2222 SC Senior Design Collaboration Room
What It Took to Construct 2222 SC: ETC Staff Collaboration
What and Where
Just off the student commons is 2222 SC, which has been transformed into a senior design group project room. The impetus for the room came from one academic department noticing that collaboration space was available for students that needed bench space, but not for those needing space to work on computer-based assignments. Doug Eltoft saw the value of having the room available to all students working on senior design projects, and with the support of the Dean’s Office, assigned the relevant ECS, EES, and EMS staff to create the new space.
The room was opened for student use in January 2013. It was well used throughout the spring semester. Considering the size of the new senior class, it is no surprise that the room continues to be heavily used this fall (2013).
Doug Eltoft, the college CTO, designed the space. ECS ordered the equipment: marker boards, table, chairs, computers, large monitor and the stand on which it rests. John Kostman, EES, hung the marker boards on the north and south walls. Travis Wendling, ECS, programmed the Windows 8 tablet. John designed the electronics to connect actions on the tablet to the door release and relock. Steve Struckman, EMS, measured the tablet and then designed (using Autodesk Inventor) and 3D printed the ABS plastic case that holds the tablet. He also designed and built the (80/20 extruded and anodized) aluminum frame that holds the plastic case and the tablet. John Millsap, facility manager, got the room prepped, patched, and painted before the change began.
If you want more details about those various projects, read the Details section below.
Seniors can create an instant meeting from the tablet at the entry to 2222. Touch the “Instant Meeting” button and add 30-minute increments up to 90 minutes for the reservation. To enter the room, touch the Enable Card Reader button and swipe your ID over the card reader.
To make a reservation in advance, come to 1256 SC and speak with Sheila Britton, ECS. All instant meetings and reservations show in Exchange/Outlook, and also show on the tablet outside 2222. The tablet connects to the university wifi network.
Both advanced reservations and instant meetings show on the tablet outside 2222. You can scroll up and down to see the day’s reservations, or swipe right to left to see reservations on other days.
For ECS the project began in the fall 0f 2012. Because it was important to have an interface that most students would be familiar with, ECS decided to use a tablet running Windows 8. But work began before there were any Windows 8 tablets available and little on-line information about Windows 8. In November 2012 a book on writing Windows 8 applications became available.
Exchange and Outlook
Another reason for using Windows 8 was to have an easy way to communicate with the ITS Exchange server so that the 2222 room schedule could be handled using Outlook and Exchange. Instant meetings and reservations scheduled in advance are entries on the 2222 SC resource on the campus Exchange server. That is important because it means that you can look at the room’s schedule without being in front of 2222 and looking at the schedule on the tablet. You can view that room’s schedule by looking in Outlook for RES-SC2222.
Software and Design Considerations
Travis Wendling, the ECS programmer who wrote the application, used Visual Studio and .net to connect to Exchange and Microsoft web services. The application, which we call the ECS Room Scheduler, is written in XML, C++, and C#.
The CTO wanted the scheduling system to connect to Exchange so that recurring and instant meetings could be made, as well as meetings scheduled in advance. The interface needed to show an entire day’s reservations.
Since the initial design, the program has been improved to respond faster, some bugs have been fixed, and the interface tweaked a bit for better interaction.
The tablet is secured both physically and in software. The bezel on the tablet holder gives access to a limited part of the screen area; you cannot swipe from one edge of the tablet to another because of the bezel design. You can swipe from one day to the next, however, to see up-coming reservations.
Windows 8, which runs the tablet, gets patched and rebooted weekly. It is set up to auto login to the engineering network so that it can be automatically restarted and the room scheduling software launched. Like other managed Windows computers on the network, the tablet has the Altiris client loaded so that it can be set for patching and auto rebooting.
The room was designed for 4-person teams to work on group projects. The two glass boards on the north and south walls are the first ones in the building. They are easier to clean than white boards. Using these boards, teams can write out their design and augment and correct one another’s assumptions and calculations. The large monitor at the front of the room was envisioned as the place that teams would view their final project.
Opening the Door
The user should be able to unlock the door from an application, so an application had to be built. Thus the ECS Room Scheduler. Because students using the room have access to valuable equipment, the reservation software includes an End User License Agreement, which students must agree to before the door unlocks.
The tablet is connected to the door unlock mechanism. When a student touches the Enable Card Reader button and presents her/his ID card, the program looks to verify access. If verified, the door unlocks.
What Happens to Open the Door
To create the interface between the computer and the door access control, the designer needed a signal out from the tablet. Dave Funk, ECS systems administrator, suggested using keyboard output for that signal. John Kostman, EES service manager, took a USB keyboard and built a daughter board that captured the Caps Lock signal from the tablet. Kostman installed USB cabling from the tablet to the ceiling, where the output from the keyboard is connected to the alarm input on the access control system. The door will open only when the alarm is inactive following acceptance of the EULA.
Interface with Exchange Web Services
When an instant meeting is requested, the ECS Room Scheduler application knows the start time and duration (30, 60, or 90 minutes). The application provides the subject “Instant Meeting”. All that information is sent over wireless to the Exchange server. When a meeting is scheduled in advance, Exchange sends the meeting starts and end time, subject, and attendees to the ECS Room Scheduler application for display on the tablet.
Protecting the Tablet
Users have access to only part of the surface of the tablet, where the schedule displays.
The tablet uses the campus wireless system, eduroam, to communicate with Outlook, therefor, if the campus experiences a problem with the wireless network, the reservation system may not work properly. The door unlock system will still work properly as it is local.
Future Uses and Improvements
This project gave ETC the experience to design the appropriate interface for other rooms that have schedules. ECS plans to use a tablet to display or handle scheduling for other conference rooms in SC. Similarly, there will be a tablet to display room reservations in 1245 SC, the Henry Electronic Classroom, sometime soon.
In the future you will be able to view the entire week’s reservations. It is always in the plans to make the program respond more quickly.
View the photo gallery that has photos of 2222 as equipment was installed and how it looks today.