GEMS Education is an international education company that has been educating youths since 1959. With schools in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, in 2014 GEMS opened their first school in the United States. GEMS World Academy Chicago educates students from Junior Kindergarten to the 12th grade. GEMS’ Chicago location will be split into two schools to house all grades. The first facility, which holds students from Junior Kindergarten to 5th grade, opened Fall 2014 and the second facility will begin construction to open in the near future. This 9 story building in the heart of Chicago’s Lake Shore East neighborhood places students in a prime location surrounded by beautiful parks, museums and government buildings. GEMS World Academy Chicago is an 82,000 square foot building housing classrooms, offices, a library, conference rooms, a robotics lab, cafeteria, indoor gymnasium and a rooftop playground.
Pentegra Systems initially was solicited to respond to an RFQ by GEMS World Academy. This unique project was not based on a hard consultant specification, but overall design criteria with the objective of giving the client the best solution to meet their needs. The goal of this AV system was to provide a state of the art education experience for all students attending that included all modern day technologies to further enhance the world class education that GEMS has become known for. The design team, composed of our expert engineers, designed and proposed a truly remarkable solution that met all of GEMS’ expectations. Working closely with GEMS, Erik Geiger of Shen Milsom Wilke, as well as Power Construction, Pentegra Systems set out to implement a system that could not only enhance the learning experience for all students through the interconnection of all classrooms within the facility, but connect all classrooms in the facility to any other GEMS classroom around the globe.
In order for GEMS World Academy Chicago to become a virtual portal to classrooms around the world, Pentegra Systems had to introduce cutting-edge technology able to handle such a task. Inside every classroom within GEMS’ Downtown Chicago location are two flat panel touch displays. One of these displays is dedicated towards instruction from the teacher using it for both presentations and demonstrations among other aspects of the everyday lesson plan. The other flat panel touch display in every classroom is used for student interactivity. These monitors are used for students to create projects, present class work, etc. All classroom flat panel displays have the capability to function as a digital dry erase board to easily edit and erase during class. Students can come up to the touch panels and participate in the curriculum whether it be completing a long division math problem on the digital dry erase board or going online to research the first World War for an upcoming presentation in class. The most prominent use for these touch panels are to act as a virtual doorway to other classrooms within the building, as well around the globe to other GEMS schools through video conferencing capabilities. A student inside the science room in Chicago can connect and collaborate with a student in Dubai conducting the same experiment seamlessly in real time.
The system Pentegra designed and installed also equipped the corridors with the very same touch panel displays. These monitors have several uses including signage capabilities. The touch panels display important school information and content to both faculty and staff walking through the hallways on every floor. Staying in the realm of digital signage, these displays also become a virtual directory to passing students, teachers and visitors displaying what rooms are located on every floor and the direction in which those rooms and as well as personnel are located. Creston control systems are used for students to easily access the touch panel displays in the hallways, temporarily disabling the digital signage. Using the tablets in the corridors, students can mirror any smartphone, computer or tablet onto the flat panel displays to share and collaborate with other students instantly converting the space into a huddle room of sorts. Once students are done using the touch panels in the hallway, the Creston control system automatically convert the display back into digital signage.
Every display possesses the same features; therefore they all can become an impromptu learning area no matter the location inside GEMS World Academy. Being an educational institution, having every display capable of transforming any public area into a hub for learning was a very appealing aspect of Pentegra Systems’ solution. Content sharing is a significant aspect of this AV system. All touch panels have wireless desktop mirroring capabilities. Any user can wirelessly mirror their device’s display, Windows or Mac, straight onto any display inside the facility for easy sharing. Students and faculty can also easily share content from the corridor displays into any classroom display as well. Any content from any display can be sent down to the lobby and reception area which houses two flat panel displays of their own as well as a video wall consisting of four monitors. These displays within the lobby are entryways into the entire facility. In addition to their digital signage capabilities, parents contemplating enrolling their child in GEMS World Academy Chicago can sit in on any class going on at that moment through the video conferencing capabilities and get a good feel for what an average day is like at GEMS. In addition to the communication possibilities of the flat panel displays, Pentegra Systems also installed a building-wide paging system to seamlessly communicate from every room in the facility. The final piece of the AV system that we installed at GEMS World Academy is the sound system and projector inside the multipurpose room. This multipurpose room is initially GEMS’ gymnasium, but equipped with an overhead video projector. This enables the gymnasium to act as a theater, assembly hall or for any public gathering purpose. The sound systems in both the multi-purpose room as well as the cafeteria are controlled by Crestron, much like the touch panel displays in the corridors of GEMS.
Pentegra Systems created a system that elevates classroom interactivity to a global scale. With the possibilities that come with modern day technologies such as flat screen touch panels and video conferencing solutions, “sharing” in the classroom now goes further beyond just the classroom walls of GEMS World Academy Chicago. GEMS’ new state-of-the-art AV system enables communication and the transferring of information from room to room, floor to floor as well as country to country. Having worked closely with GEMS World Academy, Pentegra Systems created a revolutionary AV system that facilitates an already tech savvy generation of students and faculty. GEMS had a vision and Pentegra’s expertise made that vision a reality and will continue to ensure that vision continues to enhance children’s learning experiences for many years to come.
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