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Net Gains: UVa looks to expand engineering program via new computer equipment

From Daily Progress
April 6, 1999

By Daniel M. Nonte, Staff Writer

Thanks to a gift from a couple of high-tech companies valued at more than $1 million dollars, the University of Virginia has opened a new computer lab and is offering its first Internet engineering course

MCI WorldCom Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. have donated gizmos that serve as relay stations on the Internet- 12 Cisco 7000 routers and two Cisco 2500 routers- that lay a foundation for the university's Virginia Internet Teaching Lab.

Officials from UVa and the two companies held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday at the lab, located in the engineering school's Albert Small Building.

The donated equipment directs electronic communications much like switchboard operators direct phone calls.

"This is the seed for a new curriculum, possibly even a new field in engineering," said Jorg Liebeherr, an assistant professor of computer science who is designing and teaching the new course, which begins in January.

UVa is calling the facility "VINTLab" in honor of Vint Cerf, who contributed to the creation of the Internet and is now an MCI WorldCom senior vice president.

MCI Worldcom operates in more than 65 countries and provides local, long-distance and international telephone and Internet services.

Cerf, who attended Monday's ceremony, explained the lab's significance even more succinctly than Liebeherr: "The sky is no longer the limit."

The equipment started arriving in Charlottesville in December, and students already are conducting experiments and learning to manage Internet networks.

Cerf said he hopes UVa can help ease the computer industry's chronic worker shortage.

"There is a desperate need for Internet-enabled engineers. We need many, many more people capable of working on the Internet," he said.

"None of this is entirely altruistic," Cerf added. "We and others in the industry have a desperate need now."

Thus far, the lab has been a hit with students.

More than 100 of them have applied for Liebeherr's advanced course, which can only accommodate 34, according to Richard W. Miksad, dean of the university's School of Engineering and Applied Science.

"The Internet economy is transforming the way we work, live, play and learn," said John T. Chambers, Cisco Systems' president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Cisco Systems manufactures Internet networking equipment.

"By establishing an Internet engineering course," Chambers said, "the University of Virginia is ensuring that today's students are prepared for tomorrow's jobs."

Original Article | Local Copy


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