Revisiting the CAD Lab in 2020


Ned Donovan

Old CAD Lab desktops

Ned Donovan and Elijah Day

Picture this: It’s winter 2018, and you have an Engineering class right now. You walk into class and Mr. Gallant debriefs you on the task for the day and then you walk right into the CAD Lab, ready to get work done. The room is filled with the sound of key clicks as students grind away at whatever work they have to do. The computers are powerful and reliable; it is a simple environment. 

That was what the CAD Lab was for many students before it was destroyed last year. Students used the space for photography classes, engineering classes, or even just getting other work done in R block or after school. It was a space that was alive with high school students. Current Senior Rex Geller is part of a dwindling group of students who had the pleasure of using the CAD Lab before its demise. When asked to describe what the CAD Lab was like, Rex explained, “We used the computers for editing software such as photoshop. We also used it for drafting and design, to run the programs.” It’s no secret that students like Rex miss the CAD Lab. When the information that the CAD Lab was being scrapped got leaked, there was a significant amount of disapproval from students. The students who used and relied on the CAD Lab felt that it was unfair for the administration to decide to get rid of it without consulting the students at all. Although I’m not advocating for students to have the final say on administrative decisions, it cannot be denied that students make up the vast majority of the IHS community. It seems a bit backward that the majority of any community should have absolutely no input on such an impactful decision. 

Despite how you feel about it, the CAD Lab is no more. However, the space is still there. So what occupies the CAD Lab’s former room? Well, in the words of Mr. Gallant, “A lot of it’s storage, some of it’s the robotics team, we have a 3d printer in there, a milling machine, different things.” I will admit, a milling machine and 3d printers are pretty cool. But there was already a 3d printer within the CAD Lab before, and more within the main Engineering classroom. I have to believe that the CAD Lab could coexist with these new machines. I think everyone can agree that these are helpful additions to the Engineering program. But the storage portion is what draws the ire of former CAD Lab users. On the topic of the current use of the space, Rex lamented the fact that “Instead of opportunity filled computers, it is simply relics of past projects and spare parts.” It just seems sad that a place that was once so full of life is now viewed in this way by students. 

Another point of contention is that the desktop computers have been replaced by a laptop cart. While Mr. Gallant insists that “we can do anything on the laptops that we could do in there,” many disagree. On the issue of the laptops, Rex explained, “the laptops are not powerful enough to adequately handle the vast array of useful tools that the old CAD Lab computers could run. It is a legitimate travesty that the computers are gone. These computers were a useful tool for all students, regardless of future interest.” This is a bold claim, but it is one that is backed by research. First of all, just the size of the laptops decreases productivity. A study by the University of Utah found that people are 52% more productive when using a larger screen. Also, the raw computing power of the CAD Lab Desktops completely outclasses the school laptops. The school laptops are equipped with weak i3 processors and only 8 GB of RAM. I know the CAD Lab desktops were equipped with 16 GB of RAM, and I believe they were running i7-4770 processors. The desktop’s i7 nearly doubles the single-thread performance of the i3 and more than triples the multithreaded performance of the i3. It is no contest. 

With all these factors considered, I find myself wondering: was the removal of the CAD Lab justified? Rex thinks, “Clearly not, as I have seen first hand, the removal of the CAD Lab has made the job of Mr. Gallant and the work of his students far more challenging.” On the other hand, Mr. Gallant believes, “We didn’t need it anymore, because you don’t need desktop computers anymore. And we had better uses for the space.” What do you think?