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Design: Classroom of the Future

  1. Nov 3, 2005 #1
    Hello again guys,
    Its been awhile since I have been able to get back here, but I have been really busy. I am currently a freshman in the engineering school at the University of Michigan.
    We have just got a project and I thought that it would be nice to get the input of fellow PF members throughout the duration of the project. The project goal for my engineering team is to use past teams reports along with our own design to completly design a classroom that has been come to be known as the classroom of the future. The design of a classroom with remote collaboration in mind. This project is being done between U-M's AOSS Department and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, although with eye towards future collaborators.

    I'm going to point out in the beginnign that if our project is selected our plan will be used for the actual construction of the classroom. Something that would look very nice for a freshman engineer.

    The classroom has the following specifics
    * Live lectures to 25 students
    * Video conference
    o Remote guest lectures
    o Team meetings and presentations with advisors
    * Small team (4-5) meetings
    * Workstations for systems engineering design
    * Shared workstations with off campus locations
    * Network and power support for laptops

    * 8 desktop workstations
    * Desk seating for 25
    * Seating for 25
    * Current model being considered is a Medium A Standard Conference Room, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    New for this term: (old ones are still part of the HTML source)
    * How the power is to get to the cameras, screen, projector, computer?
    o What size conduit is needed?
    o Does the cabling require drilling through the concrete?
    o Is there a better way to cable the room?
    * What should the room layout look like?
    o Where should the cameras, screens, desks, and plasma t.v. be placed?
    o Should computers be along the perimeter of the room with movable desks in the middle?
    o Is there need for a podium?
    o How can a plasma t.v., a whiteboard, computers, etc be placed considering that there are two windows?
    o What is needed in regards to aesthetic appeal?
    * Should a raised floor be used for all that is needed?
    o Is there a better way perhaps through the ceiling for some of these items?
    * How can sharing be accomplished in a secure manner?
    o Can this be implemented on the current system or is there a need for a new server?
    o What are the costs involved?
    * Concerning network connection options (ISDN, Internet 2). What is available on campus? How do the options compare for the required functions?
    * What software should be considered for sharing design data remotely
    * What software should be used for system requirements development and design trades

    Many teams have been working on the last couple of years designing specific componets that could be used in the classroom. It is the goal of my team to combine all of these projects into an actual plan for actually building the plan. In other words this project if selected will actually be used to build the classroom.

    I was hoping to use this thread and possibly other threads to get opinions of my teams ideas and to get ideas from other members. The project submission is due mid to late december.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2005 #2


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    I always love how universities try to combine room functions for things that don't seem to combine very well, like lectures for groups of 25 AND ability to accomodate small group meetings. You want small group meetings around a small table, but lectures are best done with theater style seating, or at best, a very large table that can seat 25 (and can anyone see around anyone else if you seat 25 people around a table and they still need to see the screen?) My thoughts on this based on real experience in rooms like that which have always been poorly designed for their function...a trapezoidal shaped table. The shortest side should be on the same side of the room as the screen (room for one lecturer to stand there), the angled sides mean students seated along the sides can all view the screen without the body of the student next to them blocking their view, and you can accomodate the rest of a large group across the widest end of the table. A small group can sit around any of the corners and still see face-to-face. Also, the side with the narrow end would also allow accomodating some additional chairs along the wall, or a cart with coffee or an extra projector, etc., to allow expansion of the room for a slightly larger group if you end up with one or two extra people showing up for a meeting, or need to bring in food, etc.

