VOLUME 11, NO. 3 FEBRUARY 1998
Greeks go wireless
project that expands the campus computer system into each of the fraternity and sorority houses using state-of-the-the art wireless networking technology became fact last fall when the Greek Networking Project was approved by the WPI Board of Trustees; the work was completed in January. The project represents collaboration between WPI and the undergraduate and alumni chapters of each of the member fraternities and sororities of the Greek Alumni Council.
The Greek system at WPI includes 14 fraternities and sororities, comprising nearly 40 percent of the student body and providing housing for more than 500 students. In the summer of 1994, WPI expanded its computer network services to its eight large residence halls and four smaller residences. The Greek houses relied on modem-based, dial-up connections, allowing students access only to their UNIX based accounts.
Staff and faculty researched several options to bring the Greek houses into WPI's campus computer system. The problem definition included 14 different groups, many with multiple facilities, totaling 20 buildings. Located primarily to the south and east of the campus, the sites are adjacent to the campus, within a one-mile radius, and all have a line of sight to some structure on campus. The solutions included extending the existing fiber-optic cable system, expanding the capabilities of the current dial-up network with leased lines and high-speed modems, or employing a wireless network system utilizing RF technology.
"Clearly the best solution to meet all requirements was a wireless network with addressable hubs," says Sean O'Connor, network manager for the College Computer Center. Windata Inc.* Airport series wireless networking hardware and Bay Networks Addressable Hubs best met the test of user and university. The campus network was extended to remote areas at several campus locations that house the base modules of the Windata transceivers. Small antennas were placed on the roofs of Salisbury Labs, Alden Memorial, and Founders and Institute halls so that there is a line of sight to each of the Greek houses. Each house was outfitted with a roof antenna - either a small box or an antenna similar to an 18-inch digital satellite dish. The system has a range of 1.8 miles.
Each antenna is connected to a transceiver and an addressable hub (each Greek house was responsible for providing their own wiring beyond that point). The total cost to the University is $410,000, to be paid back over five years by an individual user fee of $200 per year. "Clearly, this project represents a giant step forward for the Greek community while also servicing the needs of WPI. The system is expandable and upgradable and represents a win-win solution for everyone," says O'Connor.
* The president and CEO of Windata, Gregory T. Hopkins, is a 1969 WPI graduate.
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