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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Redlands School District, San Bernadino County, Calif.

Sep 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

Turnkey Classroom AV


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The Digital Network Group standardized the Redlands School District’s projector setup in three schools with Extron Electronics’ new turnkey PoleVault system controlling a mix of Hitachi CP-X251 and InFocus W240 projectors.

Earlier this year, the Redlands School District, located in San Bernardino County in Southern California, came to Digital Networks Group (DNG) with a desire to standardize its projector setup across three schools.

“The school district has installed projection systems in three different schools, and in every school they did it differently,” says Mike Stammire, president of Irvine, Calif.-based Digital Networks Group. “Every room became a custom project.”

Stammire says that many rooms in the district had audio control and video source-switching systems in separate locations within the classroom, and at least one employed an extension cord in an unsightly and potentially dangerous manner. In all cases, video sources were not synced, and the few seconds of blank screen that resulted from a switch would often confuse teachers.

The PoleVault system includes projector mounting hardware.

SOLUTION

Digital Network Group found a solution to the district's challenges in Extron Electronics' new PoleVault system, designed with educational environments in mind. The turnkey package is centered around the Extron PVS 204SA twisted-pair switcher. The integrator and customer determine how many sources (two to four) are needed and that dictates the number of twisted-pair transmitters. In the case of the Redlands schools, the choice for each classroom was the PVS 200 two-input PoleVault system, which accommodates one composite video and one RGB source. That means a DVD/VCR unit and a teacher's laptop in every room in each of the Redlands schools are all controlled at the teacher's station.

The PoleVault package also includes System Integrator loudspeakers, as well as all necessary mounting hardware and cabling. Finally, the included Extron MLC 104 IP Plus MediaLink controller allowed Digital Network Group to connect each school's AV system to its computer network so that Redlands officials could use Extron GlobalViewer software to monitor and power its gear on and off from any web browser. Stammire says that while true hardware-based projector security really doesn't exist in the sense that a truly determined thief can usually find a way to make off with a projector, GlobalViewer's email alert system at least lets the district know automatically if a projector has been unplugged. The IP-based control also lets Digital Network Group employees answer many of the district's service requests without leaving their office in Irvine.

For the Redlands schools, the only decision from room to room was whether to install two or four of the Extron System Integrator-series loudspeakers that come standard with the PoleVault turnkey system.

“They're very similar to [the ceiling loudspeakers] that we had been using [for other jobs],” Stammire says. “For the output that they have in the classrooms, they're great.” He adds that, in almost all cases, two loudspeakers were plenty. Most rooms had a drop ceiling, and in those, DNG installed flush-mounted tile loudspeakers. For rooms with vaulted ceilings, such as library rooms, the firm mounted the loudspeakers on the wall.

About 60 percent of Digital Networks Group's business comes from K-12 institutions. Another 20 percent is from university-level education projects. All told, the firm installs AV equipment in about 1,000 classrooms every year. For a company with that type of clientele, the busiest time of year is summer, when the kids who usually populate those classrooms are elsewhere. So from June to August, time is of the essence, and any sort of uniform ordering or installation process ultimately has a positive effect on the bottom line. The PoleVault systems come complete in two boxes for each room, making them efficient to install.

“It's easier for our guys because it's all the same. There are economies for us,” Stammire says, adding that room by room, the installations go faster as time goes on.

Each classroom in the three schools already had its video sources: a combo VCR/DVD player, a cable TV receiver, and a teacher's laptop. The district also supplied the projectors, a mix of Hitachi CP-X251 (XGA resolution) and InFocus W240 (SVGA) models. (Stammire says that, for his education customers, he makes his projector recommendations based on brightness and price. The sweet spot seems to be around $1,000 per projector, and at least 2500 lumens to overcome the ambient light in a typical classroom.)

The Redlands school district is the first large-scale PoleVault installation that Digital Networks Group has completed, and Stammire says the install went smoothly, if still within the typical time frame for a typical job of that size. The classrooms impacted by the installation included 40 at Beattie Middle School in Highland, 10 at Bryn Mawr Elementary School in Loma Linda, and three at an adult-education center in the district. The firm started the project on June 21, and in little more than a month, it had finished installing the PoleVault systems in the 53 classrooms.



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