As part of ongoing efforts to expand the University’s computer science resources and facilities, the first floor of the Thomas J. Watson Sr. Center for Information Technology will be renovated this summer.
The changes, first announced at the CS Town Hall in January 2018,will move Computing and Information Services out of the first floor. The current help desks may be replaced with updated furniture and potentially a food cart from dining services. A new virtual reality lab, an expanded robotics lab and a relocation of the graphics lab to the first floor are all also included in the renovation plans.
The current graphics lab location on the fourth floor will be transformed into office space for faculty and graduate students. In further renovations, the department aims to upgrade this office space as well as create a gender neutral bathroom on the second floor.
The first floor renovations will also create a new smaller seminar room and a larger conference room, as well as repurpose the public computer cluster into space for labs and courses.
These changes are driven by expanding research and student involvement in the computer science department, said Thomas Doeppner, associate professor and vice chair of the department. In particular, faculty who specialize in graphics and robotics research were hired with “the understanding that they would get more office space,” he explained.
Assistant Professor of Computer Science Daniel Ritchie, who joined the department in 2017 with a focus in graphics, said in an email to The Herald that the proximity of the robotics lab to the graphics lab will encourage “collaboration and community” between the groups. Stefanie Tellex, assistant professor of computer science, seconded that sentiment, adding that the increased square footage in the robotics lab will be particularly useful to her research.
The department hopes that these changes will significantly benefit research efforts, as they “really need more space for robotics, graphics and VR research,” he added.
Undergraduate and graduate student researchers also called for more lab space in the renovations, Doeppner said.
“The renovations will allow us to accommodate the growth in our program,” said Ugur Cetintemel, professor of computer science and department chair. Over one-sixth of undergraduate students have declared a concentration in computer science, making it the most popular department at Brown, as The Herald previously reported.
Aside from accommodating academic ventures, renovations to the CIT could also boost students’ mental health, explained Sarah Berman ’20, adding that the CIT is “generally associated with sitting and doing work for 12 hours.” Changes to the building’s architecture and interior design would “make people a lot happier,” she said.
There is a “definite need for more space,” Doeppner explained, but at the moment, the possibility of constructing an additional computer science building is “not a reality.”