Akvarelli is a multi-purpose center located in Forssa, a small town between Finland’s three largest cities. It is a new build, planned by the city council, after conducting a service network survey and realizing that the existing school and kindergarten were beyond repair, with outdated technology and deteriorating physical infrastructure.
Designed to support the holistic wellbeing of children and youth in the area – including early childhood education, school classes, and extra-curricular leisure activities – the center currently serves 600 students aged 3-16.
Building of Akvarelli began in June 2018, with the goal of creating the modern facilities required to meet current and future pedagogical needs.
The main objective, according to Niko Sutinen, IT Manager for the Forssa Municipality, was to create flexible classrooms in which teachers would be able to move around. “We also wanted to create a stress-free environment for teachers; to have the same setup and solution in every classroom with the same functions, so their time is spent teaching, not working complicated technology,” he says.
As much as new technology was desired, to justify the investment, it had to be cost-effective and practical – something that teachers would actually use.
At first, Forssa was looking at a solution with HDMI connection to accommodate the many projectors and smart boards the former school building already had. But the municipality soon realized that with a bigger school in the Akvarelli center, it would need to invest in more smart boards, which would be very expensive. And after interviewing the teachers, it became clear the benefits of the existing smartboards were not being used anyhow. “If they don’t use the system, it will be an expensive investment,” Niko concluded. So an AVoIP solution was chosen as the new direction.
The system integrator, Advania, recommended moving forward with Kramer equipment. In addition to being able to provide a complete solution, Kramer’s local support as animportant factors in the decision.
The solution included Kramer’s KC-Brainware-25 platform for controlling up to 25 spaces, 100 KDS-6 AVoIP streaming solution with one encoder and two decoders per classroom, and 25 KT-107 touch panels.
As the new school was still under construction, the idea came up to create a demo classroom in the old school. “It is a huge step to change solutions for the teachers,” Niko explains, “so it needs to be done right.” In addition to familiarizing the staff with the new AV equipment, testing with the demo room helped iron out any tech issues in advance, to ensure a smoother onboarding. So positive was this experience, that he sees it as central to the project’s ultimate success.
“Now with AVoIP the teachers can present everywhere in the classroom and are not dependent on any connection,” Niko continues. “You can open up the classrooms. Be a few steps ahead of other schools. And ultimately help Akvarelli become a stimulating learning environment that meets the challenges of education, today and in the future.”
The audio-visual solution is used for multiple purposes beyond classroom lessons. For example, the school’s administrators use the screens for each morning’s 10-minute “opening ceremony” to make announcements and share messages, rather than the central radio. And if needed, for security purposes, they can pinpoint where a warning should be seen, or use the screens to display a silent alarm.
On the physical end, Niko really likes it that the installation is not restricted by cables, making it flexible and scalable.
In addition, with a properly planned AV infrastructure, the school needs less day to-day support from the IT team.
As it turned out, despite advanced planning, the construction of the school was behind schedule, so Advania had only half the expected time to meet the August 2022 finish date, and things were further complicated by global supply chain issues. Some workarounds were required, and Kramer’s local, Finnish-speaking team on the ground, proved invaluable.
While it’s still early days, so far, the system has been running smoothly and reliably. Niko says that he hasn’t heard any complaints, deducing that “if there are problems you would hear about them; silence usually means that people are happy.”
Going forward, the municipality will continue evaluating the solution. “If everything keeps working as well as it does now,” Niko concludes “we will expand the concept to other schools in Forssa.”