Harford County Schools Upgrades Projectors

Less than an hour northeast of Baltimore, Maryland, lies the Harford County School District. Stretching between the Chesapeake Bay to the south and the State of Pennsylvania to the north, Harford County School District include more than 50 schools, including elementary, middle, and high schools, and has a student population of 38,000. The Harford County Public School System is dedicated to providing a quality instructional program to all students. As a community, Harford County is fortunate in the cooperative relationship maintained between the parents, local government, and area businesses. These collaborative partnerships have the potential to serve the student population in ways that the school system cannot do alone.

Enhancing the learning experience for students is a top priority for Harford. This mission takes shape not only by attracting (and retaining) excellent teachers and providing the latest educational materials, but also by providing a stimulating classroom environment.

The Challenge
In the mid-2000s, Harford installed ceiling-mounted projectors throughout the classrooms in the district. The projectors allowed teachers to offer a wider variety of content including videos and websites.

It became apparent through constant all-day use, the bulbs were failing sooner than expected. Jeff Norris, electronics technician II for Harford, said lamp failures began dominating his daily routine as well as those of his fellow staff members. “There was a time when we would end up replacing 10 lamps a day,” said Norris, “The bulbs were failing well within their warranty periods. I even had one fail right out of the box.”

In order to swap out the lamp in the existing projectors, the entire unit would need to be removed as the bulbs required “pre-burn” periods. The frequent failures resulted in countless classrooms experiencing periodic days where the teacher found him or herself unable to execute a lesson plan due to equipment failure; when that occurred, the teacher would have to scramble to print out copies of materials or supplement the lesson with other activities.

The projectors often had other issues which forced Norris and his team to reach out to customer support, an experience to which they did not look forward. “We’d have a lot of issues getting a quick turnaround on any given problem,” Norris said. “We also began encountering hitches with warranties. Warranties would start with the date of the purchase. This ate up warranty time before the unit was ever in service.”

There was one other issue, which was more a matter of philosophy than technical. Harford has a district-wide initiative to reduce energy consumption throughout its facilities. The existing projectors lacked features which would enable staff to reduce overall energy consumption, thus hindering the district’s commitment to going “green.”

The Solution
CDW-G introduced Norris and Harford to NEC’s line of projectors. Initially, Harford installed NEC’s NP401W in just a handful of classrooms as a test while the existing problematic projectors continued to operate in the majority of classrooms. It was during this time that CDW and Harford recognized the greater need.

During the course of several years, Harford began installing three different types of NEC projectors: NP-M271X, NP401W, and NP-M260X. Each of these units offered lamp failure rates which were significantly lower than the rates Harford experienced before. Daily bulb changes became a thing of the past, and replacements were few and far between.

Beyond bulb burnouts, Norris noted the overall experience with NEC customer support was an exceptional one. “NEC was great to work with in every aspect of customer service. They sent out service technicians right off the bat, who were able to train my entire team on how to take care of units, service, and clean them.” As a result, Norris’ team was able to address possible issues on their own, without needing to call customer support.

NEC was able to be flexible with its warranties. Instead of a projector’s warranty starting the date of purchase and possibly running out as units sat in warehouses for Harford, the warranty wouldn’t begin until the day the unit was put into service. Now Norris and his team were able to enjoy the benefits of NEC’s warranties when products were actually in use, and not waiting in the wings.

The NEC units allowed the district to enjoy quite a bit of cost savings, said Norris. “In essence, the units paid for themselves over time due to their energy efficiency.” Along with running more efficiently during daily use, NEC’s projectors came equipped with software which allowed them to be centrally controlled. This meant that if a teacher were to forget to turn a unit off, it could be remotely deactivated as needed using NEC’s NaViSet Administrator 2.0 software.

Overall, more than 1,750 NEC projectors have been installed, helping Harford teachers do their job in the classroom. “If the students are engaged, enjoying learning, and are happy with their experience, then I’m happy, too," said Norris.