SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company (NYSE: HPE), today announced that Texas A&M University (TAMU) College of Engineering has completed a full-scale expansion and modernization of its Zachry Engineering Education Complex using Aruba wired, wireless, security and location services solutions, to create an innovative, high-tech learning environment for undergraduate engineering education. The unique complex, which is the largest on campus, is part of TAMU College of Engineering’s 25 by 25 initiative to support 25,000 engineering students by 2025 in response to the country’s need for more engineers.
According to Ed Pierson, CIO and Director of IT for Texas A&M’s College of Engineering, the scale of the new Zachry Building sets it apart from other projects that the University has undertaken.
“Different classroom designs and technologies have been used at Texas A&M for many years, but outfitting a 525,000 square foot building with 30 classrooms required us to think long and hard about the technology we needed to support the size and scale of the project. We also needed to make sure we had the best technology partners to not only deliver these solutions, but ensure they were implemented correctly and would work the way we’d envisioned,” Pierson said.
Creating a Vision for the Future of Engineering Education
The TAMU College of Engineering IT team conducted formal Proof of Concept tests, but Pierson noted that much of the technology they needed to implement at the opening of the complex in late August wasn’t available two or three years ago when they began the planning process. Although the IT team built several prototype rooms on campus, a key factor in their decision to partner with Aruba was a shared vision for what the technology should look like, how it should perform and most importantly, how it could adapt over time.
The College of Engineering used Aruba’s location-ready 300 Series Access Points with built-in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons for indoor and outdoor access and location services across the Zachry Building and Engineering Quad – or E-Quad – an outdoor area that provides space for students to meet, relax, eat and study. They also deployed Aruba 3810 Switches with SmartRate, ClearPass for policy management and AirWave for network management.
Incorporating Distinctive Design Elements to Deliver a New Style of Teaching and Learning
The new Aruba network was crucial for delivering the kind of reliable, high speed connectivity and flexibility that Pierson and his team needed for the Zachry Building’s distinctive design and operation. Unlike traditional cinder block academic buildings, the architectural design is based on light and glass, and the old row-by-row classrooms have been transformed into a hub and spoke design to enable a more interactive and collaborative learning style. For example, the new design allows instructors to pull content from students’ monitors to project and share with the rest of the class, allowing for more dialogue and creative problem-solving.
Ensuring Easy, Secure Connections for a Wide Range of Mobile and IoT Devices
The Aruba network provides simple and secure connectivity for all engineering students at Texas A&M College of Engineering’s main campus, as well as remote locations where much of the student growth is occurring. Using ClearPass, the IT team can manage the growing number and types of devices that students are bringing onto the network. In addition, because Texas A&M has one of the world’s leading engineering programs, their lab environment is also using a variety of IoT devices, many of which need to connect, but must be segmented securely, so they don’t affect the rest of the network.
“Tools like ClearPass are very important to us for segmenting the delivery of our services and ensuring the quality of those services to our users,” Pierson noted. “With ClearPass, we can begin to match and shape the experiences to the actual needs of the users and their particular devices.”
Leveraging Built-in BLE Beacons and Mobile Apps to Address Current and Future Student Needs
Having Wi-Fi access points that are location-ready was also a critical feature for the College of Engineering’s IT team. The built-in beacon capability allowed them to leverage the placement of the APs for mobile engagement, and ensure that they can easily augment coverage with standalone beacons as they move forward. Today, the beacons are used in conjunction with an updated mobile app called “EngiNEARME” that delivers a mapping system to help students, faculty and visitors navigate within the Zachry Building, and Pierson is excited about the potential for adding new capabilities.
“We’ve really just scratched the surface for what we can do with these built-in beacons,” he said. “We’re working with our students to enable more functionality, such as delivering push notifications, to provide students with important information and resources customized to their major focus.”
Although the center officially opened just a few weeks ago, the Texas A&M College of Engineering is already seeing positive and enthusiastic reactions from both students and faculty who recognize that the unique combination of architecture, artwork and technology can truly change the engineering education experience.
Noted Pierson, “Even some of the folks that we thought would be more traditional in their approach have become the biggest fans of our new environment and the possibilities it opens up for teaching and learning. The Aruba infrastructure has been a key component in enabling this environment.”
Partnering to Usher in the Next Generation of Engineers
An important showcase for the new Zachry Building will be the Aggies Invent event on September 29th. Although the College of Engineering hosts multiple events each year, this year’s event titled “Smart Campus Experiment’ and sponsored by Aruba, will be the first in the newly renovated facility. Event participants will use the BLE technology in the building to invent and prototype an engaging indoor mobile experience. Participants can create apps that are not just limited to the college campus, but could be designed for a corporate campus, hospital, museum or other public venue.
Said Pierson, “The Aggies Invent event is a good example of why we chose Aruba for the Zachry Engineering Center modernization project. It’s really symbolic of the partnership that Texas A&M and Aruba have, which goes well beyond a vendor-customer relationship.”
About Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, is a leading provider of next-generation networking solutions for enterprises of all sizes worldwide. The company delivers IT solutions that empower organizations to serve the latest generation of mobile-savvy users who rely on cloud-based business apps for every aspect of their work and personal lives.
To learn more, visit Aruba at http://www.arubanetworks.com. For real-time news updates follow Aruba on Twitter and Facebook, and for the latest technical discussions on mobility and Aruba products visit Airheads Social at http://community.arubanetworks.com.