At Texas Tech University, a pair of 23-foot wide by 5-foot high video walls are providing petroleum engineering students with learning environments that resemble the facilities where they could end up working, along with other visual benefits.
The “looks like where you will work” approach is part of a growing trend in colleges and universities, like Indiana State University’s (ISU) Scott College of Business and Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business—and in these data-intensive professions, video walls, digital signage, and other large displays play a growing role.
HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, OIL
Founded in 1923, Texas Tech University is the largest comprehensive higher-education institution in western Texas, with over 30,000 students and as one of the largest petroleum engineering programs in the United States.
The Bob L. Herd, Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas Tech is one of the largest in this field in the country—and still growing. In February 2014, a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of the university’s new Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Research Building, a 42,000-square-foot, $22.8 facility—big enough to allow the petroleum engineering department to grow from an average of over 500 students—which already made Texas Tech one of the leading producers of industry-ready petroleum engineers, to over 600 undergraduates.
The architect for the Terry Fuller building was Kirksey Architecture, with 4b Technology Group as audio-video design consultant, and Lubbock Audio Visual, Inc. as general contractor, and Texas Tech University’s Facilities are executing the project.
Highlights of the modern facilities include a “smart” learning auditorium and “smart” classrooms, plus state-of-the-art integrated research and teaching laboratories, and collaborative student study areas, helping engineering students to immerse themselves in petroleum exploration and production learning.
Highly visible in the new building are two large video walls—23 feet wide by 5 feet high each—one in the 156-seat Herald Winkler Auditorium, an auditorium-sized classroom on the first floor, and another in a 63-seat classroom on the second floor.
Having video displays this size and shape allows the department to show a mix of content.
“A lecturer can be showing computer simulations, and high-resolution geologic data,” says Brian Wagnon, Sales Associate at Lubbock Audio Visual. “And there are overhead cameras, so actual tools, pieces of piping, and other equipment can be wheeled in, and then shown larger-than-life.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony at the Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Research Building.
Al Sacco Jr., the Dean of the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, notes that the video wall can also display 3D data such as formations.
“The intention is to provide the students a 3D view of drilling from the drill’s prospective,” says Sacco.
The video walls were not part of the original plan for the building, according to Nick Rinker, who was Director of Engineering Computing Services for the Whitacre College of Engineering.
“The university has guidelines for classroom spaces,” says Rinker. “However, because the building was going to be state of art in many other aspects, Dean Sacco desired the classroom technology also be state of the art.
“Two designs were created, one with the recommended guidelines, and the other with the more advanced technology including video walls and lecture capture technology. When the additional funding was secured to proceed with the more advanced technology, which was a better match for the other state-of-the-art aspects of the building.”
Other Ways TTU Uses the Video Walls
• The overhead cameras can be used in lieu of whiteboards/chalkboards in the classrooms, by being pointed at a sheet of paper that the professor can write on, such as to solve an equation, allowing them to face the class rather than a board.
• Each classroom includes several wireless video “pucks” that can be plugged into USB ports on student laptops. The pucks allow the machines display content to be seen on a section of the video wall for collaborative work.
• TTU’s campus unified communication system can call through the computer input for video displays.
The video walls were installed as construction completed, although, Rinker notes, “They only had limited functionality during the building’s grand opening…the contractor was still completing programming, and ironing out bugs when I moved to the Telecommunications group in March, but at one class was beginning to meet in the new building.”
SEEING IS LEARNING
According to Rinker, “The video walls allowed us to have multiple sources displayed at the same time, so that the instructor could show both whatever the document camera was pointed at as well as their presentation, rather than having to switch back and forth between sources. Additionally, the same source could be presented in multiple sections to help students having trouble seeing that is one the screen.”
In addition to being used to display standard teaching PowerPoint presentations, annotation, and DVD/Blu-Ray videos, “These video walls replaced a traditional projector system while bringing additional features to the table,” says Rinker.
VIDEO WALLS THAT ARE BRIGHT—BUT COOL AND LOWER-ENERGY
For the display component of the video walls, 4B Technology Group, the audio-video design consultant, used Prysm Olympic video walls from Prysm, Inc. Prysm’s Laser Phosphor Display (LPD) tiles have a 427X320 resolution which are used to make Texas Tech’s 5978×1280 video walls each with 7,651,840 total pixels.
Features of Prysm’s LPD technology include “cool-to-the-touch” low energy requirements, near-seamless tileability, 178-degree viewing angle, and no moving parts (e.g., no fans). Each of the two video walls in the Terry Fuller building use 2.2Kw, and have heat output of 7,500 BTU/hour.
According to an Environmental Cost of Ownership chart from Prysm, its displays require less than half the energy of comparable-size LCD displays, roughly 25% that of LED or plasma, one-third that of LED rear-projection tiles, and about 30% of large-format projection.
A Prysm video wall can be plugged into standard electrical, and, according to the company, has a lifespan of over 60,000 hours.
Mark Basford, vice president and senior design consultant at 4B Technology Group, says that Prysm’s bezel-free design lets the video wall be “virtually seamless.”
“The video walls are a great tool to help our students visualize the geological areas they will be asked to work in,” say Sacco. “They will help them learn the complexities of horizontal drilling, fracturing and other exploration and production operations. Bottom line, they will help us produce the energy leaders of tomorrow.”
Video: A walk-through of the Petroleum Engineering Building