The Microsoft School of the Future, which recently installed a Harman HiQnet theatrical audio system, delivers a new approach to curriculum and school design while infusing technology into the daily lives of educators and students. The school features a progressive and research-based curriculum, integrated technology and environmentally advanced architecture. The $50 million school is completely wireless and equipped with science labs; Internet access; full-service cyber-libraries; and a multimedia theater, which can be divided into several Large Group Instruction arenas.
The theater features a central cluster of JBL VerTec line-array modules, JBL PD Series loudspeakers for the left/right positions, a combination of Crown I-Tech and CTS amplifiers and AKG WMS 4000 wireless microphone systems. A BSS Audio London system controls the audio zoning and mechanized walls and seating required to seamlessly transition the 800-person multimedia theater into three LGIs.
"It's quite dramatic if you consider the efficiency with which the room transition occurs," says Nathan Powell, president of the PTC Group, which installed the Harman HiQnet system. "Because the school is located in an urban area where real estate is at a premium, this degree of performance and control enables the school to maximize its use of space and ultimately provide better quality education. If the audio is not intelligible, the children are missing out!"
The Harman HiQnet network and communications protocol enable versatile control of the audio systems. With the adjustable walls, room profiles are preprogrammed and teachers, having signed into the system with a password, may select from a variety of usage and content types; the system is optimized accordingly. When the system is required for performance mode, a professional engineer from sound contractor Philadelphia Sound can log into the system and provide an appropriately sophisticated array of system choices.
"It's as simple as a teacher logging in; electing to perform a lecture presentation; turning on the wireless AKG belt pack; and, immediately, the microphone and the system are optimized for the lecture to begin," Powell says. "There is no time wasted with setup, testing and the typical array of problems. Neither is there a requirement that the teacher have a Ph.D. in microelectronics, which is important because great teachers shouldn't have to be great technologists!"
Rick Kreifeldt, vice president of the Harman Pro Group System Development & Integration Group, notes, "This remarkable school is a compelling demonstration of how advanced technology—not just audio but IT, architectural design and countless other disciplines—can be applied to simplify and enhance communications between teacher and student. This was also the inspiration behind our development of HiQnet: to harness the power of advanced audio, communications and control technologies and make them transparent and powerful to those who use them."