ALICE opens new nerve centre

Antonella Del Rosso

Twenty-nine fully equipped and ergonomic workstations, one meeting area and 11 large format screens in a completely refurbished room: the ALICE Run Control Centre (ARC) implements the best and newest solutions for its shift workers and expert operators, including access for persons with reduced mobility and very soon a magic window for Point 2 visitors.

“Our initial intention was just to optimise the old layout,” says Federico Ronchetti from Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati (Italy), a CERN scientific associate currently appointed as ALICE Run Coordinator and person in charge of the ALICE Consolidation Task Force. “However, during the review process, we carried out a study of all the existing control rooms at CERN and became aware we needed a radical change. Hence we started planning a complete redesign of the workspace.” Designed and equipped over many years, the old ALICE control room did not have enough space to fit all the shift workers and detector experts in one single environment. In addition, the room suffered from the presence of large structural pillars, internal walls and a corridor that fragmented the precious usable space. Such a layout did not help information exchange among the operators, needed for a flawless quick response to critical issues.

Inaugurated last July, the new room can now very comfortably fit the four main operators plus the 19 detector experts and the Run Coordination team who will control and monitor 24/7 all the sub-systems of the ALICE detector and its interface with the LHC accelerator. “The detector workstations are not initially assigned to any defined system,” explains Ronchetti. “Following the approach seen in the main CERN Control Centre, a common software interface allows all the operators to connect to their sub-detector from any computer in the room.” A small but functional meeting area has been added within the room's open space so that the coordinators can get together and quickly react to unplanned run configuration changes. “The shift leader and Run Coordinators now have more central and dedicated workspaces compared to the old layout, allowing them to catch any change in conditions quickly during the data taking operations,” adds Ronchetti.

The new ARC also includes a variable-intensity LED light system, which combines well with the natural light coming in through the two side windows left uncovered by the large-size TV array, and a new access ramp for persons with reduced mobility, while three large windows have been opened along the hangar corridor to provide visitors with a good view of the room. One of these will become a “magic window” to be used by guides at Point 2. “The magic window will turn opaque on demand,” explains Ronchetti. “In this way, the window transforms into a super-size touch screen for the guides to run interactive presentations. Once done, we can toggle the window back to the normal glass transparency and our visitors will enjoy a “shift leader's” view of our Run Control Centre.”

A full collection of photographs showing the transition from the old to the new control room is available on the Facebook public page of the Run Coordination project. Posts targeting the general public concerning ALICE highlights, the experiment's day-to-day activity and the progress of data-taking operations are periodically published, so do not hesitate to visit and “like” it!


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