by Gerry Watson, August 2007
Engineering and science coursework is notoriously difficult, with an endless barrage of equations, formulas and methodologies to study and review. At Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, students and faculty rely on HP to make learning easier and the learning environment better integrated.
Since 1994, each incoming freshman has received a notebook PC. For its latest class, the school wanted a highly durable notebook PC with faster processing speeds and improved graphics capabilities. After reviewing and testing several notebook PCs, the school chose the HP nw8440 Mobile Workstation.
Louis Turcotte, vice president of IAIT, Rose-Hulman, calls the HP mobile workstation "a robust and durable mobile computer with all the requirements in place."
"The HP nw8440 delivers desktop-equivalent performance, which is exactly what we want in terms of power and performance," he says. "Obviously our students need outstanding performance, but they also need a PC that can handle the rigors of being carried from building to building and handled constantly."
Equipped with Intel® Core™ 2 Duo and Intel Core Duo 64-bit processing technology, the HP nw8440 Mobile Workstation is a popular platform with professional engineers, and a natural fit for undergraduate engineering students, according to Turcotte.
"Engineering applications continuously evolve, and require increasing levels of hardware performance for support," he notes. "One of the concerns we have is the ability of our vendors to deliver really strong technology that's future-proof for at least several years. Our computing needs change every year, and we look to vendors that can adapt using the newest technology and deliver what we need. HP has done that."
The HP nw8440 delivers reliability on two fronts, says Turcotte. Equipped with the HP Mobile Data Protection System 3D, the nw8440 is engineered to reduce the amount of transmissible shock and vibration inside the PC, especially in and around the hard drive casing. Its dual-core processor, combined with a large 2-megabyte L2 cache and desktop-caliber graphics, helps provide the long-term performance that Rose-Hulman values.
"Many of our students work seven days a week on their computer, carrying it with them almost everywhere they go," Turcotte adds. "Plus many of them take their computer with them after graduation, loaded with years of files, data and engineering software. Reliability and a long lifespan are key factors when we put these PCs in the hands of new students."
David Mutchler, professor of computer science and software engineering, says Rose-Hulman faculty learned early on how powerful notebook PCs can transform the classroom environment.
In teaching calculus, he explains, an instructor needs to show students how to work with derivatives. The problem is that many students get bogged down in the mathematical mechanics of drawing a symbolic derivative curve. Using an HP PC, students can easily generate a graph of the function.
"Letting the PC handle that part of the problem means the rote aspect of calculus goes away and students can instead devote their energies to setting up and solving the problem," says Mutchler. "When we saw this effect, we were dedicated to making PCs a vital component in the classroom. We find that they truly improve the learning environment."
Rose-Hulman has also begun evaluating HP Compaq Tablet PCs in the classroom. Over the past few years, the faculty has experimented with dozens of HP Compaq Tablet PCs acquired through HP Technology in Teaching Grants. Using these Tablet PCs, Rose-Hulman students learn more efficiently, thanks to faster note taking.
"In a traditional engineering classroom, students write furiously to keep up as the professor covers whiteboards with equations and working problems," says Julia Williams, an English professor and executive director of the school's Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment. "There's always the possibility that something can be lost in translation, or the student becomes focused more on transcribing than what the professor is saying.
That's completely changed thanks to Tablet PCs. Professors can conduct the entire class using a Tablet PC and an overhead projector. Students focus on a single screen, make notes on their own Tablet PC screen using the stylus and save their updates to an external flash drive. Everything is much more manageable."
It's an advantage that junior mechanical engineering student Chris Quick appreciates.
"It can be hectic in the classroom," Quick notes. "The HP Tablet PC is easy to work with and can multitask at the level we need. There are a lot of different functions that we work with. We often pull data or information from one application to another when we're working on a complex problem. The Tablet PC handles it with no problems. It makes our lives much easier and relieves some of the pressure to get information written down and put into play."
"The Tablet PCs not only perform well, they are very well designed and thought out," Williams adds.
Administrators and students cite several reasons, such as the Tablet PC's 12.1-inch, 160-degree wide-viewing angle display and specially treated glass that provide superior viewing. Another is the comfortable writing surface. The Tablet PC's in-mold lamination also helps protect the computer from bumps, jolts and the hazards of frequent use and handling.
Collaboration between students and faculty is a hallmark of a Rose-Hulman education. To enhance this collaboration, the university uses the HP Tablet PC to run DyKnow Vision™ software, which Williams calls an "irreplaceable tool for collaborative learning."
Using the software's content replay feature, students play back their notes to reexamine stroke-for-stroke how charts were built or how concepts were introduced and explained. "It also helps you recapture new concepts much more quickly because you can watch, pause and replay the parts that were especially complex," Quick says.
"DyKnow Vision is demanding software," explains Williams. "It can push the hardware to the limit, but the HP Tablet PCs are capable of running the software efficiently and without any problems or delays."
That's one reason that Rose-Hulman plans to expand its use of the HP Tablet PCs beyond just a few classrooms, Williams notes. "We look at the HP Compaq Tablet PC as a very valuable learning tool, and our students have responded very well to using them."
Objective: Rose-Hulman needed powerful computer technology to meet the needs of faculty, current students and incoming freshmen.
Approach: The school outfitted several classrooms with HP Compaq Tablet PCs and acquired HP Mobile Workstations for incoming freshmen.
| ||" Increased productivity for faculty and students|
| ||" Durability and reliability help extend product life|
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