Originally, STWing targeted people with an interest in science and technology and was centered around the direct network connections located in ten rooms on the second floor of the Kings Court dormitory. Installed in the Fall of 1989, these connections allowed the program participants access to almost all computing resources available throughout the Penn community, including the Internet. A precursor to ResNet, the University’s residential data network, these were the only residential connections on campus.
Over the next few years, STWing conducted research, excursions, and dinner discussions under the guidance of the Assistant Dean of Residence, Dr. Krimo Bokreta and Faculty In Residence Dr. Jorge Santiago-Aviles. A dreamy suggestion that the group obtain its own UNIX server led to a project proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which, to our surprise, provided the group with funds for Force, a Sun Microsystems server used today for projects such as the STWing database, web services like Remind U-Mail, a platform for STWingers to do homework, and a way for members to learn about the use and capabilities of timesharing computers.
At the same time STWing obtained Force, plans for a University-wide data network, which would allow Internet access from almost every dorm room, had just been approved. Although ResNet, as it was called, negated the uniqueness of STWing’s computer network (its original attraction), it also allowed Force to be accessed from any room on campus and enabled STWing to expand beyond its original ten rooms. This was fortunate as that year, a flyer including a description of the program as well as a “Top Ten List of Reasons to Live on STWing” was sent out to all incoming freshmen, eliciting an overwhelming fifty applications. The entire second floor of Kings Court had been filled.
Over the next few years, STWing continued to grow in size and influence. Dinner discussions with prominent researchers and faculty became more frequent, and are now weekly. An Electrical Engineering lab was designed and the components ordered. One member, Jason Ruspini, designed and maintained “The Star Wars Home Page” on Force; the website would have millions visit the site and led to many publications mentioning the page. The group became so large that the upperclassmen decided to relocate to two floors of Harrison House, leaving the original home of STWing to be primarily a first-year community. Force, too, has been upgraded and improved multiple times, to allow it grow along with STWing.