SAU residence halls to go wireless

By fall 2011, students can pack up their Internet cords and send them home for good. Students will never again have to tangle with their Internet cable or stalk IT to get an outlet fixed. Everyone with laptops, printers and gaming systems alike will be able to connect to the Internet with ease because Ambrose is going wireless.

You could practically hear the collective sigh of relief on March 28 when Ambrose announced that work has begun to configure the residence halls for wireless. At least for students, connecting wireless devices to the Internet will now be a snap.

“Students will still have to register their devices just like they do now, but once they have registered them they should be able to pop right on,” Mary Heinzman, executive director of information resources and library director, said. “They can use devices in their dorm room, in the living area, out in the hallway, wherever they want to go. They will just have to log on like they do in a classroom with the username and password. Gaming systems and printers will connect without the username and password.”

Wireless in the residence halls is also a benefit for guests as well. Ambrose is creating a guest account login so that people who are not students will be able to access the wireless.

Although work on the wireless has just recently begun, Ambrose has been thinking about installing it for a while.

“We’ve been working on it slowly for the past couple of years,” Heinzman said. “Every new building that we build is wireless and we made the library and the bookstore wireless. We knew there were a lot of buildings on campus that we wanted to make wireless and we thought that by starting with the residence halls and townhouses that this would be a good draw for potential students.”

Ambrose has a lot of planning behind the move for wireless Internet. They got quotes and bids for people who wanted to do the work and one stipulation was they wanted to do it all at once.

“We didn’t want to do one residence hall and not the others because we didn’t want students to wonder ‘why them and not us?’” Heinzman said.

After researching what other universities were using for a wireless system, Ambrose chose to use the Cisco brand of products and hired Tri-City Electric to do the wiring and other installation work. The information technology staff is also helping by installing the wireless access points in the residence halls.

Testing and installation of the system was started during spring break. Tri-City Electric came in and started doing wiring in some of the dorm rooms while IT put in the access points on the ceiling. They then brought in different kinds of devices and tested to make sure they were picking up a signal, the signal strength, and if the access points were providing good coverage.

“The testing went really well so now we can move on to installing in the rest of the buildings,” Heinzman said. “Actually right now we have about 40 students who are using the wireless on the first floor of Tiedemann and in some of the townhouses.”

Ambrose plans to finish installation in the residence halls by the fall or maybe even sooner. They then plan to start installing in classroom buildings with the end goal of the whole campus being wireless.

“I was pumped when I found out we were getting wireless,” Katie Harrington, a junior at St. Ambrose, said. “I thought having it in the library was nice, but having wireless in the dorms is even more exciting.”

One major factor that is helping Ambrose pay the high cost is the technology fee that students pay every semester. Full-time students pay $120 per semester and part-time students pay $60 per semester.

“This is one of the first big projects we’ve been able to do with that technology fee,” Heinzman said. “Another thing we have done this year with the technology fee was to put in Hayes 100 all new Mac computers.”

Once the residence halls are wireless, the residence hall advisors will help inform students on how to use the new wireless system.

“We are working with the residence hall advisors, and we are giving them some training,” Heinzman said. “We are then asking the RAs to hold sessions with their floors and the technology staff will go to the meetings and tell the students how it works.”

So when students move back in the fall they won’t have to deal with a tangle of wires and cables for their wireless devices. They will be able to connect all types of devices to the wireless system with ease.

“We are very excited to offer this service,” said Heinzman. “The technology fee has really helped us and we just want students to understand that their money is going towards that and not just in a black hole where they can’t see it.”

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