UK school immerses itself in interactivity

AUTHOR: Inavate

A UK state school has invested in high-tech interactive technology for its new £500,000 (€600,000) 21C technology block. Digital Vision AV installed GestureTek’s GroundFX interactive floor projection and Screen Xtreme as part of the AV overhaul.

As a parting legacy, retiring head teacher at Farnham Heath End comprehensive school in Surrey, David Hoggins, has presented new incumbent Nick Phillips with a progress technology wing which cost more than £500,000 to develop.

The 21C technology block took a year to build, and fulfils the Head’s dream of providing “complete immersion in an environment where the children can interact wirelessly on any level”.

He explains, “I knew IT was important as a tool for engaging kids — and that if we could engage them with both audio and visual stimuli, it would be brilliant for kinaesthetic learning.”

Farnham Heath End wanted to go beyond the conventional set-up, in fact earlier plans for a computer suite, divisible into two classrooms, were abandoned in favour of incorporating gesture controlled technology.

The new facility boasts a GestureTek GroundFX interactive floor projection system and GestureTek Screen Xtreme, installed by Digital Vision AV Ltd. GroundFX integrates interactive 2D and 3D visuals with sound, thus enhancing the interactive feature. A wireless mouse and keyboard administer both GestureTek displays.

Limited by the height of the ceiling, Paradigm AV, GestureTek’s UK distributor, advised using a Sanyo PCL-XM100L LCD projector with a short zoom lens, firing onto a single mirror rig above, which folds the beam vertically downwards to create a 2.5m x 1.9m floor image.

Screen Xtreme is addressed by an Optoma EX525ST ultra short throw projector to provide an 80” image over a distance of under a metre. This enables the projector to be kept close to the wall (where the motion detector is recessed) without casting a shadow by the user.

The community school can build on GestureTek’s applications, using it to adapt applications or create new effects.

Farnham Heath End School’s head of business studies, ICT and technology, Steven Clarke, had surveyed the educational technology market at this year’s BETT Show in January, which established the concept but brought them no nearer to sourcing their requirements. It was only when the school’s financial controller Katie Clarke, who was also tasked with running the project, tracked down Digital Vision, that the momentum grew.

The complete product range was then demonstrated by Paradigm AV at their Bedford HQ, and the GroundFX and Screen Xtreme were considered most relevant to fulfill the school’s requirements.

The new block will not be the exclusive province of those studying Flash and Web design for ICT GCSE, but be accessible to the full 880 11-16 year old pupils. Consideration was also given to special needs teaching but there are many other applications for the reconfigurable studio, such as drama and music.

The system allows users to switch any sound source and video source to one or many points in the room. The server room has a Kramer switching matrix and items of software that remotely control the projectors.

The children themselves had input into the way the room was designed — with colour-change LED lighting and matching colour stools.