Don Bosco Cristo Rey Opens Carlyle Computer Lab, Outfitted, Designed and Custom Engineered by SMARTdesks

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The SMARTdesks classroom design team transforms an elementary school facility into a leading edge computer lab with flipIT Laptop Safe® installed in HorizonLine Laptop Lab Tables, supported by FFIT Computer Floor for IT and AV integration. Customized furniture design, multi-use laptop storage, and a fully-engineered under floor power and data distribution system make flexible collaborative education possible within a limited budget.

Collaborative learning in small groups, learning skills with laptops for the world of work and college prep.

How do you take fixed space and make it flexible? That’s essentially what Father Steve wanted to do.

Following a dedication and blessing, the Carlyle Computer Lab opened its doors for its first classes at Don Bosco Cristo Rey (DBCR) High School and Corporate Work Study Program of Takoma Park, Maryland. Furniture manufacturer SMARTdesks upgraded DBCR's “old school” facility, making it a state-of-the-art college prep computer lab with SMARTdesks providing a completely engineered, custom designed collaborative learning environment. SMARTdesks made the furniture to order, customizing the basic laptop table design with patented flipIT Laptop Safe® locking storage compartments that double as charging cabinets at the point of use. The instructor uses a customized MFI Series Podium, also featuring the flipIT Laptop Safe®. Power and data are supplied to the users in the space through a comprehensively engineered and custom configured SMARTdesks® FFIT Computer Floor®. The classroom supports 30 student laptop users, two instructor laptops and four video monitors mounted to the four corners of the room. An ADA compliant ramp and railing system was also engineered, fabricated and installed at the classroom entrance to accommodate the under-floor power and data distribution system.

The design process began with an SMARTdesks online design request, and a vision by its president Father Steve Shafran to enrich students’ writing and critical thinking capabilities, with mastery of technology and digital resources—skill sets essential in college and today’s workplace.

The original structure was designed for elementary school students, having a teacher lecturing to a class full of note-takers. Current thinking employs small group student interactions and problem-based, collaborative learning. DBCR’s classroom renovation, with comprehensive cable management and ergonomic design, gives the flexibility to deliver both student-to-student collaboration, as well as the more traditional “sage-on-the-stage” teaching methods.

SMARTdesks Director of Design Michele McHenry and President Jeffrey Korber collaborated by phone and computer with Father Steve over the course of the project, addressing issues from computer size to spacing of the power management outlets and monitor placement. When the required number of students in the new computer center grew from 28 to 30, a linear desk layout provided the answer to meet capacity effectively. By virtue of this flexibility and capacity to hold not only small seminars but also larger lectures, the room accommodates teachers’ changing needs on a day-to-day basis.

According to SMARTdesks Director of Design Michele McHenry, by placing the students along opposing walls and in a back-to-back linear desk configuration down the center of the room, each student has a direct view of at least one wall mounted monitor for presentation and training purposes. As the project evolved, she noted how “Father Steve became a partner in the design process to make this a highly effective design for the school.”

As Mr. Korber acknowledged, “The buildings that we use today generally do not fit the collaborative mode or the layout that includes wiring, moveable power, and flexibility. And the key word here I think is flexibility, because when I look at space, it’s pretty much fixed. So, one of the things that I think is really important is: how do you take fixed space and make it flexible? That’s essentially what Father Steve wanted to do.”

The key to flexibility is to incorporate technology into the educational space so it is always at the ready. Mr. Korber reflected, “The speed of access to information has increased at exponential rates in the last twenty years, and that drives the need for the interior environment that gives the end-user access to equipment and to utilize its benefits. But at the same time, it presents architectural challenges.” SMARTdesks Furniture + Furniture Integration Technology (FFIT) proved to be the best solution for the challenge: a raised access floor system that covered the existing floor, with strategically located outlets to power each workstation in the room. In addition, because the FFIT outlets are easily moveable, the outlets can be rearranged throughout the room if necessary. This also provided cost savings for the renovation because no demolition was required, the project included a superior floor covering—visually and acoustically—and the system was installed in one work day without the need for a licensed electrician to install the 30 electrical outlets. The data cables were routed on day two, letting the IT integrator to efficiently install the server on his own schedule. Because the FFITfloor® is not a permanent part of the building structure, it can be depreciated over a period of 7 years instead of 39.

SMARTdesks designs and manufactures innovative, custom computer conference tables and computer classroom furniture. Each product is made to order, nuanced for the technology, purpose and interior design choices for the space. SMARTdesks is the patent holder for flipIT® products and is the sole source for flipIT and factory integrated flipIT furniture products. Serving universities, corporations, government and military clients world-wide, SMARTdesks furniture is made in the USA using Certified GREEN manufacturing methods. For more information, contact smartdesks through the web site—

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John Kessell
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Jeffrey Korber
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since: 06/2010
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