    The other issue I've always had with rooms like that are 1) glare from the windows, and 2) inability to dim only some lights when using a projector. Don't be tempted to use any of those ridiculously expensive, prone to breaking down, electric motorized shades for the windows. Get good, old-fashioned, room-darkening mini blinds or vertical blinds. These are 1) cheap to repair, so after a year or two of use, the university actually will repair the blinds when they stop working, unlike those expensive ones that once they break, the university refuses to fix, and 2) you can either close them to block out all the light if the sun is really low and bright coming through the window, or you need to really dim the lighting to show something on a slide that's hard to see, or you can just tilt them so reduce glare but not make the room too dark if you want your audience to stay awake in a brighter room (this is really important when using it for meetings as well as classes...meetings can sometimes be all-day events depending on the nature of the meeting, and the last thing you want is to either be blinding the person sitting across from the window with sunlight, or putting everyone to sleep in a dimly lit room). As for lighting, have separate lighting controls for the front of the room than the back, and put both on a dimmer switch. This way, you can selectively darken the front to see things projected on the screen, but keep the back lit for note-taking, or just dim the lights as much as needed without having to turn them completely off.

    Oh, one more thing not on your list...include a decent HVAC system! When you're varying group sizes in a room that much, the temperature setting that is comfortable for 4 sitting around and discussing lab results is going to roast a room filled with 25 all using heat-generating computers, at least the way most university conference rooms are set up anyway.

    Oh, and think really carefully about where you will put electric outlets! If someone is supposed to set a projector on the table (figure out the optimal distance a projector needs to be from the screen to fit the image on the screen), then don't put all the electric outlets along the outside walls and expect everyone to run extension cords over the students' laps (can you tell I've done this a few times?) Put an outlet on the floor under the table with a cut-out to get to it, or wire outlets in strips along the table (maybe something you'd need to do for work stations anyway).

    Oh, and one last thing to consider...chairs disappear...always. Those ones that attach to the table and swing out are uncomfortable and annoying, but anything that looks too much like the other office furniture in the building will wander off to offices. Avoid high-backed chairs...those are hard to see through and make very tempting desk chairs for offices. Chairs on wheels disappear faster than chairs on 4 legs. While this never affects the intial design, in the long-run, it does become an issue with usefulness of the room when you run out of chairs for the 25 you're supposed to be able to fit in the room. If you can budget it in, figure out a way to get stackable chairs (comfortable ones though) and get some extras to stack in a corner (I don't suppose there's a way to get chairs in that are all just slightly wider than the door before the doors are installed so they can't be removed...that would be a bit too space-consuming :rofl:).

    Just my thoughts on what the people using those rooms really think about and notice much more than where you hide the wires, especially since this is something they actually might use to design a real room, not just as an academic exercise.

    Another suggestion for you...meet with your team in that room when discussing your projects. It will help you realize some of the problematic details of the current set-up so you'll know what needs to change to make the room comfortable for meetings.
  4. Nov 3, 2005 #3


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    Where's the IMAX and full stereophonic - make that quadraphonic - surround sound. :rofl:

    Oh, yeah this is supposed to be a 'classroom'. :biggrin: :rolleyes: :uhh: o:)
  5. Nov 3, 2005 #4
    Thanks for your responses so far, one thing I realized I forgot to mention is budget and size... I am not currently sure on the exact dimensions of the room but it is a normal classroom size... (Rough Blueprint attached) So it is not as if we are constructing the actual physical classroom to start with (although technically if it doesn't hurt the structural stability of the building you could modify the room). Also I believe the budget for the project is $300,000. I also attached a picture of the floor plan for the floor the classroom is in.

    Attached Files:

  6. Nov 3, 2005 #5


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    Many questions and many ideas. Here's some thoughts.

    The layout should reflect function -

    * Live lectures to 25 students
    * Video conference (Remote guest lectures, Team meetings and presentations with advisors)
    * Small team (4-5) meetings

    The first two seem compatible - lecturer near front middle or corner - would be compatible with video layout.

    What kind of video - flat screen, plasma, projected? Screen (laterally H and V) size is important, as well as depth. A standard large screen TV would use up floor space.

    The lecture/video would be conceivably compatible with benches or tables, but would that facilitate small team (4-5) meetings. Possibly.

    I think workstations should go on the periphery, but two (3,5 or 4,4) vs three (3,2,3 or 2,3,3 or 2,2,4).

