UI IMU undergoing technological updates to increase accessibility and hybrid capabilities

The Iowa Memorial Union is expected to undergo technological updates consisting of new cameras, soundbars with built-in microphones, TVs, and projectors to suit student needs better.


Shuntaro Kawasaki

The Big Ten Theater in the Iowa Memorial Union is seen at the University of Iowa on Feb. 27, 2023.

Archie Wagner, News Reporter

Following a round of upgrades to the first-floor boardroom and River Room 1, the University of Iowa Iowa Memorial Union is expected to undergo upgrades to several additional rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

Chris Gantt, Iowa Memorial Union facility coordinator and AV specialist, said the upgrades include implementing larger TVs, computers, soundbars with built-in cameras, and microphones.

“We’re hoping to do that same setup in 245, the second-floor board room, and that’s probably going to be one of the larger ones because we have to take the projector and things out,” Gantt said. “It’s a better projector. So, we’re going to move it into another room and take one of the older projectors away.”

RELATED: UI USG allocates $20,000 from contingency fund for IMU tech upgrades

In the Iowa Theater and Big Ten Theater, Gantt said they hope to make the pre-existing microphones connect to Zoom, Skype, Discord, or other platforms for better hybrid experiences.

Gantt said one of the upgrades’ main goal is to make meeting rooms available to student organizations that are equipped for hybrid meetings.

“We don’t have a timeline as of yet. I’m going to be working with classroom support, and we’re going to put together proposals, make sure we have everything that we need and then move forward as funds are available and timelines permit,” Gantt said. “We don’t want to close down rooms that are in use and deny our orgs that potential space.”

The timeline for installation would depend on the technology and the space, he said.

“For the smaller upgrades, the single camera and microphone, those can be done probably within 20 to 30 minutes,” Gantt said. “The larger spaces Big Ten Theater and Iowa Theater, we have to change out part of our rack equipment, so that’s going to take time to remove and reprogram, make sure everything is functioning the way it should be. That could probably be done in a day.”

Upgrades to Room 245 are expected to take the longest because of equipment that needs to be ordered, he said.

“I mean we still have some supply chain issues from some companies, but things are getting better. So, I’m hoping to see all these upgrades before the end of the semester,” Gantt said.

Gantt said the cameras purchased have been used in classroom spaces before and are expected to last three to four years at least depending on their quality and quantity of usage.

The cost of the upgrades is expected to use the entire $20,000 allotted from the UI Undergraduate Student Government, Gantt said.

  • The 2nd Floor Boardroom is expected to cost about $5,000 with costs stemming from installation, labor, and programming
  • The Big 10 Theater and Iowa Theater upgrades are expected to cost $3,500 each
  • Addition of cameras and microphones to rooms is expected to cost $1,000 per room

The University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government allocated $20,000 from its contingency fund to the effort with the passing of legislation presented by Senator Zach Springer.

The contingency fund supports large-scale projects that help university staff, students, and the greater community.

When money is allocated, Springer said it is transferred to the respective people working on the project and is usually spent by the end of the fiscal year.

“We have a really great partnership with the IMU. We added a lot of mics and cameras that are a bit newer to really help with a lot of different student orgs that host meetings like that in those rooms,” Springer said.