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Computer Upgrade for the GIS Lab

Fourteen new computers were purchased for the Ecosystem Science and Management GIS Lab.

Abstract

The objective of upgrading the ESM GIS Lab computers was to equip the lab with up‐to‐date hardware that allows working efficiently with current GIS, remote sensing and spatial modeling software as well as with large spatial and tabular datasets. Fourteen new computers (Dell Optiplex 790s) where purchased through this grant. Computer specifications include: a CORE i5 2500 Processor, 8GB memory, 500GB hard drive, and 19” monitors. Additionally, the computers were set to make use of a central PSU ITS service called Cooperative Lab Management (CLM). With CLM, System Administrators in the College's Information Technologies unit were able to
leverage PSU infrastructure and resources to give the lab the same functionality of a PSU public computer lab (PCL) while maintaining it under the supervision of ESM. An advantage of this system is that students will save their work on central PSU servers and can access it later from any PSU PCL. Six courses, four in Fall and two in Spring semesters, will be taught at the GIS lab. These students, along with graduate students that do research at the lab, will benefit from a state‐of‐the‐art computer lab that was made possible through the Student Technology Fee Grant.

Report

The objective of upgrading the SFR GIS Lab computers was to continue to equip the lab with up-to‐date hardware that allows working efficiently with current GIS, remote sensing and spatial modeling software as well as with large spatial and tabular datasets.

Several undergraduate and graduate courses are taught at the GIS lab and many graduate students use the lab resources for their research. Courses taught at the GIS lab emphasize hands‐on learning providing students with case studies and/or specific instructions to complete assignments on their own. A major advantage of teaching these courses at the ESM GIS Lab, instead of at a PSU public computer lab (PCL), is the flexibility instructors have to install specific software to teach particular subjects and to set up office hours at the lab where students are working on completing their assignments.

Graduate student research benefits from using the GIS lab because specially requested programs can be installed on an individual computer, requiring only one license. When expensive software is needed by more than one student, resources can be pooled to have one or two licenses installed in the lab and accessible for students who need the software.

Through the Student Technology Fee Grant, fourteen new student computers systems were purchased. The Department of ESM purchased three additional computer systems and one new podium teaching computer. Specifications of the new Dell Optiplex 790s computers are presented in Appendix 1. Among other features, the computers have a CORE i5 2500 Processor, 8GB memory, 500GB hard drive, and 19‐inch monitors. These specifications will allow students
to efficiently learn and work on assignments requiring the use of GIS and remote sensing software and the manipulation of large spatial and tabular datasets.

All the computers in the GIS lab were set to make use of a central Penn State ITS service called Cooperative Lab Management (CLM). With CLM, System  Administrators in the College's Information Technologies unit were able to leverage PSU infrastructure and resources to give the lab the same functionality of a PSU public computer lab (PCL) while maintaining it under the supervision of ESM. Departmentally‐purchased and licensed software was installed on all 18 machines via a centrally‐managed console and AG IT can remotely patch, update and install
new applications as they become available in a very reasonable amount of time, thus increasing teaching efficiency. Further, AG IT was able to leverage and install free and site‐licensed software that is available in all PSU PCL. Students will log in with their PSU credentials and will be able to work in the GIS lab, save their work on central PSU servers and then go to any other PSU PCL or even their laptops or home computers to access files and continue learning from anywhere. At the same time AG IT did this work on this lab, they also upgraded the network infrastructure and provided a firewall solution to increase network speed, reliability and security in this new environment. Currently AG IT is working with instructors to install specific software need for the courses to be taught this Fall semester.

Submitted By

Department of Ecosystem Science and Management (ESM)
Faculty Contact Name: Laura P. Leites