Amid Data Outage and Crane Close Call, Millikan Comes Down

The demolition of Pomona College’s Robert A. Millikan
building has encountered its fair share of difficulties this past month. Pomona Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services Bob Robinson said, however, that the demolition of the building, which housed the college’s mathematics and physics departments, should be completed by January 2014 at the latest. 

On Nov. 21, a crane broke through the foundation of Millikan and slid toward the basement, pausing work for a brief time. According to an article by the Claremont Courier, the crane “tipped over,” but Robinson said that description was not quite accurate. 

“All the drawings and specs indicated that the deck that the crane was sitting on would support the weight,” he said. “You know, the building was built in 1958, so there could be all sorts of unforeseen conditions. But a section of the floor gave way and the crane slid. It didn’t fall over or anything like that; it just slid down a little bit. So the floor gave way, and about an hour later the crane was back in operation. No one was hurt, and no equipment was damaged.”

The demolition also contributed to the daylong failure of Pomona’s Web services Nov. 16. A scheduled power outage across much of Pomona’s North Campus caused the Pomona Information Technology Services (ITS) data center to
overheat when the air conditioning in the room shut off.

The scheduled outage was “necessary in order to take the Millikan and Andrews building off-line for demolition and provide temporary power for construction,” Robinson wrote in a campus-wide e-mail. In addition, the power outage was to be used to
transfer the Seeley G. Mudd and ITS buildings to the electrical feeder for Lincoln-Edmunds Building from more overburdened feeders. 

This project was managed by the Claremont University Consortium, which handles all high-voltage electricity projects, Robinson said. 

Pomona ITS Executive Director and Chief Information Officer Ken Pflueger said that the process of switching the ITS building to its new feeder was done
incorrectly. This “sent surges of power that caused the air conditioning units
in our data center to overheat, and they shut down. When they shut down, then
the data center started to overheat. We were put in a situation where we had to
pull everything down.”

Affected services included Sakai and the MyPomona portal. 

“I actually had a group project due that Monday, and with Sakai down, we weren’t able to access the requirements for the assignment on Saturday,” Ryan Smith PO ’16 said. “We ended up having to do everything on Sunday, which made the whole weekend really stressful.”

According to a memo released by Pflueger, the problem was detected at 11:03 a.m. and fixed by roughly
1 p.m. It took a few more hours to check each of the services separately for bugs, but most were restored by 7 p.m. Saturday night.

“Fortunately we didn’t have any major damage to the hardware, so we were able to bring things back up,” he said. “It just took a while to do that.” 

Pflueger said that ITS is working to create a secondary data center on South Campus, which will be important to the Millikan construction project. 

majority of the work is planned for winter break, so we’re hoping to have it in
place, if not by the beginning of the spring term, by the beginning of
February,” he said. “Especially being in the middle of this construction site, we
know that when the new building goes up, there’s going to be another similar
power outage, so we want to be prepared.”

Robinson said that the demolition project has encountered few other problems. 

“I haven’t heard from faculty members or other people that the pedagogical process is being disrupted, so I’m optimistic that we can get through this,” he said. 

“It’s going to be a beautiful building when it’s done,” he added. “It’s
going to be a state-of-the-art physics, math, and astronomy building. It’s
going to have some great classrooms, great student collaborative workspace,
research labs. It’s going to really be something.”

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