Attention college and university IT administrators: There’s a new sheriff in town – and he has an emergency party button.
Actually, UC Berkeley freshman Derek Low is probably more like a new outlaw than a new sheriff, a renegade, burgeoning IT maven who is circumventing building codes, student conduct regulations and social mores with his Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm (BRAD), a semi-automated, voice-and-mobile-device-controlled palace of a freshman dorm room.
Watch the video and you’ll see the evidence for yourself: From the time he awakes to the time he goes to sleep, Low’s day is complemented by various pre-programmed settings that control motorized shades, lights and music (you can read about the technology he used at his website). This includes a voice recognition system that enables voice commands, as well as a motion sensor (that seems certain to warrant an inspection from a facilities manager) that awakens the system when he enters the room – and a big red button that sends the room into full dance party mode.
The video prompts so many questions: Why are the shades so loud? Why do you need voice control to turn off a lamp right next to your head? Has the romantic mode (or the party mode, for that matter), ever been used in a non-hypothetical fashion? And how does his roommate, unseen in the video, feel about living in this maelstrom of automation gadgetry?
These are hard questions to answer. And while Low may be violating a couple of rules, written and otherwise, you IT admins might want to take note of him in a different way: This is who you’re working for now.
Today’s students have high expectations for campus technology, and rightly so: A large chunk of your digital-native student body has almost unwittingly picked up a vast array of technological skills that previously took non-natives years of studying – and perhaps an advanced degree or two – to amass. What was a fun hobby project for Low would have been, a few years ago, a not-so-minor undertaking for professionals.
And of course, students like Low may soon be your job competition – that’s the negative spin on this. But the positive here is the potential. Tapping into the creativity and expertise of students like this – through internships and job placement programs, or even just idea-swapping summits – might be a great way to foster an open-source style culture of campus technology.
The bar has been – and will continue to be – raised, so why not embrace it?