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Plotter makes architecture program first rate.

For over 80 years, the training and education that Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh, Pa., provides for its students has set standards in excellence. The university believes that students should not only learn a specialty in academics, but actually experience their intended profession.

As part of this commitment to technology, Carnegie Mellon uses two mainframe systems (Sun and DEC VAX) as servers for 350 campuswide personal computers and terminals. AutoCAD is the architectural design program of choice for operating the university's IBM PCs, Sun SPARCstations and Macintosh Quadras.

* Progressive Curriculum

The architectural program at Carnegie Mellon is widely recognized for its progressive and competitive curriculum; in-depth training utilizing the same technology found in state-of-the-art professional settings is pivotal. According to Judith Kampert, head of the school's Architectural Department, "The undergraduate program is focused to respond to the architect's most current usage of computer technology in the workplace."

First-year architectural students are required to take a computer modeling course to aid in computer literacy and foster a creative approach to computers. During the second year, students must learn PASCAL for computer programming and developing operating systems.

Third-year students have the option of enrolling in a "computer studio" course, a popular program that teaches students to create drawings on the computer versus preparing them manually. However, that class, along with an independent computer application studies course taken with faculty members, is mandatory for fourth - and fifth-year students.

"We offer a mixed bag of tricks at Carnegie Mellon," says Kampert. "We designed our curriculum to provide both sides of the automation equation: technology and analysis. We stress that automation is not a means to an end but rather a tool that can be used to enhance our design and analytical skills in the process of increasing one's productivity."

As a result, the architecture program has become such a success that the university found it necessary to add more labs to maximize the use of the existing 32 networked systems employed for architectural applications. Since students are required to learn CAD skills to create working and archival drawings, the volume of work justified the purchase of a special plotter for student output.

* Pencil & Pen

The university decided to institute pencil plotting, and a Mutoh F-920 Series pencil/pen plotter from Mutoh America in Mt. Prospect, Ill., was chosen to support students' plotting applications.

"The pencil capability is the main reason that we purchased the plotter," remarks Robert Tseng, a Carnegie Mellon faculty member. With limited lab hours available for students to output their designs, the F-920's Automatic Lead Loader is an important feature. The lead loader holds up to 260 pencil leads in various sizes and hardnesses, and automatically feeds the cartridges as the plotter plots.

"If the plotter runs out of lead, it stops, waits for a reload, and continues the plot where it left off," explains Tseng. "This [feature] saves valuable time for many students who would otherwise have to wait for the plot to start again from the beginning."

Considering the volume of work coming out of the architecture department each day, the pencil plotter saves the university money in consumable costs while providing the industry's lowest cost-per-plot solution and the lowest first-year ownership costs. Since pencil leads cost pennies versus the dollars spent on pens, they are a welcome addition to any budget-conscious CAD curriculum.

Faculty and students also appreciate that pencils never skip, clog or run out of ink in the middle of a plot. Pencil leads do not dry out after extended use or become clogged with media fibers. In addition, the quality of pencil plots are clean and crisp, indistinguishable from pen plots, and produce excellent reproduction on blue-line or dry-toner machines.

Besides speed advantages, erasability for revisions and unattended operation, Carnegie Mellon was also impressed with the fact that their pencil plotter provides a soft landing mechanism, preventing the pencil or pen from damaging the media or writing instrument itself. Students use pencil plots for initial drafts and pen for production plots identical to industry practice.

* In the Real World

"Internships are almost mandatory within the architecture curriculum at Carnegie Mellon," says Tseng. "The school's rigorous, hands-on approach provides students with an opportunity to apply what they've learned in the classroom to a real-world working environment."

Students can walk into most CAD environments and know how the software, input devices and output peripherals are configured together with an added understanding of why specific technologies are used. This knowledge is a tremendous benefit to each student and to the new employer who will obtain immediate CAD knowledge while reducing expenditures in training.

This philosophy continues to make Carnegie Mellon's architecture program one of the most sought after in the country.
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Title Annotation:Applications; Carnegie Mellon University provides a Mutoh America's Mutoh F-920 pencil/pen plotter for architectural students
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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