Local Thunderstorm Destroys Ursinus’s TriCaster

image courtesy of Ryan Carkhuff

Chase Portaro (chportaro@ursinus.edu)

A tricaster is a television studio computer vital to a number of departments at Ursinus. Athletics, Theater & Dance, and the Communications Department all rely on it to produce and stream broadcast-quality content. But after a transformer on campus was struck by lighting two weeks ago, the equipment, which is located in the Ritter Center television studio, short-circuited. 

After PECO, the electrical company, repaired the transformer, James Shuttlesworth, Ursinus’s Deputy Chief Information Officer, was assessing the damage when he discovered the TriCaster destroyed. Shuttlesworth brought in a local vendor who specializes in studio equipment to see if the machine was fixable, but after a failed attempt at a part replacement, they deemed the damage irreparable.

Shuttlesworth said, “The only option we had was to get a new one. The college has insurance for stuff like this, but it has a very high deductible, so it usually doesn’t kick in – and even though this is a pretty expensive piece of equipment, the deductible is still higher than that.” 

When asked how much a new TriCaster costs, Shuttlesworth swallowed heavily before replying, “$9,000, almost $10,000, really.” He explained that the company’s return policy did allow the school to receive a $2,000 credit for the old TriCaster, so the new one ended up costing just over $7,000. Still, for a small academic institution like Ursinus, $7,000 is a substantial amount of money to spend unexpectedly. Shuttlesworth said the repair costs come out of the Library and Information Technology (LIT) budget because the equipment is essential to multiple departments across campus, not just the Media Communications (MCS) Department, which is primarily located in Ritter. 

Among other updates to the television studio, but unrelated to the power outage, is an improved air conditioning system. “There’s been a need to have new air conditioning in here [Ritter] for a lot of years, and facilities came up with this plan to do it without a total reworking of the entire system.” Facilities realized the air conditioning unit in the second floor arts studio had enough extra capacity to also power the television studio below it. Shuttlesworth said that facilities reworked the ducts upstairs to direct cool air into the studio downstairs, avoiding the big installation and energy costs of a new unit.

They say you never appreciate something until it’s gone, and that certainly rings true for things like air conditioners and TriCasters. Without air conditioning, early September classes would be unbearable, and without the TriCaster, the viewing of Graduation and Commencement would not have been possible for the last two years. The busy schedule of a college student may not allow for the full appreciation of such vital, albeit boring items, but luckily, Ursinus has a full team of adept individuals like James Shuttlesworth dedicated to solving those difficult problems.