A flexible furniture configuration allows the EPI Center to be transformed from a lecture-style configuration to small pods of tables.
In 2012, the New Trier Township High School, in Winnetka, IL, set out to overhaul the EPI Center, a collaborative meeting space on the third floor of its Winnetka Campus.

The mixed-use meeting space had been used previously as a central location where students, staff, administration, and the public could gather and work. Tom Garrity, AV and multimedia manager at New Trier, brought in AVI Systems as the technology integrator for the EPI Center project.

Thomas Burns, system sales specialist for AVI Systems and an alum of New Trier Township High School, reported that initial plans, based on consultations with teachers and faculty, ran the gamut, from projection systems to video walls. To please a client that Burns reported was “very keen on detail” and looking for a minimum of exposed hardware, AVI Systems ultimately selected and installed a six-foot-wide by three-foot-high bezelfree video wall with 42-inch plasma displays from Salitek. The wall’s Multi Plasma Display Panels (MPDP) offer a small mullion, at only 0.9mm on each side.

“The display footprint was one of the biggest challenges,” Burns said. “They had the choice of 60-inch displays and 42-inch displays, and once their administration had come to a decision on that, the rest of it was easy to fall into place. It was a matter of selecting the technology sources they had at their disposal, how to process those and route them.”

“Tom Garrity and I sat down and hammered out the details of what we needed as far as connectivity,” Burns said. “There’s a lot of multi-screen interactivity, from a collaborative standpoint, between the different computers that people can connect to the system.”

In a recent class, a teacher presented a foreign language movie on one half of the video wall and students used their iPads to participate in discussion that was displayed on the other half of the wall, answering questions posed by the teacher and their peers.

All input signals are managed by a Crestron DigitalMedia router and control system, which allows users to control the room locally from a 15-inch V-touch panel, as well as through web remote. Audio is processed with a Biamp digital signal processor for ceiling and podium mics, and Shure ULX-D wireless with reinforcement by K-Array amplifiers and speakers. Additional technology elements include motorized MechoShades and Lutron light dimming.

According to Burns, the school had already relied on Apple for its mobile tablet applications. The Salitek video wall supports the ability to display up to six images at a time in different image layouts.

“One of the biggest challenges for us came on the tech side, based on the configuration of the Apple TVs streaming up to six iPads,” said Burns. “It was looking to be difficult to determine, when someone was setting up a session, which iPad was mapped to which Apple TV. If you have six iPads, how do you keep track of which one is going where? And then how do you determine which one you want to map to the video wall in a certain quadrant?”

 
AVI Systems installed a six-foot wide by three-foot high bezel-free video wall with 42-inch plasma displays from Salitek in the EPI Center collaborative meeting space at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, IL.
AVI Systems’ Crestron programmer, Zach Borgerding, came up with a solution: a unique ID displayed on both the touch panel and the video wall. “The ID allowed the user to say: ‘I’m on iPad #1, and I want to connect to Apple TV #3.’ Then the user could map an Apple TV source to a particular quadrant.”

The video wall is capable of displaying from a number of additional sources, including laptop connections from the podium, Blu-ray DVD, document camera, dedicated Mac Mini, Polycom HD videoconferencing, and web-based conferencing such as Skype, GotoMeeting, and FaceTime using two Vaddio HD room cameras.

“The web-based conferencing component was very important, as it is something they use often. We’re using the Vaddio AV Bridge, which allows the room sources and cameras to be streamed on a web-based conference via USB. The sky is the limit as far as web-based conferencing there,” Burns added.

The EPI Center meeting space is highlighted by a custom radius lectern featuring a customized brass school logo and manufactured by Marshall Furniture. A flexible furniture configuration allows the room to be transformed from a lecture-style configuration to small pods of tables. The flexible nature of the furniture allows for multiple transitions during a class or meeting.

The new EPI Center, which was partially funded by a major donation from the New Trier Education Foundation, is a continuation of the Innovative Classroom program started three years ago with the remodel of several classrooms on both the Winnetka and Northfield, IL school campuses. According to the school, experiences that teachers will have in the EPI Center and continue to have in the Innovative Classrooms will help inform decisions about future Winnetka Campus facility upgrades.

Derek Dellinger is the online editor of SCN and Residential Systems.