Serving more than 71,000 students, Texas A&M University is one of the largest college campuses in the country. In response to increasing enrollment and population growth in the state, Texas A&M University recently launched a large-scale campus expansion project, which included a new state-of-the-art Innovative Learning Classroom Building (ILCB). The new facility houses 10 unique learning spaces suited for different applications, with capacities ranging from 72 to 605 students. The spaces include small, medium, and large in-the-round arena-style lecture halls, a fan-shaped lecture hall, an egg-shaped classroom, three tiered learning spaces and two smaller learning studios.
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To facilitate student engagement and cross-discipline collaboration while maximizing technological flexibility and simplifying operation for instructors, the ILCB required a sophisticated, facility-wide networked AV system. To meet these needs, Avinext and Shalleck Collaborative outfitted the new learning spaces with AMX encoders, decoders, controllers and touchpanels for control, as well as JBL Control Series loudspeakers and a Soundcraft Vi3000 console for high-quality sound reinforcement. Additionally, Datacom provided infrastructure design and cabling for the AV, IT and security systems.
“We engaged with faculty from various disciplines to design a building that allowed us to maximize the pedagogical approaches needed for different types of classes,” said Dr. Juan Garza, associate vice president of IT-Academic Services, Texas A&M University. “Teaching can occur in the interchange of ideas and the dialogue between students, not just what the instructor is saying. The technology that we've put in the new facilities was specifically designed to allow and augment that, not to overshadow it.”
To ensure maximum media connectivity throughout the ILCB, Avinext and Shalleck selected AMX SVSI N2400 Series encoders and decoders, which allow users to send high-quality audio and 4K video from any type of source to any destination in the building. AMX NetLinx NX integrated controllers provide comprehensive control over the facility-wide system with low-latency Ethernet switching, security features, and nearly unlimited scalability. AMX Hydraport HPX table modules installed in shared tables allow students to send media from their devices to be displayed on projectors and piped through the speakers in the room.
“AMX encoders and decoders provide us the flexibility to expand one classroom into nine others with the simple press of a button in the building video matrix,” said Carlos Lucio, assistant director, Instructional Media Services, Texas A&M University. “The computer in our largest arena can easily be pushed to all other classrooms. The encoder and decoder sets also include the AES67 audio feature set, which allows us to stream audio in the same manner to one classroom or all. AMX controllers give us ultimate granular control to and from devices, allowing our programmers to create simple yet robust control concepts for each classroom.”
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To simplify end-user operation for instructors and speakers, Avinext and Shalleck outfitted all 10 learning spaces with AMX Modero G5 touchpanels. Texas A&M staff designed a custom graphical user interface (GUI) to enable easy and flexible control of audio, video, and lighting. Standardizing on Modero touchpanels allowed Texas A&M University to expand classroom functionality while streamlining the end-user experience.
“We know the products and we know we can make it work,” said Regina Greenwood, director of Instructional Media Services, Texas A&M University. “The AMX user interface has helped us know how far we can push the envelope, how far we can expand.”
To provide consistent, balanced audio coverage in a variety of spaces, Avinext and Shalleck installed a range of JBL Control Series speakers throughout the ILCB. JBL Control 29AV-1 wall-mounted loudspeakers positioned at the front of the rooms provide broad, 110-degree coverage for media sources, while Control 67 HC/T pendant speakers and Control Series 47HC high-ceiling speakers provide focused overhead coverage with excellent speech intelligibility. In combination, the JBL loudspeakers overcome the acoustical challenges of large spaces to enhance the learning experience with premium sound.
“We used JBL loudspeakers throughout,” said Ian Hunter, principal and AV consultant, Shalleck Collaborative. “JBL’s wide range of form factors and coverage patterns gave us flexibility in placement, and the speakers’ Radiation Boundary Integrator technology delivers a very even sound field. As always, we enjoyed great design assistance from the Harman team, including design review, advice, specialty configurations, and a fast turnaround.”
To provide highly flexible audio routing throughout the entire ILCB complex, Avinext and Shalleck installed a Soundcraft Vi3000 console in the facility’s broadcast studio. With 96 inputs, 24 stereo busses, and expandable I/O options, the Vi3000 is capable of receiving audio from any source on the network, mixing and processing with onboard DSP, and distributing multiple outputs to any endpoint in the facility. This enables the university to facilitate a variety of use cases, such as broadcasting a lecture to the entire campus and allowing students in separate spaces to participate in real-time discussion.
The ILCB is only the beginning of Texas A&M University’s expansion plans, which involve adding 10 buildings throughout the decade in a program called “10 in 10.” University leadership has already begun planning the ILCB’s sister building, which will feature more active learning spaces, biology and chemistry labs, and a makerspace.
“The ILCB is a state-of-the-art building with a focus on collaborative spaces for students, faculty, and staff,” said Brandy Cobbs, facilities coordinator III, Innovative Learning Classroom Building. “This building will create a lasting impression on prospective students from all over the world. Texas A&M is known for its tradition, but the ILCB represents an evolution that will allow us to keep up with the ever-changing world around us.”