The brainchild of Debbie Miller, Wittenberg class of 1971 and a current member of the university's Board of Directors, Wittenberg University has constructed its first-ever Geek House, a Woodlawn Avenue residence that is intended to foster technological creativity on campus. The project moved from concept to reality in a relatively short amount of time thanks to a committee that included Director of Computational Science Eric Stahlberg, Director of New Media Bob Rafferty, Information Technology Coordinator Lionel Worman and Assistant Dean of Students Dawn White.
The house is outfitted with established and emerging information technologies, including state-of-the-art computers, displays and networking to create a resource-rich environment for students to work on information technology-oriented projects. Supporting Wittenberg's commitment to experiential learning, priority will be given to projects that will better prepare students for 21st century careers while providing a benefit to the campus community and beyond.
The debut of the Wittenberg Geek House brings yet another local resource for students interested in applications of technology. Coinciding with newly available scholarship opportunities for study in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, regional internships, and the opening of the Next Edge Technology Park in Springfield, students will have a wide array of opportunities to learn and gain experience to better prepare for tomorrow's careers.
"The long-term potential of the Geek House will be realized by the combination of projects and creative ideas that converge there," Stahlberg said. "Ideal projects would have a base in technology, be applied to a real-world problem, provide a motivation for students to learn, and ultimately benefit a broader community within a one-year time frame."
While plans for a grand opening are well underway, other details pertaining to the operation of the house have also been settled. During the first pilot year, access to the house will be based on project involvement, with the house equipped to accommodate 12-15 students working on three to four team projects. Project proposals will be selected based on their potential for student benefit, innovative use of technology and broader community impact.
"Even students not receiving direct access to the Geek House will benefit through the contributions made by their classmates on projects benefitting the campus community," Stahlberg said.
Eventually, the Geek House is expected to become an actual student residence, with a small group of students living in the technology-rich environment to foster their creativity and enhance their educational experience. The residents will largely self-govern the house, with Stahlberg acting as the faculty adviser. Other policies are still being finalized, using the tremendously successful and popular Polis International House at the corner of Cassilly Street and Woodlawn Avenue as a model.
"While the Geek House is not on the scale of a Walt Disney production, the house still very much represents a digital Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT)," Stahlberg said. "We are now in a position to embark on the endeavor and develop additional support for the first Geek House, working with industry partners, visionaries and our own alumni to create a learning community for tomorrow."
The Wittenberg Investment Fund provided seed money to get the project started, but university administrators hope the Geek House will attract investors and sponsors from inside and outside the Wittenberg community.
"College has always been a very transformative experience," Stahlberg said. "Many new ideas are explored here, avenues investigated and personal passions unleashed."
Written By: Ronni Appenbrink '09
Photo By: Ben McCombs '09
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