    It would be intriguing to network (like Netmeeting or other collaborative software) a lecture so that students could interact directly when asking a question or making a point. The student asking could direct a cursor on the screen so that the lecturer and other students would see it also.

    Cabling depends on the power/network/comm requirements and how the floor, walls, ceiling are constructed. Up through the floor is less obstructive than down from ceiling. Through/along the wall is fine for periphery, but computers in the middle of the room on benches/desks/tables might still require cabling up from floor/down from ceiling.

    Presumably WiFi or other wireless is available, which eliminates network cabling, so only power cabling is required. So that is 200W/PC/workstation?

    Moonbear has a good point - figure max thermal load of 25 PC's + 8 Workstations + 25 people + lecturer (and lecturer's PC) + any guest (w/ PC) + video + ??.

    Presumably a UNIX type OS would be used? Autocad for drawings? There are off-shelf, as well as custom proprietary document control software.
  7. Nov 3, 2005 #6


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    I really know almost nothing about this sort of situation, so might bring a different (and likely useless) approach to it.
    First off, is there any reason that the desk-seating/seating/team seating/workstations can't all be the same thing? I don't know exactly what a 'workstation' is, but I get the impression of a terminal connected to a mainframe somewhere.
    What I'm thinking of is 5 clusters of 6 chairs arranged around a semi-circular set of monitors with lots of desk space in front of them for writing and mousing and keyboard work (and so the ones on opposite ends are still line-of-sight). If you add 2 or 3 large monitors on top for video feed, you could eliminate the need for a projector or stadium seating (feed the lecturer through CCTV) and use the computers at the same time. That would get rid of the chair-theft problem as well, because you could have nice comfy ones hard-mounted or on short rails for flexibility. A 6-inch or so sub-floor would let you run all of the cables you want, plus elevate the groups slightly from the rest of the room which could be used for other things like physical demonstrations or whatever. If the groups are facing away from the centre of the room normally, the chairs could then be swivelled around in order to watch if necessary, without the stations being in the way.
  8. Nov 3, 2005 #7


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    I also wasn't sure if this needed to be separate or could be part of the rest of the configuration. Another approach to this would be to make the conference table more than just a table...make it a complete multimedia workcenter. Have data jacks right on the table (or wireless), you could maybe even configure recesses into the table that you can set in laptop computers (or fold-down flatscreen monitors and keyboards...depending on how the networking is done)...lift it up and out when you need to use them as workstations or for videoconferencing, and fold them down an slide over a lid to expand the work surface if you just need to take notes or don't want screens between you and the person across the table. You could even enclose a lot of cabling, servers, equipment, etc within a box under the table...as long as everyone has enough knee space, the rest of the under-table space can be utilized as a locked box for all the electronics...make it compartments accessible from different sides or one large space for just hiding cables...whatever works best. Each station could also have a webcam, so when you're doing videoconferencing, you can see all the participants...just press a button when you ask a question so the remotely connected students can see who is asking a question. They can do the same on their end so everyone knows what the students remotely connected look like...it'll make it feel more like they are there.

    This would be good if it was just being used for workstations and classes, but wouldn't be compatible with the concept of using it for meetings. Since it has to be a multi-functional room, it puts some constraints on design.

    Not so sure about having hard-mounted chairs. That can be uncomfortable since they end up in a fixed position...the very tall and very short are either too close or too far from the table. If a tall person sits next to you, you can't scoot the chair out a few inches to see around them, etc. (I'm short, so notice these things.) Allowing chairs to slide in and out on a short rail might work. As long as they aren't those spring-loaded things on swing-out swivel arms like a lot of lecture halls have...I spend more of my attention focused on keeping my feet on the floor so I don't get squished back into the desk than on whatever the lecture is in that room. Though, custom chairs like that might seriously blow the budget. A custom table is simple carpentry, but custom chairs are expensive...plus they get a bit crazy when you're buying for a university building because you need to make sure they meet fire codes/flammability regulations.

