Agriculture grant funds new commodities lab in Russell Hall


Taylor Egnarski

Stock ticker, clock, and flat screens light up the lab in Russell Hall.

A USDA grant written by a University of Wisconsin-Platteville professor has funded a new commodities laboratory on campus. Installation of the Pioneer Undergraduate Research and Commodities Education Center began over the winter break, but the project has been in the planning stages since last summer.

Agribusiness professor Rami Reddy spearheaded the project. Over the summer, Reddy received a USDA grant worth $139,776 to build a commodities trading laboratory on campus.

The new PURCE lab is located in Russell 101A, a classroom that is already frequently used by the agriculture department. The lab is not completely functional yet, but the new addition includes a stock ticker, a time zone clock and two large flat panel displays.

Right now the displays in the lab continue to flash at all times, which could result in electricity conservation issues.

“The lights are being scheduled to turn off at 10 p.m. and on at 7 a.m. so students can work on projects after class,” Reddy said, but so far this only includes the ticker. Media Technology Services managed the PURCE Lab project. John Vrany from Media Technology Services, said there is currently an infrastructure problem making it difficult for the two large displays to be put on a power schedule similarly.

“We are going to attempt to apply a power schedule to the two large displays but they are stand alone so they are not tied to our control infrastructure.

“Down the road, we are going to see if they can turn it off during certain class times. As it stands right now, they are on all the time,” Vrany said.

Another potential issue with the PURCE Lab is the amount of distraction the LED screen can cause in a classroom. Tim Zasada from Media Technology Services said a suggestion was made to leave a control for the two TV displays at the instructor station so the individual instructor could shut it off to reduce the amount of distraction. Although remotes may help, the time zone clock and ticker would still be running.

The lab will provide hands-on learning, a training platform and teaching facility for agricultural commodity trading, risk management and financial data analysis. It will also include training resources and other reading materials. Reddy said that the lab is supposed to simulate a real world situation in a brokerage firm.

“The software [consists of] real platforms and is very up-to-date,” Reddy said.

BILSA Dean Wayne Weber said that students could also use the lab as a training service to earn professional certifications through the National Commodity Brokerage and Market Technicians Association.

“One of the positive aspects of this project is that it helps not only our agriculture students but also the School of Business,” Weber said.

Weber said that a full integration with the School of Business could take place within the next year.

[email protected]

Correction: Jerry Copus is the correct source from which the information is derived and quoted, not John Vrany.