Gallaudet University Gets the Computer Lab of the Future

Harkin Computer LabGallaudet University is located in Washington D.C., and was built to provide an effective higher learning environment for the deaf and hard of hearing. Thing is, with technology advancing rapidly, and the way we prefer to work changing along with it, that environment hasn’t quite been up to snuff until recently, thanks to an update from SMARTdesks.

The old Harkin Computer Lab looked a lot like your average computer lab – lots of rectangular tables, lots of parallel rows, lots of isolated work stations, and lots of wires everywhere. It was designed to be static, with everyone locked into their own work and/or Facebook breaks. That all changes with the redesign, which values dynamic movement and accommodates a wider range of working styles.

Sitting for longer and longer amounts of time at a computer made us realize how bad sitting for a really long time is for our health. Some standing desks can be found now, along with motorized desks whose height can be user-adjusted, useful for those who want to switch from sitting to standing on the fly, or for those who need to use wheelchairs. New triangular desks were built to facilitate collaboration by making everyone roughly equidistant from each other, while breaking down visual barriers between people – key when sign language needs to be used. Thanks to careful spacing, the desks still afford some degree of privacy, too.

There are also new triangular video conference tables, with a central monitor on the wall and laptops that can be closed and hidden inside the table itself, again reducing visual clutter. The main culprit when it comes to visual clutter, wires, is a problem which has also been cleverly handled. Instead of sticking out everywhere and potentially making for safety hazards, all wires are threaded through a central cylinder in all tables, which then take the wires under the floor and out of sight (the Harkin Computer Lab has raised floors for this purpose).

Finally, there’s some new software support – Design Cloud, which creates a central hub for all kinds of file types, enabling instant collaboration between students using the computer lab.

The redesign creates much wider aisles and spaces for movement and the kind of collaboration that doesn’t require technology, because we still need to do that from time to time. Ample room is left for groups of people to use sign language with each other comfortably. The wide variety of tables means that pretty much every working style is provided for. The only question is whether or not students will be able to get a work station – I’m guessing it’s going to be a popular place.

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