When the Student Union at Ohio State University set out to replace its aging campus home back in 2000, the vision was to create a 21st century center for student life incorporating the best ideas from campuses across the country.
After a decade of planning and construction, the Student Union finally realized its goal during the Spring 2010 term, when a brand-new building opened to the student body at the Columbus, OH campus.
Among the largest and most comprehensive student union buildings in the nation, the Ohio Union at OSU is an LEED Certified Green Building packed with meeting rooms, performance halls, food and retail outlets, spaces for creative and leisure activities, administrative offices, and spaces for both student services and student government.
Among these is the Senate Chamber, a tiered conference room combining traditional Senate-style seating with state-of-the-art meeting technology featuring the Digital Congress Network (DCN) from Bosch.
Seating five at its dais and 80 in a concentric series of gently terraced semi-circular tables, the Senate Chamber is designed for meetings where the emphasis is not simply on presentation from the front but rather on lively discussion amongst all attendees.
Facilitating full participation from every seat in the house was the task of designer Bill Kistler, Associate at the Dallas-based AV consulting firm Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc. (WJHW). Kistler had to ensure that the conference system was easy to use and delivered maximum intelligibility, while also providing voting capabilities and integrating smoothly with the room’s video systems.
Zenith Systems of Bedford Heights, OH installed the system, overseen by Jim Koeliker (Project Manager), Joe Ockuly (Lead Systems Engineer), and Kevin Wenderoth (Director of AV Solutions).
At the heart of the conference system are Bosch DCN NEXT GENERATION components designed to handle speaking, listening, and voting using a single flush-mounted unit for every two seats at the audience tables. Each unit combines two independent microphones and two five-button voting panels with a single speaker that is auto-muted when a participant speaks.
“We like the Bosch form-factor,” Kistler says, “because the design allows us to fit in everything we need without impacting the working or writing surface of the table. We didn’t have a lot of table depth to work with, so we needed something that wouldn’t crowd the space. The other available options don’t offer such a slim profile and don’t cover two people with a single station.”
Kistler also liked the fact that Bosch’s dual-delegate stations could be combined in the same system with the single-delegate units that were appropriate for the dais.
“The audience-table units are installed,” Kistler says, “but the units for the panel discussion table have to be portable so that they can be unplugged and cleared away when the table space is needed for other things. So we needed the flexibility of a manufacturer that offered not just a built-in and not just a table-top, but rather both options within a single system, so they can both be operated by the same head-end controller.”
The capabilities of the Bosch DCN-CCU Central Control Unit were particularly important because the system is designed to automatically coordinate both microphone switching and voting with the switching of a video feed for both in-room projection and video conferencing.
“DCN NEXT GENERATION provides the interface and the hooks to allow the user panel to output all its microphone and voting functions to the control system,” Kistler says. “That enables an integrated system that can be operated with a very hands-off approach. The leader does not have to watch over the system as much as with other systems. For example, the ability to press a single button for voting mode and have the system take over from there is very nice.”
The ability of the DCN-CCU to communicate via open API with the room’s Crestron controller allowed Kistler to design a system with simple operation but sophisticated capabilities.
“The video image from the cameras defaults to the front table, unless one of the audience stations requests to speak,” he says. “Then, depending on the speaker’s location in the room, one of two cameras auto-tracks to that seat position and the switcher auto-activates that camera’s video. For voting, the chair can choose whether the voting results are viewed only on a front table touch screen controller or also on the main projection screen. If results are sent to the projection screen then the video is scaled to make room for the display of results along the left side of the screen.”
In terms of installation, Kistler says he particularly likes the fact that the stations can be connected in series. “There’s basically one cable running out to a given table, and then it daisy chains to all the other devices down that table.” Wenderoth agrees, saying that “the system was very straightforward to install. Bosch provides a lot of documentation and information about integrating all the components, and their tech support was particularly helpful with information about addressing each station from the controller.”
Wenderoth adds that his clients at OSU are very happy with the way the Senate Chamber turned out, both aesthetically and operationally. “It’s definitely a very impressive room,” he says. “The Bosch system is a very sleek and stylish technology, so it provides a high-tech look. And the room gets a lot of use, so we’ve gotten a lot of feedback. The University has expressed to us their pleasure with the Bosch system’s ease of use, as well as with the overall quality of the user experience.”