With four campus locations in New York and one in London, Fordham University has a 500-year history as a Jesuit, Catholic University. Over 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend the school. Located in Manhattan at the corner of West 60th and Columbus Avenue, the school spans two city blocks and the 8-acre property is home to the Fordham College at Lincoln Center, the Gabelli School of Business, Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Social Service, and School of Law.
“We’ve had a long relationship with Fordham University over the last 15-20 years,” said John Hatke, VCA’s Senior Design Engineer. The VCA team worked with AV/IT consultant Christopher Maione Associates, along with the architectural firm HLW and general contractor AECOM/Tishman Construction.
In the city that never sleeps, the project’s challenge was to meet the evolving classroom technology needs of Fordham’s students head on while providing a series of lab spaces that incorporated new screens, projectors, control equipment, overhead speakers, computers, furniture and finishes for the Lowenstein Building’s 6th Floor at the Lincoln Center campus.
The demanding schedule required the project to be completed over the Fall 2017 semester in order to be ready for opening day of the Spring semester, January 15, 2018. One of the goals for the project was to avoid downtime, meaning that all of the affected classrooms needed to be relocated while the renovation work was undertaken.
For this project, a total of nine spaces were built out, including a cybersecurity lab, psychology lab, computer science teaching lab, two computer classrooms and computer labs, as well as a theatre design lab and cybersecurity office. In total, the renovation encompassed 17,000 square feet of space.
For user-friendly control of the AV systems within each of the classrooms, theater design room and labs, the specification called for a mix of Crestron DigitalMedia matrix switchers and scalers all utilizing Crestron 3-Series processors for control, paired with TSW-760-B-S, 7-inch touchpanels. The system’s programming differed from room to room based on specific room requirements.
Front and center within the classrooms are 130-inch diagonal Cima Stewart Filmscreens.
Sony’s 6000lm WUXGA Laser Projectors in white were integrated in the classrooms. The furniture in the rooms feature either desk systems with adjustable table trays that provide the flexibility to accommodate right and left-handed students, or desk consoles with individual, retractable monitors that house Dell computers.
Several of the rooms were equipped with a mix of in-ceiling speakers designed to blend seamlessly with the ceiling tiles. On the podium in each room, next to the mounted Crestron interface, the VCA integration team installed a Shure MX418 gooseneck mic and Littlite gooseneck lighting. Biamp TesiraForte handles the audio DSP, and a Middle Atlantic rack is located inside the podium.
In addition to the computer labs, there is a dedicated cybersecurity lab. This room showcases NEC displays at each cluster of six desks with integrated switches concealed in the desk consoles. The switching control enables students to throw the image from their personal screens to the larger NEC display mounted on several Chief floor stands around the room, which provides visual access to the monitors above each cluster of desktop groupings.
According to Hatke, one of the biggest challenges faced during the project was programming the monitors within the computer classrooms. “The university and the specifications called for every student to be able to work independently on their own monitor. However, in the classrooms with the huddle space clusters, we needed to create a set of commands that would enable six students at one time to each have the ability to throw their monitor’s image to the central monitor for the huddle group.”
In addition, VCA needed to program the system so that the instructor could override all of the individual and huddle displays at any given time. For internal switching within the huddle groups, a small, localized switcher was used, which was then sent to a larger Crestron switch.
Also, on the 6th floor is the school’s Theatre Design Lab. Here again, the room utilizes the Crestron interface, 130-inch Stewart Filmscreen, Shure mics and Middle Atlantic rack. Within the room, high top wooden tables move on caster rollers to enable collaboration as the students create set designs for university productions.
VCA’s installation team efficiently handled the project by temporarily relocating classrooms to another floor. From start to finish, the installation took approximately four months.
Coordinating with the various trades for the project and the manufacturers required tremendous attention to detail and an eye on the schedule in order to deliver the site on time and on budget. The team concluded the project with training to bring the university’s staff up to speed on how to work with the new technologies.
With the installation complete, Fordham now has a series of state-of-the-art classrooms and labs that utilize a variety of technologies that support both the teachers and the students while positioning Fordham as a university that empowers students with the latest technological tools.
Of the installation, consultant Christopher Maione noted, “This was a fast-tracked project that needed to incorporate a number of elements to turn the space around quickly. VCA handled the project’s integration impeccably from start to finish, enabling us to deliver the client a space that they were supremely satisfied with on both a process and performance level.”
Apart from being completed on time and under budget, the project success had an even larger value add. Hatke states, “I think we were able to give Fordham exactly what they were looking for on this project. I personally believe that when students are investigating what college to attend, they investigate the types of technology that are being used within the classrooms.”
Hatke adds, “Today students are so technologically oriented, if the universities don’t keep up and offer greater ease and access to technology that supports wireless communication and collaboration, they’ll miss out on potential students.”
Fordham certainly understands the value of investing in technology to afford its students the best experience and opportunities for learning. The university’s foresight will pay off for years to come by attracting the most talented and brightest minds of the next generation to its campus in Manhattan.