Case Study—Charlottesville City school looks at the past with tools of the future

From Hominid Skulls to Michelangelo’s Inventions, the Writing’s on the Wall

When Jeff Faust, director of technology in Charlottesville City Schools, first created the media-rich 30-station workspace Sigma Lab and installed two display video walls (one with a 2x2 array of 46-inch displays, the other using the same displays in a 2x6 horizontal configuration), his aim was to enhance the high school’s advanced manufacturing program. He quickly realized that the space, which boasts a dramatic 20-foot-high ceiling and multiple attached side labs for group projects, appealed not only to those focused on design as he intended, but also to teachers from other disciplines who began clamoring for a slot under the glow of tech.

“The screens are an interactive canvas for our teachers,” says Faust. “Hiperwall software allows teachers to share a single image across all the panels of a wall or students can share the screen from the computers at their workstations. One workstation acts as a control computer for the instructor to implement their pre-designed lesson plan. They can stream a video on one part of the screen, with the project rubric or instructions static on the side. They can pull up reference or resource material for class discussions or to illustrate a concept—they really take advantage of the real estate.”

The lab was originally created for manufacturing, prototyping, and group work projects that could be carried from ideation and design through to creation. One side lab features laser cutters, welding machines, a table saw, and other cutting and joining technology, while another houses four 3D printers. A third side lab handles electronics involved in controlling motion or working part assembly.

“We needed a good visual space to enhance this work, but it didn’t stop there,” says Faust. “Our anthropology class wanted to look at world-famous fossils and early hominid skulls. They used the visual wall and 3D-printed copies to hold in their hands and study. An art history class wanted to see and create replicas of Michelangelo’s early inventions. The [initial] focus was on engineering and STEM initiatives, but we’ve just hired a full-time lab assistant to allow as many classes as