Matt Brunk
Matt Brunk has worked in past roles as director of IT for a multisite health care firm; president of Telecomworx,...
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Matt Brunk | November 02, 2012 |


Campus 802.11n: Kickballs and Basketballs

Campus 802.11n: Kickballs and Basketballs While I learned that kids now use straws and pieces of Gummy Bears as spitballs targeting ceiling tiles, we do anticipate new challenges with WiFi.

While I learned that kids now use straws and pieces of Gummy Bears as spitballs targeting ceiling tiles, we do anticipate new challenges with WiFi.

We've implemented three more campus 802.11n networks and have another one slated. Our campus environments are K-8 parochial schools and on the surface it's easy to dismiss, but don't let size or age fool you. These users are just as demanding.

The media center specialist and computer instructor said they want enough WiFi coverage so the iPads don't need to be logged back into the server again when the portable Apple iPad Learning Lab rolls down the hallways--and yes, there's an elevator between floors. This means when the Learning Lab rolls out of the Media Center, if it loses WiFi connectivity, then the iPad user must be logged back onto the server, and this wastes valuable instruction time.

Our distribution rep had questions about our approaches in implementing WiFi--and again, it's environment, building materials, type and quality of construction and as they say in real estate: "Location, location, location!" This building has a ceiling height of 12 feet, with 4 feet of mostly clear ceiling overhead above the drop tile ceiling grid at 8 feet.

We started work in the server room across from the 8th Grade classroom and worked our way towards the school entrance. We used two iPhones and a laptop to gauge signal strength. Once the iPhones dropped to 2-bars out of 3, or the laptops dropped to 3-bars out of 5, we added an Access Point (AP).

What you won't see on floor plans are the ceiling spaces above the grid, doors and types of material and whether or not glass and other materials are used. Then the ceiling may or may not be obstructed, insulated or sprayed with insulating materials. These are all clues to note on your initial site survey.

The floor plans provided to us indicate an available cable drop (Category 5E) in every classroom. What would happen with this type of thinking is either you over-buy the number of access points and you over-saturate and end up throttling the power of the APs down or you remove APs from service. (See first floor below: SPR 2-8 are installed APs). What we will return and do is move the AP (SPR3) about 25 feet to the right.

The lower level houses the Media center and K-2 classrooms, the cafeteria (also serves as a multi-purpose room: Indoor Kickball, Basketball) and maintenance spaces. (See lower level floor below: SPR1 and 9-11 are installed APs).

The customer cited that the cafeteria (Multi-purpose room) often has kickballs and basketballs flying around and to tuck the AP (SPR11) next to a column away from the activity. We used the Adtran NV160s without external antennas and used the ceiling grid clip to secure the AP to the grid rail, and just above the grid we tie-wrapped the patch cable to either a ceiling stringer or an all-thread to secure it; so if the tile drops or the AP is knocked off the grid, it is prevented from hitting someone. We do this for all ceiling mounted APs in all environments.

The only change we made was to relocate the Building Maintenance AP (pink circle) out into the hall corridor for better coverage and overlapping signals.

The cable drops are all home run to the Computer Server room on the first floor and connected to an Adtran Netvanta 1534P that provides PoE and 1-Gbps ports. The expansion ports on the switch will be used to connect to 10-Gbps multi-mode fiber connecting to other buildings using 2.5 Gbps transceivers.

Paging, telephones, network cameras and access control will be migrated over to the fiber backbone network. I've mentioned in other posts we are using 10-Gbps fiber to allow for future growth and we tap into the fiber using either 1-Gbps or 2.5 Gbps transceivers, and we can still aggregate additional fiber pairs for more bandwidth on the internal backbone network. Most of our schools have both Verizon FIOS and Comcast to provide overflow and backup. Moving POTS services over to VoIP or SIP trunks is in the plan.

Kids today are very well connected and have a greater understanding of technology. Age and size doesn't matter, they are using the technology and have all kinds of tools to complete their schoolwork or engage in learning and social activities. While I learned that kids now use straws and pieces of Gummy Bears as spitballs targeting ceiling tiles, we do anticipate new challenges with WiFi. I'm wondering what we will find when we return.

Next time, I'll tell you what else we did during late night after-school hours and why--and had fun doing it.


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