A Technology Partnership Leads to the First Campus of Its Kind in the U.S.
Aurora Public Schools’ (APS) vision is to graduate every student with a choice to attend college without remediation. The APS P-20 Pathways concept focuses on successful transitions at critical points along the developmental growth pathway. Students benefit from learning that begins in preschool and continues through high school, all on one campus. Students also have the opportunity to access, explore and prepare for career and learning experiences beyond high school through Career and College Pathways. In light of this mission, the school district chose to create a new model for learning, utilizing advanced technologies to provide unique educational opportunities. When a bond passed in 2008, Vista PEAK was poised for a campus-wide infrastructure installation, including a second phase that would incorporate integrated technological tools and resources for an optimized, highly capable learning environment.
Collaboration for Innovation
During the summer of 2011, APS selected GTRI as the solution provider to implement network and digital media solutions in time for the scheduled start of the 2011-2012 school year. GTRI was the perfect choice, bringing a critical blend of planning, project management, and technical expertise to the challenging task.
A Centralized Integration
The project had multiple critical aspects in which GTRI was involved with two: the deployment of a centralized, fully-integrated voice, audio, and video solution, and a robust, redundant network to support it. GTRI leveraged the Cisco Digital Media Suite and Tandberg Video Conferencing devices to support multiple diverse areas within the school, including:
- Entrance Lobby
- Conference Room
- Cafeteria/Commons Area
- Library Post Grad Center
- Three Learning Communities
- Main Corridor
- Two Mobile Video Conferencing Units
The highly-scalable network GTRI implemented can be expanded to other areas in the future.
“GTRI understood our technical Vision for Vista PEAK Preparatory and helped us to infuse these tools with purpose and academic intention,”-Garrett Rosa, Vista PEAK Pathway Director
Content Management and Delivery
The installed monitors serve as digital signage for IP delivered content, including uploaded images, videos, and live cable channels, from a centralized media resource with unicast, multicast, and broadcast capabilities. The monitors also contain a web-based application that allows school officials to control and manage content for all monitors, together or separately, within and outside the school’s campus. Content can be generated and managed using Cisco’s Digital Media Manager, which can deliver content via the APS LAN/WAN for the added benefit of communicating within the Vista PEAK campus and other parts of the district.
Each monitor has a connected media player and all media players are managed by a single server, as well as a series of encoders, that allow eight different cable channels to stream to the monitors. In addition, two mobile carts that are also managed by the central server are outfitted with large display screens and cameras, providing the ability to record point-to-point video sessions or stream live content from one location within the school to another.
Networking for Flexibility
Cisco switches were used to outfit the Vista PEAK Preparatory’ s network infrastructure. A Cisco Catalyst 4507 was deployed to serve as the network core device. Each IDF was outfitted with four Cisco Catalyst 3750’s in a stackable configuration connected to the network’s backbone via 10G fiber uplinks.
Utilizing IP delivery greatly reduced the overall infrastructure costs and requirements for the district, eliminating the need for coaxial cable installation and allowing for content reception by any IP-enabled device on the network.
“It was absolutely critical the network infrastructure for Vista PEAK Preparatory be designed for quality and performance to host converged network services,” stated Desmond Grant, IT Director of Infrastructure Services for APS.
In addition to the wide variety of content management and displaying options, this integrated solution provides extensive video capabilities. Users can record lectures or other videos for later showing, utilize “face-to-face” live video conferencing. Additionally, the video solution supports “distance learning,” in which one cart camera streams a class lecture or session to the monitor in another classroom or learning center.
For added quality assurance, Quality of Service (QoS) was implemented to ensure voice, video and digital signage content would function at the highest quality and all resources would be utilized efficiently. The QoS solution was based on a four-class model that assigns each data segment in its own queue for optimized bandwidth. This enables the optimal performance of:
- Voice traffic
- Video and DMS traffic
- Defined mission critical data
- Default traffic
“It was absolutely critical the network infrastructure for Vista PEAK Preparatory be designed for quality and performance to host converged network services,”-Desmond Grant, IT Director of Infrastructure Services for APS.
A Lasting Impression
The partnership between APS, Vista PEAK and GTRI resulted in the timely delivery of a technology convergence that has provided the school with a learning environment for the next generation. The faculty, staff and students are the beneficiaries of one of the first rich media high school environments in the country. It is the expectation of the school and school district that the new educational solution will provide greater opportunities for equipping the students for success.