This planning & design for this project started in 2018 when Dr. Melina Kibbe, chair for the UNC department of Surgery, contacted me with her vision for this space. The project was focused on the 4th floor of the UNC Burnett Womack building and was divided into 4 phases of renovation that included new office spaces, state-of-the-art conference rooms and a large 140 seat conference & educational theater. Our goal was to create a feature-rich, interactive environment where our surgeons can collaborate, connect, and interact with their peers with a focus on training & education.
Connecting our surgeons to their peers was a priority, but we also wanted a way in which we could present very detailed, live telemetry data and camera feeds directly from any of the twenty-four state-of-the-art operating rooms in the new UNC Surgical Tower. The ability to do this would create tremendous teaching opportunities. While the new UNC Surgical Tower is still under construction, it has a planned completion date of January, 2024. We are referring to the physical data & audiovisual connectivity of the new UNC Surgical Tower to the UNC Surgery Education Center as "Phase 5" of the project.
After many requirements-gathering sessions in 2018 with Dr. Kibbe and our key stakeholders, I was able to create several conceptual renders of the space in Autodesk Revit. A major focus of our early design sessions was how to effectively work with a space that has low ceilings and large concrete columns that would obstruct view. With no options to remove the columns or raise the ceiling, we were faced with some difficult design challenges. Eventually we found a design that overcame all the obstacles we faced. The result was a space that had improved sightlines and a better AV experience to all the seats in the space.
The design goals for this audiovisual system far surpassed anything we currently have on our campus. While our department is focused on academic technology, this space truly pushed our limits. We wanted to implement AVoIP for this project so we would have the ability to connect all the spaces together. Not having utilized any AVoIP systems previously, I set to work on contacting manufacturers and getting demos set up. We narrowed it down to three different AVoIP solutions and the Extron NAV system won the leading spot. We wanted the ability for the presenter to push a button on the wall controller and send the content from the main education center to surrounding conference rooms and lobby for over-flow purposes, and it works exactly as we had planned. We also wanted the ability to send any source to any location, and this has truly been an invaluable resource for us, allowing us to create a custom room solution for any scenario. While system presets are used most of the time, we do create custom-routed content regularly. All these AV signals get displayed on a 24' wide Samsung 1.2pp video wall. To say this videowall is impressive is an understatement, it’s absolutely beautiful! Samsung was instrumental in making this project successful with the equipment and support they provided throughout the installation.
Since this was our first AVoIP system and we had a little reservation implementing such a new technology with such a high-profile client (the UNC Dept. of Surgery), Extron stepped in and made sure we had the proper training, and this helped settle any anxiety we had. Extron setup in-person training for both the NAV system as well as the necessary programming training for the NAV system. Extron NAV started with a Python-based control system only, so we went and got certified in programming this new system. Since then, they added the NAV system into their GC Pro eco-system or programming.
Right now, it’s an amazing collaboration and meeting space, where it's really going to shine is when we connect the new UNC Surgical Tower operating rooms to this space. Dr. Melina Kibbe wanted the ability to share telemetry data and multiple camera views from any of the twenty-four operating rooms with the users of this new space. The 24' Samsung videowall provides the large canvas, detail, and clarity necessary to present all these medical images and live videos with the users of this space.
The presenter is in full control of the space as well. With a 12" Extron touch panel located directly behind them, they can start meetings, arrange video content on the wall, share multiple input sources such as a PC, laptop, and wireless presentation device. They have full audio control of the space as well and can mute or change the levels of any of the available microphones. We utilized Shure lectern mics, ULXD wireless handhelds and lavs for additional participation and MXA-910 ceiling mics for picking up the audience. We also chose Clock Audio pendant mics to fit in-between the panels of the acoustical wave ceiling.
The presenter has a custom lectern from Intelligent Lectern Systems (ILS). Henk from ILS was instrumental in helping us design the lectern for this space. We asked for sliding laptop shelves, Henk designed them. We asked for a motorized tilt mechanism on the lectern display surface, Henk designed it. Its fully height-adjustable with a sliding keyboard and mouse tray. Has an interactive 24" display for the internal PC built into the lectern so users can annotate and manipulate their content easily. Shure lectern microphones provide fantastic audio no matter where the presenter is facing. The room was also acoustically treated, so the Martin Audio CDD speakers sound great. They provide exceptional coverage throughout the space. All our audio is processed through a Biamp Tesira Server. Ethan Janzen, our Biamp rep spent a lot of time helping us tune this room up right, and it shows. It is literally the best sounding collaboration space we have on our campus, and we have a lot of spaces. We even added in two UNC-logo CatchBox microphones to aid in getting microphones around the room quickly.
What we set out to accomplish with this space has far exceeded my expectations. AV integration completed in the late Fall of 2020; the room was fully usable soon after we completed our internal testing. The end-user experience is exceptional, from the 24' videowall to the sound system and the flexibility of the Extron NAV system, it provides an audiovisual experience second to none, for both the participants in the space AND remote. We successfully moved Surgery Grand Rounds to this space after the room construction was completed. This event, pre-COVID, was held in a large auditorium where 100+ doctors and surgeons were present. Now, 30-50 are present in the new Surgery Education Center and everyone else is remote so detailed presentation of material and crystal-clear audio from both sides was necessary. This project met that challenge and far exceeded it in my opinion.
The doctors and surgeons who utilize this space are very impressed with the technology and resources available to them. It came at a perfect time with the aftermath of COVID and requirements for these teams to not gather as they use to.
UNC Surgery Education Center
Best Collaborative Experience
UNC Surgery Education Center