    A raised floor sure sounds easier than drilling through concrete. However, make sure it won't be susceptible to floor cleaning...if you put on carpeting, can you still access the cables if they need repairing without pulling up all the carpet? Actually, is there any better flooring material than carpet or whatever those standard floor tile things are? Carpet gets filthy pretty quickly, but it offers some sound-proofing. Especially if you're doing a lot of video conferencing and will have a lot of computer equipment with all their respective fans running, you'll want floor and wall materials that muffle the background noise so it doesn't echo around the room.

    Geez, it gets complex really fast, doesn't it? You'd also want to consider acoustics for microphones...with so much electronic equipment, feedback might be a problem.
  9. Nov 4, 2005 #8


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    Right... I missed the part about 'meetings'. Just saw the 'small (4-5) team meetings'. Hmmm... :confused:
    Under-floor cable access wouldn't be a problem. Unless rodents get in there and start chewing, you'll only experience malfunctions at junction points. Easy enough to built access hatches in those areas.
    I've never heard of chairs on swing-arms. I was thinking of 2-axis versions of the rails used under car seats, except longer. If you use actual auto ones from scrapped cars, it'd cost $0 - $10 per chair (and you could get the electric ones if the students are really lazy).
    You're right, Moonbear... it's not as simple as one would expect.
  10. Nov 6, 2005 #9
    note: I will be adding new information as we get it...

  11. Nov 7, 2005 #10
    I think it needs ash trays.
  12. Nov 7, 2005 #11


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    Those parameters kind of sucked all the fun out of it. :grumpy:
  13. Nov 10, 2005 #12
    What are you concerned with in regards to the parameters limiting the constuction? I am sure if an Idea is a good one we would be able to adjust the parameters besides the basic needs of the classroom.
  14. Nov 10, 2005 #13


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    Cool. I've never been one for colouring inside the lines. :biggrin:
  15. Nov 10, 2005 #14
    I found a website that looks like it has some good tips and equipment that i'm starting to investigate. I'm considering posting some of the previous year team reports, but I think I will do that once we start deciding on what we want to do, then I will attach the research that supports our decision.

    http://www.vsgi.com/default.asp [Broken]

    which had helpful things such as

    http://www.vsgi.com/Google/landing/videosys/PDF/Planning for Videoconferencing.pdf

    Currently right now we are starting considertions for such things as
    Construction considerations
    Safety Code
    White Board
    Archiving Materials
    Room Layout
    Color of room
    Presentation Video
    Research Audio Output/Video Options
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  16. Nov 15, 2005 #15

    I have much to update... but not a lot of time at the moment. We are really starting to get moving on this project. One of the things were considering is the following list of items. This is what the university usually buys for a video conferncing type room, and is the defualt equipment. However I am thinking I may suggest changing the equipment. (note: obviously this is not a complete list of what the room will need, just a few componets)
    anywhere i'm here is the pdf
    http://www.moistpotato.com/brian/attachments.zip" [Broken]
    more to come soon-
    team blackbox.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  17. Nov 23, 2005 #16


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    Any chance you can set it up so that the A/V equipment is idiot-proofed enough for the average professor to use it? :biggrin: I also despise those remote controls that have the slide-advance button really close to the laser pointer button, so you always end up clicking the wrong one. Do they make ones that won't have such a problem? I know it's a very minor suggestion; it's just a pet peeve of mine. :smile:
  18. Nov 28, 2005 #17
    raised flooring

    Does anyone know of anyplace to purchace raisted flooring....

    total height less than six inches high with 3 inches of space on floor. it needs to be able to have a wheelchair ramp as well at the door.

    thx tom
  19. Nov 29, 2005 #18


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    :confused: I've never actually heard of anyone buying it. Everyone that I've known who had one just built it on edge-up 2 x 4's or similar. Some kind of metal trusswork might be more appropriate in your case, though, since you don't likely know what your load distribution will be.
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