Taking Education to Higher Technology Standards

April 1, 2008

Headquartered in Tampa, FL, AVI-SPL is the result of a recent merger between Audio Visual Innovations, Inc. (AVI) and Signal Perfection, Ltd. (SPL). With more than 40 years of aggregate experience in the industry, AVI and SPL bring together long traditions of providing quality audio video technology.

The historically-unique Flagler College is located in St. Augustine, FL. The 19-acre campus is centered around Ponce de Leon Hall, which is designated as a National Historic Landmark; and Markland House, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Over a 2-month period, the sales, engineering, and installation teams of AVI-SPL quickly and efficiently completed an AV integration for Flagler. Typically a summer installation of just five classrooms, the project rapidly evolved into a 20-room challenge. 

"With the increasing availability of materials from text book companies, the Internet, and other sources, it was vital to the college's mission to develop a goal to integrate technology into the classroom," remarks Steve Skipp, Director of Educational Media Services for Flagler.

Standardization of the classroom AV system provides an environment in which each classroom has essentially identical functional capability and user interface.  AVI-SPL's "Standard Classroom AV System" for Flagler College includes an integration of the following: projectors, combination DVD/VHS players, XGA- resolution document cameras, computer interfaces, Smart Sympodiums, stereo amplifiers, wall-mounted speakers, lecterns with integrated equipment racks, and front projection screens. 

Identifying Installation Challenges, Integrating System Solutions
As on-site work commenced, AVI-SPL's engineers were also informed that there were two rooms currently under reconstruction and one additional room in Keenan Hall that would need AV systems. Two of the rooms in Keenan Hall had previously been used as classrooms, and there were some obvious challenges involved.  In addition to starting out with relatively low ceilings, there was a lighting soffit cutting across the rooms very close to the location in which the projectors would need to be placed.

"The soffit served a dual purpose in each room, acting as an architectural lighting position as well as hiding a structural beam," remarks Sales Engineer Bruce Hudgens.  Positioning the projector in between the screen and the soffit would be too close for the optics, and it was unclear at first whether or not placing the projector behind the soffit would be too far from the screen.  The use of the soffit also meant that the screens would need to be lower, as would the projectors.

"The construction of the walls required surface-mounted raceways or conduits, rather than hiding the system cabling in the walls. Also, the rooms have wainscoting and chair rail as part of the décor.  Taking all of the challenges into consideration, AVI-SPL was still able to stick with the standard classroom package," says Hudgens.

Additionally, the Molly Wiley Art Building is housed in a structure that was being reconstructed, formerly the Boiler Plant for the college. Because two of the first floor rooms have ceilings that are less than 8 feet, the equipment complement was modified to include self-contained portable systems.  A self-powered audio system was designed into the equipment rack, eliminating the amplifier and external speakers.  The second floor contains the digital photography lab and the digital media classroom; construction of this space included exposed peaked ceilings and wooden beams in all four rooms. Additionally, the external walls are constructed of the soft material of coqina, so surface mounted raceways were required for system cabling. 

Located on the second floor, Molly Wiley's digital photography lab and digital media were integrated to include wide-format computer resolutions. In the case of the digital media classroom, the client requested that the audio in this room have some "punch." Again, wide-format resolution was specified for the projector, and a motorized screen was also required for this room.  To enhance the audio, a 1000 watt two-channel amplifier was specified to power four ceiling mounted pendant speakers and two passive subwoofers.

In a variation from the standard install, a wide-format projector is utilized in the library's graphics lab.  The video signal switcher used to transfer computer video and composite video, along with associated audio signals, scales the output to match the native resolution of the projector.  Due to the room size, a distributed audio system was integrated into the system, using a mixer-amplifier and 12 flush-mounted ceiling speakers. 

The painting studio, located on the second floor of Molly Wiley, also exhibited an architectural detail that would present a particular challenge.  The bottoms of the exposed beams are only about 80 inches from the floor -- just within ADA regulations for head room.  The projection screen would be much lower than in a traditional classroom, and also that the projector would need to be mounted within reach from the floor, while maintaining the 80 inch minimum vertical clearance requirement.

Environmental Impact
AVI-SPL successfully completed the Flagler College installation on time and on budget. A key factor of this installation, and our continued relationship with the college, lies in AVI-SPL's distinct regard for the historical environment. From the design, planning, and implementation process of each project, our installation teams are acutely sensitive to the impact we will have on the College's environment and surroundings. "AVI-SPL prides itself on its reputation and credibility, and it is especially important that we hold ourselves to high standards when handling projects of such historic and environmental impact," remarks Sales Engineer Bruce Hudgens.

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