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A matrix for learning

A matrix for learning
A matrix for learning

UK – Fulbridge Academy in Peterborough is a primary school that was recently judged as 'outstanding' by Ofsted. A culturally and socially diverse school with children from more than 25 countries, it is renowned for its creative approach to the curriculum. Head teacher, Iain Erskine is at the helm of this dynamic centre of learning and regularly presents at conferences and seminars across the UK to share Fulbridge's forward-thinking vision with other educators. Possessing National School of Creativity status and SATS results that place it amongst the most successful schools in the country, it was inevitable that when Fulbridge was seeking to enhance its environment with an audio twist, it would be no ordinary solution.

In keeping with its pioneering, forward thinking ethos, Fulbridge has enhanced its internal surroundings with a thought-provoking series of themed areas that relate to specific topics being studied by its children. Moving through the corridors, visitors experience a changing landscape which encourages curiosity and interest and serves to create an atmosphere within the school that is both unusual and inspiring. All the highly-detailed components of these themed areas have been crafted by the children and staff. The result is an immersive environment that grabs the attention and stimulates the desire to learn and find out more. In order to fully realise its vision, Fulbridge needed outside assistance for the last piece in its sensory jigsaw. The school contacted highly respected integrators Playfords, with a view to adding a carefully manageable audio element to the project and they, in turn, consulted with Audiologic as to the best way to meet the requirements of the project.

The school wanted to add a separate audio element to each of 23 themed areas in three separate corridors and one to a communal hall. Each of three separate corridors running away from a main corridor hosted respectively, eight, eight and seven themes. Audiologic supplied 24 Audac CMP30 media players to enable the greatest possible flexibility in sending the required audio to all of the areas. Very compact and combining a CD-player, MP3 player and AM/FM RDS tuner, the CMP30 fitted the bill perfectly by allowing for multiple sources.

An Audac R2 multi-zone audio distribution unit with POW2 internal amplifier, was rack-mounted alongside a group of eight CMP30s at the end of each of the three corridors. An 8 x 8 digital audio matrix system, based on a powerful DSP processor, the R2 is fully digitally controllable and the built-in digital matrix makes it possible to patch any of the input signals to any of the output signals. All of the R2 units were connected to each other via fibre optic to create a 24 x 24 matrix which could broadcast in any combination from 24 separate audio feeds down to one individual feed across the whole system. The flexibility afforded was key to the dynamic way in which the school wished to operate the system.

Two Audac DW5065 wall panels were included in the system. The first, located in the technicians office, facilitated the use of a microphone (Audac M86) for general announcements which could over-ride the entire system and the second, located in the hall, allowed for the easy connection of an external source such as an ipod and would over-ride only the audio feed to that area. Procab cables and connectors were used throughout and a combination of 18 Ecler IC6 2-way ceiling speakers and six Audac ATE06 wall-mounted speakers completed the picture.

By working closely with Playfords from the outset, Audiologic was able use its considerable expertise and depth of product-knowledge to design a solution which enabled Fulbridge to realise every element of its imaginative vision as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. The results have been met with great enthusiasm by the children, staff and visitors. Whilst it could not be considered a highly complex project it is worth noting that for the average primary school, this level of audio-integration is extremely rare.

Paul Smedley, project engineer at Playfords stated: "When Fulbridge put their idea to us, we weren't immediately sure of a solution that would fit the bill and so we contacted Audiologic to consult with them over the possibilities. They are an ever-reliable source of great products and advice and as we'd expected, they were quick to make a suggestion. They invited us and the school's project director to a demonstration of the Audac products that they had recommended and that visit sealed the deal. The install itself was swift and trouble free and although there were some minor teething problems at the commissioning stage, these were quickly overcome with support from Audiologic's technical team. It's fair to say that the success of this project can be measured by the reactions of visitors to the school as they move between the zones. Audiologic were great partners in helping us fully realise Fulbridge's vision."

The value to the school of Audiologic's assistance and advice was a theme taken up by a delighted Rhys Maddox, digital learning co-ordinator at Fulbridge: "In the early stages of developing the idea we had some sounds in some of the corridors but it quickly became apparent that to create the holistic experience we were seeking, we needed to look for something more sophisticated. We really wanted a system that would be dynamic and easily changeable and thanks to Audiologic, that's exactly what we got! We are at the beginning of a journey with what we can do with the system and we look forward to developing the use of the technology even further as the months progress. Both Playfords and Audiologic went above and beyond in ensuring that we achieved precisely what we were looking for. Inspired by the success and popularity of the installation, we now are considering a plan to install a similar system in a new-build on the site, this time involving indoor and outdoor speakers!"

Andy Lewis, sales and marketing manager at Audiologic reflected on the project: "Sometimes one becomes so focused on the technical nature of projects that it's easy to overlook the impact that the finished results actually have. We become wrapped up in the specifications and the kit and striving to ensure that we achieve operational and functional perfection. Of course there's nothing wrong with that, it's critical that we sustain the highest possible technical standards. In the case of Fulbridge, having solved some initial commissioning problems I took a step back and was struck by the sheer creative force that had been brought to life by the application of technology to a bright idea. It really put me back in touch with my audio side!"

A matrix for learningA matrix for learning

30th April 2015

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