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New CVTC Computer Hardware Lab Opens

The new Advanced Computer Hardware lab at Chippewa Valley Technical College includes the latest technology, a comfortable work environment, opportunities for real-world experience – but absolutely nothing shocking.

And it is important that static shocks are kept out of the lab. The lab has designed-in Electro-Static Discharge (ESD) protections that prevent those “snaps” from static electricity that annoy one’s fingers and are potentially fatal to computer hardware.

The lab, which opened with the start of the current academic term, is another step in consolidation of an Information Technology program once spread between the Clairemont Avenue and Gateway campuses.

“The main reason we moved the lab to the Business Education Center was students took classes both there and at Gateway. They had to go back and forth, and with five minutes between classes, it was a scheduling nightmare for them,” said Director of Facilities Doug Olson.

With the new lab at the Business Education Center, Information Technology program students no longer have to share space with the Electromechanical Engineering program at Gateway, and have a space that better fits their needs.

For one thing, the new lab is a lot more comfortable. In the old lab, computer equipment was placed on benches, and students were frequently hunched over it.

“We took a look at what would work better from an ergonomics perspective,” said program instructor Brian Schwahn. Now the equipment is on tall tables, with students either able to stand comfortably and work or sit on tall stools.

And there is a lot of work to be done. Students learn how to install and replace internal computer parts like mother boards, video and audio cards, system memory, and much more. Plus, they learn to link computers together into networks.

“We try to educate students so when they go out into industry they can say, ‘oh, we covered that in class’”, Schwahn said.

That includes the shocking issue of ESD. “That’s part of the curriculum,” said instructor Mark Puig. “Getting a shock after rubbing your feet on a carpet is about a 2,000 volt discharge. As little as 10 volts can damage a computer.”

Students in the program are on a track to become IT specialists at offices all over the Chippewa Valley – the people many office workers consider essential for keeping things running.

“What we do in the classroom and the lab can be applied out in the industry,” Schwahn said.