INSIDE IOWA STATE
November 9, 2001
Online and unplugged
by Diana Pounds
You can take an old-fashioned book out onto the central green and expand
your mind. There is no reason you should not also be able to do that with
-- Provost Rollin Richmond
No reason, indeed. In a week or so, you will be able to find a nice spot on
central campus, pop your laptop and surf the Internet.
Near the first digital computer in the atrium of the Durham Center,
Telecommunications technician Glen Petersen (left) and engineer Kori Kaiser
link to the Internet with wireless laptop computers. They are part of an ISU
team extending wireless networking to numerous campus locations. Photo by
Pockets of wireless computing are appearing all around campus. In recent
months, ISU Telecommunications and Instructional Technology Center staff
have wired approximately 40 classrooms for wireless computing. Now they're
working on public areas, including popular outdoor areas and building
lounges and atriums.
Wireless computing already is available on the steps of Beardshear and the
atrium of the Durham Center. It's coming soon to the plazas outside Parks
Library and the Hub, as well as other popular public spots on
"Basically, we're working on the area from Memorial Union to MacKay and from
Curtiss to Marston," said John Kingland, director of Telecommunications.
"We're starting with the core central area and creating a wireless
infrastructure for students, faculty and staff."
Wireless computing gives ISU computer users the same kind of mobility as
cell phone users. If they've got the right kind of computers (see story
below) and they're near a transmitter (it's called an "access point") they
can connect to the campus network (and the Internet), without cords or
Since August, Telecommunications and ITC staff have installed approximately
45 wireless access points, most of them in classrooms. The access points are
small devices that transmit radio waves in the same frequencies as microwave
ovens and cordless phones. Indoors, their range will cover a large
classroom. Outdoors, the range can be several hundred feet.
While some may consider wireless computing something of a novelty, Provost
Rollin Richmond says wireless technology will prove very useful for the
A good example is the library, "where information now comes electronically
across a spectrum of sources," Richmond said. "If you are up in the stacks
and want to check on a book, some day you will be able to do it on a laptop,
right there in the stacks."
In classrooms full of laptop-toting students, instructors might use wireless
technology in a number of ways, Richmond said. They could ask students to
work a problem online, getting instant feedback on how many answered
correctly and incorrectly. They could, as a group, analyze a scientific
paper on the Internet.
In fields like economics, chemistry and genetics, instructors could work on
modeling on their laptops, so that students see exactly how models are
derived, Richmond added. Instructors also could encourage class conversation
by allowing students to post anonymous comments, for public display.
Labs also will be enhanced by wireless computing, Richmond said. "Many
scientists routinely use computers to collect and analyze data. They need to
be able to use their computers anywhere in the lab, not just where there
happens to be an Ethernet outlet."
A list of public wireless computing Web sites is available on the
Telecommunications Web site
"We'll continue to extend the wireless network on campus, so watch the list
for updates," Kingland said.
Richmond envisions a widespread wireless network on campus.
"Students expect universities to be at the leading edge of technology
change, especially as it affects their ability to learn," he said. "We are a
'university of science and technology' and our students have even higher
expectations. I believe a ubiquitous wireless network will be an important
recruiting tool for both students and faculty."
What you need for wireless computing
For wireless computing at Iowa State, you'll need a computer with a wireless
Ethernet card that supports the IEEE 802.11b wireless standard. Additional
information can be found on the Telecommunications Web site
The card can be ordered through the
Microcomputer Product Center (191 Durham) or other computer suppliers.
Support is available from the Solution Center, 195 Durham, 296-6000.
You also need to be in the vicinity of a "wireless access" point on campus.
In addition to public wireless computing areas on campus, some departments
have installed wireless computing areas. Officials who would like to
consider installing wireless access in their units can get information from
the Telecommunications Office.
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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