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Anatomy of an Install

Vanderbilt University’s anatomy lab reaches new heights. 7/09/2009 8:00 AM Eastern

Anatomy of an Install

Jul 9, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

Vanderbilt University’s anatomy lab reaches new heights.




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A New Model
More on the Install

The new gross anatomy lab at Vanderbilt University is like something out of a futuristic crime show. The two instructor arenas (pictured here) provide students and instructors with up-close exercise visuals via 65in. Sharp PN-S655 LCDs and a camera that is attached to one of the two arena surgical lights. Instructors are able to provide further visual markers for students with a portable annotation podium.

When it comes to anatomy lab AV installations, perhaps none have been quite so intelligently designed as the one at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. Opened in October 2007, the new addition to Medical Center North houses the new lab. When initially thinking about what they wanted in the new lab, the school’s architects and anatomy professor Art Dalley, Ph.D., wanted to focus on two issues: location and the working environment.

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The first issue, location, was solved in an unprecedented way. While gross anatomy labs are usually tucked into basements, where natural light is nonexistent and where the school can privately preserve the dignity of the human corpses located there, the new lab instead occupies the 10th floor of the building—one of the highest points on campus. Having the lab this high up prevents anyone from seeing into the lab through the windows. It also allows the school to add another unique feature to the lab: floor-to-ceiling windows, flooding the lab with natural light.

For the second issue, the school called Bill Clark, account manager of Technical Innovation in Nashville. The school had worked with Clark on many of the school’s AV installation projects, and it wanted his insight on what could be done to solve what is a common problem in the anatomy lab: creating a way that students could bring in the textbook materials they would need for their lab exercises without damaging them from exposure to the lab elements.

In initial discussions in 2006, Dalley explained to Clark how lab textbooks came to become known as “greasers.” The term describes what happens to these textbooks when the students go from working on the cadaver to thumbing through the pages during lab exercises. Over time and repeated exposure to embalming fluids and other chemicals, the textbook is ruined. It’s also another reason why students try to forego bringing in their own expensive textbooks. As another solution, the school tried laptops as a way to provide students access to the materials electronically, but that didn’t succeed either.

Vanderbilt University gross anatomy lab

“The computer would get full of goo, and they’d ruin the laptops,” Clark says. “[Dalley said,] ‘We’d go through two laptops every year.’ Because they get the goo in there, they mess up all the keys, things short out. They were going through computers like crazy. The challenge was to get the technology available to them so they could work with the cadavers and also have their textbook available.”

After some brainstorming, Clark came up with the idea of providing such learning materials via an interactive touchscreen monitor that would be right at the students’ work tables. This would allow the students to work as normal at their workstations and still have the capabilities and course materials the computers had provided them.

Because an out-of-the-box solution didn’t exist for a panel like the one Clark had in mind, he went to InfoComm 06 to scour the show for a panel that could be customized to work in the lab environment.

“I needed something industrial-strength,” Clark says. “I ran across this guy who took me to this booth called Hy-Tek, and he said, ‘These guys are making these flight-simulator things. They’ve got these environmental enclosures. It’s got an onboard computer, and it’s got all this stuff.’ So I looked at it and thought it would be perfect. I asked if they could put this into an enclosure that’s environmental-proof but also corrosive-resistant. They said, ‘Yeah, we sure can.’”

After telling Dalley about the product and giving the school a figure—approximately $12,000 per unit (since then, the cost has dropped to around $5,000 per unit), Clark had a test unit brought in so the school could see how it would work in the environment. After testing it for almost a month, the school decided the monitors were a good fit for the experience the school wanted to provide its medical students, so Clark moved forward with the design.




Anatomy of an Install

Jul 9, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

Vanderbilt University’s anatomy lab reaches new heights.




At the 27 student workstations, students are able to bring their custom Hy-Tek touchscreen monitors with onboard computers to the height needed during their exercises. Students can directly annotate their course materials as they work with the touchscreens and save their work to thumb drives via USB ports at the bases of the monitors.

At the 27 student workstations, students are able to bring their custom Hy-Tek touchscreen monitors with onboard computers to the height needed during their exercises. Students can directly annotate their course materials as they work with the touchscreens and save their work to thumb drives via USB ports at the bases of the monitors.

Interactive anatomy lessons

The new 37in. student LCD touchscreens are able to withstand corrosive chemicals, and because students don’t need a keyboard, those chemicals won’t get inside the unit the way they had when using laptops. (And clean-up is easy: Students just have to spray and wipe the screens down.) The touchscreens also feature an onboard computer so students can log into the school’s system. From there, via eBeam Interact software, students are able turn their workstations’ surgical lights on or off, annotate materials, and save their work. The bases of the touchscreens house USB ports that allow students to save annotated materials to thumb drives. The system also provides the school with a log of students who are coming and going since the lab is open almost around the clock.

Having the onboard computer on the touchscreens provided the school’s architects with something they hadn’t foreseen: extra space. In the original design specs, the architects had provided a roughly 8’x10’ space for a computer farm that the monitors would network back to. Freeing up this space allowed the architects to reallocate it as a changing room, which they had left out because of space constraints. Instead of using a large, dedicated control room, Technical Innovation was able to run everything back to a small IT closet.

“Everything is a network appliance now,” Clark says. “Everything has a LAN jack on it to control it, look at it, see what it’s doing, so the big thing is we had to work with the network people. So what happened is we lost this big room that was going to be the computer farm, and all they needed now was a place for their network to come in, which was a small closet. So what we were able to do is ask them for some rack space for our router and our control system because that’s now all we needed.”

