Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Robots are gone

So the vast swarm of high school students is finally gone. It did end up turning out that my office was pretty much unusable between the hours of 2:30 and 9:00 and even during the day there came to usually be someone running around. Apparently there were roughly 150 students involved in the project in total though the number that I saw there usually averaged much closer to 30 people at a time.

I resisted posting over and over again about the inconvenience. I don't mind working in the library but there is a certain indignity in not being able to use my own office. Of course as everyone would tell me I was more than welcome to come and use my desk but when there are dozens of people coming and going and working together and discussing things and when those people are furthermore high school students... I think it will not be hard to convince you that the library was a much more conducive work/study area.

I really found it very irksome that the administration didn't deem this intrusion of my work space significant enough to merit a simple e-mail warning me of the swarm in advance. I first learned of the plan to share my office with these students when someone came by to install a box with the key to my office right next to my door. I wondered if perhaps my presence in this office had somehow gotten overlooked and on some official roster somewhere I was really supposed to be in one of the more populated grad student offices.

But after the last students had left and the copious amounts of garbage, and carpet, and plywood, and electronics, and dirty dishes, etc had been cleaned out of my office I got a letter from the department chair in my box.

Of course my first response was that this was some sort of official departmental action and therefore bad news. When I opened it I discovered it had a gift card in it. It actually turned out to be something of an apology.

Tim Anderton
Department of Physics and Astronomy
115 S 1400 E #201
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112

Dear Tim,

I would like to thank you for your accommodating the West High Robotics team during the past six weeks as they built and tested their robot in the James Fletcher Building. The group was very appreciative of the use of the grad student offices and the lab next door as this facilitated the construction and testing of the robot. Last year, the labs and office spaces for the robot build were located in Chemistry, but the mechanical construction took place in the Department of Physics and Astronomy machine shop.

I had not envisioned the amount of time the team would spend in the Department, and the number of people and/or computers that eventually were crowded into your small office. I know the imposition was rather severe at times. On behalf of the Physics Department and West High Robotics, I have enclosed a small gift card to the University of Utah bookstore. I sincerely appreciate your patience in the midst of all the chaos!

with Best Regards,
Dave Kieda
Chair, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Professor of Physics
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112

I am of somewhat mixed feelings about this. After the robotics team had gone I was happy to have shared my office with them. True it was quite a pain at times but at the same time I definitely approve of the project and think it is a good idea for them to have access to such a space in the department. The thing I most would have wanted is to have been asked permission or, failing that, at least been warned. On the other hand of course if I had been warned then I very probably would not have received this gift and apology. Especially since I would probably have ok'd the the use of the office anyway perhaps this is preferable. I can't help but wonder though if perhaps this is a manifestation of the fact that is often easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Ah, well C'est la vie.

P.S. On the off chance that Dave Kieda is reading this, Thanks for the letter and the card! I appreciate it despite my griping about my lowly status within the department.

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