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Re: [Phys-l] new construction help


We finished a new science/library building (community college) 3 years ago
and have been working with it since. Let me tell you what we had trouble
with, and have found since:

1. Architects who say they know about designing labs LIE! We interviewed
4 different firms, and they knew nothing about the needs for our academic
labs. In the end, you get what you design yourself. I spent hours laying
out the Physics lab, bench placement, cabinet needs, size requirements,
etc. -- however, I am one of the few instructors happy with my room, the
amount of storage, etc.

2. I had data drops in every bench for our network, and they are a waste.
3 years later we are using mobile carts with laptops and wireless nodes.
The carts allow the computers to be mobile and serve many labs (a big
selling point for the college to buy them for us), and the wireless allows
us to use the laptops or any of the kids to jack in with their own laptop.

3. Never underestimate the need for outlets on the benches. I have 8 per
bench, and sometimes I wish I had made it 10.

4. I use variable DC power supplies, not dedicated bench recepticles.
This gives me more flexibility in doing a variety of experiments. Our
Chemistry person asked for benchtop plugs for 5VDC, etc. The plugs are
not safe, because the architects and builders didn't know what they were
designing or why, they 'converter' box in his prep. room stands 1 m x 1m,
3 m high and he could've used that floor and wall space for other things.

5. Think STORAGE!! Lockable cabinets are handy, and if you are the one
using them 24" is OK. Rack as much multipurpose stuff in the lab benches
-- locks here are VERY useful as well -- but here 14" is the max as the
students will be accessing it the most. (You'd be surprised at what kinds
of stuff walks away, so the locks are useful.)

6. Remember that material and experiments "roll down hill" every 5 or so
years. I am doing spectroscope experiments in Freshman Physics that I
never did until my Junior year! I am using nuclear samples (requires a
lead box, etc.) that I would've never thought to do before my Senior year
in College. You must be seeing that kind of thing too.

7. As the construction happens, be present, ask questions, and don't be
afraid to yell stop.

8. Shoot for a SmartBoard (or comparable); however, make sure they use a
good vendor (ours was a nightmare) and take into consideration you want to
be able to get the room DARK. I have no windows in my lab and get
wonderful results from the optics experiments and the projection system.
However, knowing that I designed the room this way they put in a separate
emergency lighting system so I can turn off all the lights. In other
rooms they left one bank of the ceiling lights as the emergency lights, so
they are on all the time! Of course they chose the bank in the front of
the room near the door, which is also near the SmartBoard. Everyone (but
me) complains about the loss of clarity of the projection system.
Chemistry can't do photoluminescence either because of this.

9. Document cameras (Elmo's) are useful in so many ways.

10. I have water in one central location and NO gas. I use hot plates
for everything I can, and haven't missed the gas hookups at all. I find
that the students make best use of the entire bench, so having one central
sink for everyone is not a problem and maximizes their useful work area.

11. I have no "post holes" in my benches, and I don't miss them -- I just
use more clamps around the edge. To that end, we got cement tops for our
benches (colored black) to take the wear and tear. I asked for a 4"
overhang (yes I had to specify it), and it has worked out well for
everything from Atwoods to Spring labs.

12. I have a prep. room with 20 plugs for equipment, etc. If you don't
have such a thing, or you want your Vernier stuff to stay in the benches,
charged and ready to go, definitely have electric in the benches.

My last comment is shoot high. I shot for the Moon with my requirements
and got scaled back because of building costs and budget changes. What I
got scaled back to was more than my minimum. The Biology and Chemistry
people didn't do this and they are suffering now. If you are also doing
Chemistry at your school -- beware that architects and builders do not
understand the need for a vented chemical cabinet and storage room with
high turnover in air circulation.

Hope some of that helps,
Peter Schoch
Sussex County Community College


I teach at St. Anthony Village High School, just outside of Minneapolis.
We are currently planning a renovation of our science rooms. We are
continually being told to design world class labs for the next 100
years. In the next few weeks we will be taking tours of local schools
to take a look at some newer science labs.

I have three questions (or maybe 2 with an a&b on #2):
First- if you are from the Minneapolis area, can you recommend a school
that we visit?

Second- what items am I missing from the list below (if I am creating a
world class h.s. lab for the next century)? I am the only physics
teacher in the building. One or two extra heads on this would be nice.

Three- (2b?)- What additional requirements would you recommend for a
facility that also plans to be a STEM focus district (k-12) with
engineering & robotics opportunities at the high school. We offer Pro/E
cad courses (through our industrial tech dept), and plan to offer
additional metal working facilities in the industrial tech dept that
might be shared by with physics and engineering courses.

Thanks in advance,

The list that I have right now is:

Room (Physics)
1. Networked locations for Printer & Scanner.
2. Separate work room(or room within a room) for robotics / rockets
/ University Engineering challenges (removable doors/garage door?)
3. Sound Field complete room amplification system
4. Short reach, wide screen projector with wide screen & wide
screen interactive board or slate
5. External display case to hallway for posters, upcoming events,
demos etc...(w/ power)
6. Support hooks on the ceilings for HEAVY pendulum etc...
7. Wall space for peg board, bulletin boards and whiteboards
8. Blackout curtains on the windows for doing optics stuff.
9. ac outlets overhead is very convenient since it gets the cords
off the desktop and they are easier to reach than those on or near the
10. Projector on a swivel so we can send the image to different

1. Make sure the lab stations are large enough (or structured) to
accommodate a computer without taking up all the desk top space.
2. Each lab table have
a. audio & video output to projector
b. water
c. gas
d. ac
e. 5 Vdc & 12Vdc
f. dry compressed air
g. data drop
3. minimum of 4 slots for rods / supports. Possible screw in caps
for slots?
4. Wide overhangs on the table tops so that various clamps can be
attached easily. We use c-clamps with reckless abandon, so it is
cumbersome to attach things to the tables.

Demo / Lecture Area:
11. Video Table for demonstrations (flat white background?) set to
the side (not in front of) projector & screen.
12. Demo Table should have:
a. Audio & video output to projector & speakers
b. Water
c. Gas
d. ac
e. 5 Vdc & 12Vdc
f. Dry compressed air
g. Data drop

1. Portable Whiteboard storage (~2'x3')
2. Storage for nuts, bolts, screws, rivets, drivers, wrenches,
3. Power in cabinets for charging equipment.
4. Hooks or long shelves for Big Tracks
5. Shallow cabinets: deep cabinets get things shuffled to the back
(14" max?)

Again, I am looking for help with two items:
1- Any schools you would recommend we visit in the Minneapolis
2- Any suggestions for room construction that we might have missed
on the list above.

Thanks again.
Have a good one.
Lastly, I apologize if this is inappropriate for this list, or if you
have received this from multiple lists. Thanks for your patience and

Paul Lulai . . . To wonder is to begin to understand
Physics Instructor
Science Olympiad Coach
US First Robotics Teacher
.: Medtronic - St Anthony RoboHuskie Team 2574:.
Saint Anthony Village Senior High School, ISD 282
3303 33rd Avenue N.E.
Saint Anthony Village, MN 55418
(w) 612-706-1144
(fax) 612-706-1140

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