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Computing Technology Tradition Continues at UL Lafayette

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For more than half of its history, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has made the computer science program a top priority. Administrators were among the first to acquire a rare analog computer, called an “electronic brain” machine, in the 1950s and followed that up a few years later with initial computer science courses to students.

This was the start of a nationally and internationally recognized program that put UL Lafayette at the forefront of computing technology. Today the program, which includes the Computer Science Department and the Center for Advanced Computer Studies, brings in the most research dollars on campus.

A new home to showcase this program was officially opened today during a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Advanced Computer Technology and Research Hall is located where McNapsy Stadium once stood.

The three-story, $10 million facility houses the Computer Science Department and CACS. Since 1985, both occupied the entire fourth floor of the Conference Center.

“ Our department is one of the best computer science departments in the nation but you did not get the impression that you were at a high-tech place in the Conference Center,” said Dr. Magdy Bayoumi, director of CACS and head of the Computer Science Department. “We wanted a new building to reflect the level of work we do.”

The foundation for today’s program was built on milestones like the installation of an RCA Spectra 70/45 computer in 1967. This enabled several computer programs to run simultaneously. It also allowed for remote terminals throughout campus.

Afterwards, the university awarded its first doctorate in computer science in 1971 and established CACS in 1984. More recent accomplishments include the creation of a bachelor’s degree concentration in video game development and design, and the installation of “Zeke” – UL Lafayette’s first supercomputer.

Today, there are more than 400 undergrad students in Computer Science with concentrations in Video Game Development and Design, Cognitive Science, Computer Engineering, Information Technology and Scientific Computing.

Bayoumi hopes the new home can create a sense of belonging for students. “I want the students to be proud of the department and I want them to feel they belong to something excellent. If they do, the program will continue its tradition of excellence.”

The facility features two auditorium-style “smart” classrooms that accommodate 65 students each. These classrooms will allow students to plug in laptops at their seats. The rooms also feature built-in projectors and screens for multimedia presentations.

In addition, the facility has a motion capture laboratory which uses a series of cameras to track sensors attached to moving objects. This is especially helpful with digital animation.

Other features include a “bullpen” for graduate students. This workspace is deliberately filled with office cubicles identical to those found at large corporations like IBM or DELL. The purpose is to acclimate students to the work environment they’ll find after college.

The new building is part of a construction boom on campus during the last decade. Currently, a 400-space parking garage along Taft Street is under construction along with an indoor practice facility near the Athletic Complex. Renovations are also starting on Burke-Hawthorne Hall, which houses the departments of Communication and Communicative Disorders and the university’s radio station KRVS.

During the past decade, Moody Hall has been erected for the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration as well as Legacy Park apartments for students and the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum.