Couch to Campus: Not Using the Computers in the Computer Lab

Hey there, reader! My name is Meg, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I'm a rising junior at Olin studying Electrical and Computer Engineering. Let me tell you about my favorite place on campus: the computer lab.

Our computer lab is located on the lower level of Milas Hall, next to the library. In the lab, there are computers you can use, poster printers, and a large monitor in the back of the room with couches around it. The computer lab is also the closest color printer to the dorms, so you may see students scurrying between buildings the night before or the morning of a career fair, scrambling to get their fancy LaTeX color resumes lined up.

The computer lab is far from the "nicest" place on campus; it has a sort of weird, dank smell, there aren't any windows, and the doors to the lab are so misleading that one door is chipped from people trying to pull it open instead of push it. But the appearance of the computer lab was never the reason I love it so much.

The computer lab reminds me of PowerChords, our a cappella group on campus. Minutes before our concerts in the auditorium, we would gather in the lab to run warm-ups, and I can remember the positive and heartwarming energy that came from the pump-up chants and cheers we made, dressed in our concert attire and "Flowerchords" (think boutonnieres but with power cord plugs instead of flowers). PowerChords is one of the things I miss the most right now.

Olin's PowerChords a cappella group wearing matching t-shirts

PowerChords in 2018, warming up for our Family Weekend performance.

I've also made extensive use of the poster printers in the computer lab. The first thing I ever printed on the printers was actually a giant stock image photo of a cowboy, watermark and all, for one of the Candidates’ Weekend Design Challenge activities. In 2019, the challenges were centered around time travel, so one of the activities was to “pin the corset on the cowboy”. I remember getting an email from Carpe Diem, our “spontaneous” mailing list, asking if anyone could print a giant cowboy the night before the first Candidates’ Weekend, and thinking to myself, “This would be the best time to learn how to use the poster printers.” \

From then on, my poster-printing career took off.  I’ve made several funny movie posters of the QEA (Quantitative Engineering Analysis) professors, which currently hang in the classroom alongside the many other posters made by previous students. I’ve also made simpler use of the printers, like the time I printed a large, low-resolution poster of my face, which was a silly inside joke among my friends. My most recent prints were giant tinted grids that served as templates for the giant mural of President Rick Miller, a mural that hung in the dining hall for several weeks and is something of which I will be eternally proud.

Olin's former president Rick Miller standing in front of a sticky note mural of his face.

A picture of Rick Miller in front of a sticky note mural of himself.

I even had a "Poppin' Party" with my friends in the computer lab - we bought as many things we could find from the grocery store that had the word "pop" in them, like popcorn, Pop Rocks, popsicles, and more. We then consumed the snacks while watching  a movie on the large monitor in the lab.

Sometimes the computer lab was also the best place to be alone. If I had a long day, I would take a few minutes to recollect my thoughts in the computer lab before going back to my dorm room. Olin's campus is pretty small, and it was nice to find a quiet space that could be mine for a few minutes. If I was really happy, I'd take a minute to gather my excitement. If I wasn't having a great day, I would use the time to take a few deep breaths and clear my mind. When I was on campus, I rarely had "alone time," which made these few minutes in the computer lab refreshing and revitalizing.

I write this from my bedroom at home, longing to be back on campus with my friends, but grateful for how many memories I have created in one small space. I found ways to express myself, be creative, have fun, and mentally reset, all in one room. Since then, I have procured ways to do those things at home, but the computer lab will always have a place in my heart. And I’ve never actually used the computers in the computer lab. But that might just be the best part.

The author holding a Boston Red Sox poster.

Meg Ku (she/her/hers) is a rising junior at Olin studying Electrical and Computer Engineering.