The winner of the year’s Education Project of the Year at the 2020 Inavation Awards is no ordinary school, far from it. Paul Milligan explores the stunning #777 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The Russian city of Saint Petersburg is steeped in historical and cultural importance, but the city also has had a strong industrial significance too. Keen to foster the next generation of engineers, the Committee for Education of Saint Petersburg approved the creation of the new engineering and technology school #777.  Awash with AV technology #777 is a unique project, its purpose is to generate students’ interest in new technologies, help them choose a future profession, and demonstrate which professions will be in demand tomorrow. 

Polymedia was the integrator tasked with creating an innovative educational environment, and it chose a range of multimedia systems, some conventional, some not-so, in a variety of different spaces. Polymedia designed and installed AV for an astronomy classroom that features its own planetarium, and a biology classroom with holographic technology. Polymedia was also responsible for five mathematics classrooms, each with a large-scale interactive space for collaborative work, recreation areas with several multi-screen digital signage installations, an assembly hall for 450 people with an immersive AV installation, an in-house video production studio and a multimedia library.

From the very beginning, the client brief was to create an innovative educational environment, and for the students to develop scientific and technical competencies in the field of technology. The size of the task ahead of Polymedia was vast, six months were allotted for the planning with approximately three months given for the installation, which is not long considering it’s a new build project which will house 2,5000 students.

One particular standout of the project is the astronomy classroom which features a sky full of stars thanks to a panoramic dome screen, driven by six Panasonic PT-EZ590E 5,400 lumens projectors. Image blending is managed by Immersive Display Pro software. The panoramic spherical screen is mounted to the ceiling of the classroom, and the screen is a specially designed 6-metre diameter structure with a height of 1.5 metres. The classroom also includes a wall-mounted AV Stumpfl Decoframe 4000x1500mm projection screen. The image is fed by two UST Casio XJ-UT351W projectors, again blended by Immersive Display Pro. The audio for the astronomy classroom is based on Extron SM3 speakers, an MPA 152 Plus amplifier and is controlled via Extron IPCP Pro250 processor.

The biology classroom features 18 NettleDesk holographic systems installed on individual students’ tables with specifically developed learning material. The holographic effect is created via a combination of a 3D visualisation system based on the alternate frame sequencing of shutter glasses and a system for automated tracking of practice computer models. The automated tracking system uses high speed cameras installed directly on a monitor and active tags attached to glasses. Automated tracking system tracks the location of glasses with tags and the computer model on the screen is adjusted in real-time based on the position of the head that is wearing the glasses. In other words, the computer model readjusts itself based on the angle from which the user is looking. Such technology allows to look at an object from different angles and provides access to dimension and intuitive visualisation, unavailable while using classical 3D technologies. You don’t see too many schools fitted with holographic technology, but it was chosen for a specific reason, many of the biological processes taught are at times impossible to observe in real life.

Five mathematics classrooms are equipped with systems for collaborative group work. ScriptoriUM systems help to lessons on paper, on a PC or on a common interactive surface. The system includes a 5400x1275mm surface covered with a (invisible to the human eye) microcode that forms a coordinate grid. The image on the surface is formed by three Casio XJ-UT351W projectors. Miniature HD cameras integrated in a marker read the coordinate grid microcode and transmit the information about the position of the marker to a computer via Bluetooth.

In the lobby areas a Panasonic PT-JX200FWE projector and Brightsign LS423 player are used to animate an image of a robot projected on a wall at the entrance for primary school students. A videowall of 11 Iiyama displays (controlled by Brightsign players) fitted at diagonal angles is used to demonstrate the works of students in the Digital Design field. The lobby hall on the second floor features a large information stand consisting of two functional parts. The upper part hosts 3520×1650 mm Polyled LED screen with a pixel pitch of 2.5mm. It displays information about the school and is controlled by a Brightsign XT1143 player.  The lower part of the booth includes five Flame 55UNX-500 displays. The displays are installed in a portrait mode and equipped with infrared ZaagTech frames with protector glass. Each panel is connected to a Brightsign HD1023 player, and can work both in a videowall mode displaying information or individually, in an interactive mode, providing access to class schedules and the school website.

The Assembly hall, which seats 450 people, is another ‘non-standard’ install. Projectors here do not play the main role of a display system but are there to create atmosphere in the hall. AV in the Assembly hall was chosen because of its flexibility, so the school could hold events in different formats. The Assembly Hall includes a 6700x3800mm Polyled videowall positioned centrally, featuring 5mm pixel pitch tiles. Two LED side screens are mounted each side of the stage, and are 2300x2300mm in size, with a pixel pitch of 3mm. A panoramic interior projection system consists of four Panasonic PTRW930LWE projectors mounted to the ceiling and projecting the image in pairs to the side walls of the hall.  The image is formed by a video server and controlled by Dataton Watchout 6. 

Audio is based on the Yamaha equipment, with mics from Beyerdynamic. The optimal sound level in various hall zones is achieved with the help of linear arrays mounted on the sides of the stage in the hall and two subwoofers on the stage. The stage features four stage monitors. A video recording system includes Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio Pro HD video mixer, one fixed Datavideo PTC-150 PTZ camera, three points to connect cameras from the video production studio selection and a Epiphan Pearl recording device.

Reaction to #777 has been understandably upbeat, with Alexander Beglov, the governor of Saint Petersburg saying after his visit, “I am sure that future Nobel laureates will study in this school.”

Kit List

Audio

Beyerdynamic TG V35D S microphones
Extron SM 3 loudspeakers, MPA 152 Plus amplifiers
Yamaha IS1118 subwoofer, XP7000 amplifier, IF2115 loudspeakers, TF5 mixing console

Video

AV Stumpfl Decoframe projection screens
Blackmagic ATEM Pro HD live production switchers
BrightSign HD1023, LS423, XT1143 digital signage players
Casio XJ-UT351W UST projectors
Datapath VisionRGB-E1S capture cards
Dataton Watchout 6 software
Extron IPCP Pro 250 control processor, DTP HDMI 4K 230 Rx DTP receivers 
Nettle 65-in hologram tables
Panasonic PT-EZ590E, PT-JPC200WE, PT-RW930LWE projectors 
Polyled 2.5mm, 3mm, 5mm LED tiles
Wize wall mounts