WICHITA FALLS, TX – A cosmetology salon with 26 stations isn’t something you normally find at a high school. Neither are an industrial certified welding shop, nor a fully scaled commercial kitchen, but the $28 million Career Education Center opened this year by the Wichita Falls Independent School District is clearly not your ordinary high school. Dedicated to providing its 1,300 students with real-world experience in everything from microbiology to farming, the 123,000 sq. ft. school provides students with realistic learning centers in 26 different career pathways.
To round out the hands-on educational process, the school gives students an opportunity to market their newly developed skills. So, the cosmetology center welcomes visitors who want their hair and nails done. The culinary center operates a thriving bistro. And students in the AV program get to showcase their work on a giant video wall made with 100 F3 LED tiles from CHAUVET Professional that were supplied and installed by ESP of Texas and Commercial & Industrial Electronics.
“We bid on this project with Commercial & Industrial Electronics,” said Mike Utzman, president of ESP of Texas. “Roy Horn, president of C&I, and I have partnered in the past, and we figured that doing so again would be a good way to cut costs on this project.”
The actual installation of the wall in an area of the school called “The Learning Stairs” offers students some important lessons about adapting design concepts, and how resourceful engineering can overcome obstacles.
Originally, the school district was going to use nine TV screens to showcase student productions, but modified its plans based on Utzman and Horn’s recommendation and had an LED wall constructed with the CHAUVET Professional tiles. “Going with the Chauvet wall just made a lot of sense, given what the school wanted to do at The Learning Stairs,” said Utzman. “This is a large area for students to sit, plug in their laptops and follow the instructor, listen to a lecture or watch the movie shorts produced in the TV studio by their classmates.”
Utzman and Horn suggested the change of plans after learning that the school did not want to use streaming encoders to create a multi-view effect. Knowing this, they recommended installing an LED video wall with a capture card in a computer, explaining that this arrangement would allow multi-views from different sources (along with other effects), via an ArKaos software package.
Once the school agreed to go with a video wall instead of the nine TVs, the design team faced another challenge, since the glass area above The Learning Stairs made it impossible to use flypoints in the installation. How the team met this challenge can provide students at this (or any other) school with a textbook example of resourceful engineering.
“Normally you can rig back to the structure above where the wall is flying, but in this application we had to find a different solution, because the area above the screen is made of glass windows, which we could not block,” said Utzman. “We designed a multi-tier support system which includes 4” X 4”x ¼” angle iron welded directly to the main support structure. Then we added angle at a set height to get the upper and lower sides at a 45° angle.
“After this was done, we welded a 1-½” schedule 40 black pipe into place so we could use half couplers with rigging rings and attach that to the Chauvet rigging bars with Crosby 5/8” bolt-style of shackles,” continued Utzman. “I use bolt in for permanent installation to prevent the pin from accidentally backing out over time. The cotter key prevents this possible issue.”
Once installed, the new video wall quickly earned rave reviews from teachers and students. The 3.9 mm pixel pitch and black body LEDs of the CHAUVET Professional panels display crisp, clear images of students’ work, even when viewed from relatively close distances. Even though the video wall is located under windows, its bright 1,500 NITS output and pixel density ensure clear viewing on the sunniest days. “The response to the wall has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Utzman.
Aside from showcasing their video lab work in the best light, the impressive video wall at The Learning Stairs also offers students a real-life lesson in the value of teamwork. “This wall was a true team effort from the school district, which believed in the concept and provided funding; the GC, Sundt of San Antonio; David Munch, project manager; the electric contractor, Willin Electric from Wichita Falls; and the sheet wall contractor, along with the painter and framers,” said Utzman. “We’re all proud of what we accomplished together. This facility is going to be paying back to its community for many years to come.”