Harford County Public Schools

Harford County Public Schools desired to upgrade Harford's schools with reliable projectors in order to both enhance learning and reduce disriptions caused by product downtime

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Harford County Public Schools
Quick Facts
  • Facility: Harford School District
  • Location: Harford County, Maryland
  • Challenge: Upgrade Harford's schools with reliable projectors in order to both enhance learning and reduce disruptions cuased by product downtime
  • Solution: NP-M271X, NP-P401W, NP-M260X, NaViSet Administrator 2.0™
  • Date: Ongoing since 2011

Less than an hour northeast of Baltimore, Maryland, lays 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 boasts 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, something which requires attention to all aspects therein. 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 order to continue to reach students in a way that resonates with them, Harford district representatives understand they need to leverage technology. To that end, in the mid-2000s, they installed name-brand, ceiling-mounted projectors throughout the classrooms in the district. The projectors allowed teachers to present information more quickly and offer a wider variety of content including videos and websites.

It became apparent that 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.”

These failures involved far more than just the minor inconvenience of changing the bulb. 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. Though an understood risk and drawback of the product, Harford officials could not have foreseen the sheer number of lamp failures which would occur. 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 problems went beyond mere bulb burnouts, however. In fact, the Harford tests NEC’s ultra short-throw UM330X projector for its ongoing deployment. 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.” Norris also notes that some issues would require customer support onsite, which was difficult to come by. He says there were not a lot of service representatives on the ground, something which made resolving technical problems all the more difficult.

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 were not the most energy-efficient models. They lacked features which would enable staff to reduce overall energy consumption, thus hindering the district’s commitment to going “green.”

The Solution

After dealing with projector failures for longer than they liked, Norris and Harford discovered 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 Harford recognized the greater need. “It was clear that NEC’s products would solve many of the issues facing the district,” said Norris. “We starting looking into additional NEC products, and it became obvious that an overall switch would be for the best.”

As Norris explains,“We would regularly replace 10 [projector] lamps a day in other schools, but the test school, which used NEC units, went two years without a single replacement.” Norris shared his experiences with Harford’s CIO, Drew Moore, and the groundwork was laid for an overall shift throughout the district.

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 performed better than their existing counterparts. Specifically, the units each 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. This meant that in the event a bulb did burnout, a replacement could be installed quickly, with limited disruption to the classroom.

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 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. But in the rare event customer support was required, NEC was able to help them solve issues NaViSet Administrator 2.0 is a trademark of NEC Display Solutions. ©2013 NEC Display Solutions of America, Inc. All rights reserved. NEC Display Solutions 500 Park Boulevard, Suite 1100 Itasca, IL 60143 866-NEC-MORE quickly. Norris said snapping a picture of a problem and sending it to NEC’s support was fast and easy. This gave better context to the support representative, allowing for faster, more precise responses.

Along the same lines with 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.

In terms of energy consumption, Harford had Johnson Controls go through 27 of Harford’s buildings to look for energy savings. Johnson Controls quickly noticed that the existing projectors were not energy efficient. By contrast, 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 a better job in the classroom. Norris says, ultimately, the students are his customers. And after switching to NEC, he knows he is servicing them better. “If the students are engaged, enjoying learning, and are happy with their experience, then I’m happy, too.”