point where maybe we should [implement the plan on an actual] building.”

The arrangement was beneficial for Reynolds. He said enabling wireless capability on campus has been a goal of his since he was hired as ITS director last July.

“One of the priorities identified by the AMS and the SGPS was related to an introduction of wireless [access] on campus,” Reynolds said. “The benefit [of working with the students] was that the JDUC got wireless service earlier than otherwise.”

ITS also avoided hiring costs by working with the students.

“We would have either had to use the human resources we already have or go external,” Reynolds said. “Either way there would have been human resource costs.”

The students were not financially compensated for their work, but Ho said they did gain valuable experience.

“There was a lot of insight into how to get things done,” he said. “There was a lot of red tape to get through.”

Liu said working in the business world is easier than working within the University.

“In business you’re only dealing with one group of people,” he said. “Here you’re dealing with the faculty, the JDUC and ITS.

“That creates red tape,” Liu said.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Peter Mclane said Queen’s had not adopted wireless capabilities as fast as some other Ontario universities, and added the topic to his list of possible term projects for his students.

He supervised the research and the installation of the access ports, but said the students were responsible for the practical work.

“It’s a student initiative,” Mclane said. “The students designed the location of the access ports themselves and the equipment was provided by ITS.”

Reynolds and Mclane both said they were happy with the results of the project.

“It’s great from the practical experience perspective,” Mclane said. “To see some of their ideas go into practice must have been very fulfilling for the students ... I know it was for me.”

Reynolds said he would consider collaborating with students in the future because of the success of the project.

“I found it so invigorating,” he said. “The students were really creative and really enthusiastic. The University is better off with partnerships between the academic and administrative bodies.”

As of the last week of exams, Common Ground employee Paulina Garca, ArtSci ‘05, had not noticed any students using laptops in the Common Ground.

“Nobody knows about it,” she said.

Garca said the University should focus on making Stauffer Library wireless, because there are too few jacks available.

“They should install [wireless capability] in the library,” she said. “That is where most students want to use their laptops.”

Liu said a good business opportunity would be to pitch wireless installation to downtown coffee shops.

“It was my idea to engage the small coffee shops, and have the opportunity to make money,” he said. “But the time it took to study the JDUC was overwhelming so we didn’t have time.”

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