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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

May 18, 2006

Classroom renovation project enters final phase

by Anne Krapfl

A four-year, $14.2 million effort to upgrade about 75 percent of the university's 220 general classrooms enters the home stretch this summer. An unanticipated surprise at the end of the project is enough funds to include the Curtiss Hall auditorium in the work.

Carver room 305

Innovative seating
When 305 Carver was renovated earlier this year, planners tried a new approach for the large but unsloped room: raise the back rows of students instead of raising the floor. The first five rows of movable tables and chairs are about hip-height; the last three rows are closer to rib-height. 305 Carver seats 112 students. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Iowa's 2002 Legislature approved state appropriations to cover the multi-year renovation plan. An ad hoc campus committee made recommendations in 2003 about the kinds of physical improvements that could help enhance undergraduate education. On the simplest level, a classroom received several thousand dollars worth of technology upgrades. At the other end of the spectrum was the LeBaron auditorium. The former 214-seat auditorium at the northwest corner of LeBaron Hall was torn down and replaced with a 363-seat facility containing many state-of-the-art learning tools. In between, were dozens of classrooms that, in addition to new classroom media, received some combination of new flooring, lighting and paint.

Matt Darbyshire, manager of media equipment for IT Services, said one of the goals of the project was to standardize the classroom technology, both for ease of use by faculty and to reduce the "down" time when a piece of equipment needs repairs. It means a faculty member likely will see the same video projector, DVD/VHS player, sound system and overall control panel regardless of what renovated room he or she is teaching in.

"This project is what has kept me going," Darbyshire said. "It's been a lot of fun. We could improve the media in all the classrooms, but I'm just as excited about the rooms where we changed the floors or the lighting, too."

Curtiss auditorium

Room 127 Curtiss will last be used by participants in the Odyssey of the Mind world finals at the end of this month and then closed for construction until next June.

"There are other, smaller classrooms that still could use some work," said Katie Baumgarn, room scheduling manager. "But we receive a lot of comments about this room -- accessibility, students have blocked views to the instructor -- and so we decided last fall that this is the room we need to put some work into."

Design details still are being worked out, but the stage will be removed and replaced by a raised teaching platform. The balcony will remain. To make the room wheelchair accessible and maneuverable, the number of seats will drop from 559 to around 390. Darbyshire said the goal is to improve student "sight lines" to the instructor and instructional screens and add state-of-the-art instructional media, while restoring a classic feel to the room with paint and millwork.

The estimated budget for the project is $2 million.

"We have faculty who teach service courses in 127 Curtiss every year, and many have adapted to the limitations of the room as it is," Darbyshire said. "I think they'll appreciate what we're trying to do in there."

Classroom improvements: Where the money was spent
LeBaron auditorium $5.2 million
Physics auditoriums (rooms 3 and 5) $1.6 million
Curtiss auditorium $2 million
General classrooms $4.25 million
Morrill classrooms (2) $850,000
Carver classrooms $300,000
Total 14.2 million


The Curtiss Hall auditorium is a late addition to a four-year, $14.2 million project to renvoate ISU classrooms and standardize classroom technologies.