Interactive touchscreens installed in Admissions, Olin Rice

By Joe Klein

Two new interactive touch-screen displays were installed on campus this year to display admissions materials and announcements relevant to students. One of the displays was placed outside the Admissions Office in Weyerhaeuser, while the other was installed in the lobby of Olin-Rice. While the school’s Communications and Public Relations department purchased the screens for roughly $5,000 each, Communications Web Designer Bryan Barnes said development costs were nonexistent because all of the formatting work was completed in-house. Both displays were the result of specific administrative requests. Last spring, Director of the Science and Research Office Joan Toohey and biology professor Liz Jansen requested that a touch-screen monitor be placed in Olin Rice. At the same time, Assistant Dean of Admissions Nancy Mackenzie also requested a screen outside of the Admissions office in Weyerhauser. The Admissions display was installed in June, while the Olin-Rice screen was unveiled earlier this semester. The screen at Admissions pulls in material from the Macalester website and reformats it for the touch-screen interface. It currently displays the “Periodic Table of the Sciences at Macalester,” which presents information on faculty and student research opportunities. People using the touch-screen can access a world map that lays out global research and study away experiences provided by Macalester, as well as sample academic and personal schedules of Macalester students. The interface also includes a variety of other videos, stories and slideshows. “[Admissions] thought it would be good for prospective students that were waiting to go on a tour,” said Communications Director David Warch. “[It gives them] something to do out in the hallway.” The screen inside Olin-Rice features similar material but was designed primarily for student use rather than visitors to the college. The periodic table and world map on display in Weyerhauser can also be accessed in this building, but the sample student schedules were left out because they were intended for prospective students only. The screen additionally displays a variety of student announcements. “[The screen in Weyerhaeuser] is great for Admissions, but it’s not like current students are down here very often,” said Warch. “The Olin-Rice location is great because a lot more people are interacting with it.” The screens, designed by Elo Touch Systems, run their information on a Chrome web browser. They are wired to an internal clock that ensures they will shut off when the buildings are closed to students. Over the summer, Communications installed a similar screen in the lobby of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, but it is not a touch-screen display and only shows student announcements. According to Warch, there are currently no plans to add any more screens around campus unless requested by specific departments. There are plans to add additional content to screens over the next few months. A few months in, reception has been fairly positive toward the screens. “Almost every time I’ve been over [in Olin Rice], students have been on it and exploring it,” said Warch. “There’s a lot of great information—it’s meant to be explored.” refresh –>