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Students propose new tools and technology with the student technology fee

A S-D printer available to students in the Ross Engineering Technology building. // Photo by Jake Tull
Students interested in how the Student Technology Fee is spent next year have a chance to voice their opinions by Friday, May 1. Unlike previous years, there are two student-made proposals up for consideration. Most of the proposals made for student technology initiatives are created by faculty and staff from science departments, Vice Provost of Information Technology John Lawson said. The first student proposal this year was created by Harold Wershow, a Western graduate student studying geology. He learned about GigaPan technology at a geology conference, and realized its potential to be used in the classroom. The proposal includes purchasing GigaPan, a software that creates high-resolution panoramic photos of landscapes that can be studied by geology students. It also shows trends in exposures of geological features, which show how the landscape has changed over time. The software can also project a prediction for what the landscape may look like in the future, Wershow said. “A lot of the tools we use in the geology department are funded by the Student Technology Fee,” Wershow said. “It’s a pretty good way to get money for cool stuff.” Western senior and industrial design major Max Smith proposed a project to fund a makerspace, a place for students to create and learn using tools like 3-D printers and laser cutters. He decided to propose an initiative because he saw a benefit for students at Western to have access to equipment to print and scan multidimensional formulas, puzzles and other objects for class work. Currently, engineering students have access to 3-D printers, but it requires permission and there are many barriers to get through before using it, Smith said. Smith requested $20,000 in his proposal for such a space to also be created at Western for all students to use in the Student Technology Center. “The big factor, as a student, is looking for something that would benefit me and my peers,” Smith said. “I didn’t realize students could apply for these initiatives, and it is really important that they can.” Lawson does not see the technology fee rising anytime soon as a way to collect money for creating more projects. “We are very cognizant on the cost of attending,” Lawson said. “I personally do not advocate for fee increases that are not thought out. With the student technology fee, we decide, ‘Is this going to have a direct benefit for students?’ If it is, we put it on the proposal ballot.” The Student Technology Fee Committee solicits proposals and abstracts every year. It discusses the merits of each proposed project and makes the funding decision, Lawson said. “We look at what the needs are for the students and then what they think is reasonable and fair,” Lawson said. Equipment like a diving camera for marine biology students to use at Shannon Point, microscopes and enhancements to labs in Fairhaven and in Fine and Performing Arts have been awarded in the past using the process of Student Technology Initiatives, Lawson said. In 2013, 78 percent of the students who voted did so in favor of the current $35 a term student technology fee. Over the course of an academic year, the tech fee generates approximately $1.5 million of which 8 percent is used for Tech Initiative projects. A total of $125,000 is set to be used to fund approved projects for the 2014-2015 academic year. The Student Technology Committee and Lawson will read over the comments Western students make on each project proposal and develop any recommendations they take into consideration which will then be reviewed by the Associated Students President Annika Wolters and Western’s President Bruce Shepard for final approval. Beyond the initiatives, students on the Student Technology Fee Committee allocated the rest of the fee’s funds to update student computer labs, run the Student Tech center and renew and replace some of the wireless network. The award recipients will be notified by the Student Technology Fee Committee on Friday, May 15.

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