Changing the use of this room also changed HVAC requirements. Had the monitors been snaking back to a computer farm, a cooling system would have been essential. Because the lab has to be kept at a constant temperature to keep a rein on odor, the room’s existing temperature would be sufficient for keeping the touchscreens’ onboard computers cool as well.

“Of course as part of that equation, I had to start giving them power consumption, BTUs it was going to throw off, and stuff like that because they had the room set up without equipment and now I’m going to put equipment in there, but they were planning for it,” Clark says. “They had to keep this room cool. One degree [difference in] temperature is critical when you’re dealing with bodies.”

The final design plans required collaboration between Vanderbilt architects, the architectural group in Atlanta that the school hired, Clark, and Lee Baker—a Technical Innovation engineer and a key figure in implementing the design. Having established that students would work in a back-and-forth routine and taking into consideration the number of workstations the room would have to fit, Clark decided the monitors would need to be on custom lifts that would allow the students to bring their monitors into place at the heads of their tables—roughly 4ft. from the floor—during class at the touch of button. Then when the students were done with their exercises, the monitors could be lifted out of the way, about 7ft. up.

The challenge was finding a lift that was sleek, un¬cluttered, and high-tech—all the features the school was after. Clark and the school worked with Display Devices on the design when the initial lift motor was larger than what the school wanted.

“While we were still developing everything, we finally came up with a mounting bracket,” Clark says. “We had them flown in here. Vanderbilt would come look at them. The architect would look at them. They would say, ‘Yes, we like this. No, we don’t like that.’ So it was quite a back-and-forth thing over a period of about a year.”

Weight was another issue. The LCD panel combined with the mount was around 400lbs. The school had commissioned some structural engineers because the lab was on the top floor and because screen alignment was critical. The screens had to line up in three rows of nine stations because the room would have a partitioning system that would separate it into three classes to accommodate a full-capacity class with 27 workstations or smaller classes with nine or 18 workstations. The engineers developed a system of metal plates and attachment points to directly bolt the mounts holding the displays to the building’s steel support beams in the exact locations needed to prevent the screens from obstructing the partitioning system and the lights.




Anatomy of an Install

Jul 9, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

Vanderbilt University’s anatomy lab reaches new heights.




Perched on the 10th floor of the building, the highest point on campus, the lab is designed with floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the lab with natural light. Technical 
Innovation had to adjust the angle of touchscreens to reduce glare.

Perched on the 10th floor of the building, the highest point on campus, the lab is designed with floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the lab with natural light. Technical Innovation had to adjust the angle of touchscreens to reduce glare.

Teaching arena

The lab also has two teaching arenas that provide instructors a place to teach in a traditional manner. Here, roughly 12 students can gather to watch the instructor as he or she is teaching an exercise. The students can watch the proceedings either first-hand or on the arena’s 65in. Sharp PN-S655 LCD, which displays video from a camera that is attached to one of the two instructor surgical lights. The lights and cameras were provided by the surgical light vendor. For bigger classes, students can sit at their stations and the video can be fed to students’ touchscreens via an AMX AutoPatch Precis routing switcher. For audio, the instructor wears a Telex FMR-1000 wireless lavalier mic that feeds an Anchor Audio AN-1000X powered loudspeaker at each of the stations.

Because the two 65in. LCDs at the teaching arena are not interactive like the touchscreens, a portable annotation podium provides this ability with a Crestron QuickMedia control system, which feeds the video and audio signal to the 27 touchscreens and loud¬speakers via Cat-5. The instructors are also able to record the demonstrations they’ve captured using a Sonic Foundry Mediasite portable recorder that can be disconnected and taken to other classrooms as needed.

One of a kind

Clark has been in the industry since 1983, doing everything from boardrooms to $2 million installations, but he says this project was something entirely new to him.

“Every once in a while, you get a project and you’re going, ‘This is really neat. This is one of those things that nobody else has done,’” he says. In fact, the lab has received so much fanfare that many universities have toured the lab and are looking at doing something similar to their own facilities in the future. Perhaps the word “greasers” will go out of fashion and live its life in historical lab references.


A New Model

While other schools are looking at Vanderbilt Unversity’s new gross anatomy lab for their students, the installation has garnered other interest as well. At press time, Technical Innovation was expecting to receive an order to install six of the touchscreen units used in the Vanderbilt installation at a medical examiner’s office. “They’re looking at this, and they said, ‘It’s perfect. It’s CSI-type stuff,’” Clark says. “You go into the morgue, and they’re going to have six rooms where they’re going to mount these on the wall.” What interested the office most was the USB port. With this feature, the medical examiner could pull up images taken at the crime scene while working on the bodies.


More on the Install

Listen to the two-part Corporate AV podcast series as Technical Innovation’s Bill Clark and Vanderbilt University’s Professor Art Dalley, Ph.D., detail how the new anatomy lab was prepared for the equipment, provide specifics on the installation, and relate how it is used. They provide insight on some unexpected results, how challenges were overcome in the installation, and the operation of this unique new AV system. Dalley also explains more in-depth about how the new system provided a solution to “greasers,” the lab textbooks in the lab, and the meaning behind this word.

How did this project get started?

Dalley: It was decided that our old facilities, which had been built in 1925 and for a class of 75 and we had now expanded to 104 students, was really obsolete and the decision had been made to build a new facility, and it was decided that it should be a state-of-the-art facility. In our old facility, we had entered the computer age, so to speak, by building a computer lab facility adjacent to the gross anatomy lab, and that’s the way it was kind of done initially across the nation. And then it became increasingly evident that we needed to have the computers in the lab right at the table side, right as the students were working and dissecting.

Listen to part 1

Listen to part 2

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