New Chicago School Has Big (And Big Dollar) OLED Art Feature In Lobby

I have this scene in my head of teachers walking into a brand-new elementary school in Cicero, Illinois, looking at an art installation of 34 OLED displays that run up a wall and make a wavy ceiling, and quietly wondering about their skimpy salaries and tight school supply budgets.

Located in Cicero, Illinois, a Chicago district roughly north of Midway Airport, the new Sherlock School in Cicero District 99 wanted to “create an environment that would motivate and stimulate the district’s students by introducing them to technology in ways they might not have encountered before.”

Says a case study on the project:

With the opportunity to build a new school, Cicero District 99 wanted to implement technology solutions throughout the facility to create flexible learning environments for the students. This included unique, eye-catching video displays that would be installed in various locations of the school, such as the main entrance and fourth floor interactive space. A task of this magnitude required assistance from a skilled team and the use of high-tech solutions to create engaging designs that would keep students invested in learning.

With construction underway at the school, the district began searching for an integrator that could not only complete this task, but could do so in a tight timeframe. With only three weeks left until the start of the school year, the integrator would need to move quickly to finish the project. 

In addition, Cicero District 99 wanted to implement creative display designs utilizing curved screens to stimulate students upon their arrival each day. However, these type of screens would require intricate installation and, with an approaching deadline, it was crucial for the integrator to have experience with these solutions.

The district administrators engaged Minneapolis-based integrator Snap Install, which in turn hooked up with a pair of Chicago-area companies, LG US for the displays and Peerless-AV for the mounting systems.

The digital design has a pair of key elements:

  • The main lobby has 24 wavy 55-inch open frame OLEDS from LG on the ceiling, and another 10 units in two columns climbing up the wall.
  • The 4th floor has two video walls, each with eight 55-inch LG Narrow Bezel LCDs.

Everything is up on Peerless-AV amounts.

“We knew right away that it was going to be a unique project,” says Snap’s President Travis Peterson. “We’ve never provided an installation service for OLEDs that actually are curved on site. For a partner like Peerless-AV to have the trust in us was huge, and we knew that we would deliver for them.”

Peerless-AV designed, tested, manufactured, and installed the video wall mounting solutions that support LG’s Open Frame OLED displays in less than three weeks, to meet a deadline.

“Technology changes drastically, but if we don’t expose our kids to these types of environments, they’ll never be able to succeed in the future,” says Cao Mac, Cicero School District 99’s Chief Information Officer. “Having the people who understood our vision, who understood our goal and our mission of what we’re trying to accomplish, and having them truly buy into what we’re trying to accomplish really set the tone for the whole entire process.”

It looks great, but I get nervous as hell seeing a bunch of invariably rambunctious little kids within constant, easy reach of very expensive OLEDs.

I also, as alluded to, wonder about the cost vs benefit. Those 55s are easily north of $5K each and then there’s the narrow bezel LCDs and all the custom mounting gear. So the displays that are there to motivate and stimulate students would have cost probably $250,000 … and likely more when all the costs were added up. It’s probably more like $300K when you factor in a pair of narrow bezel LCD video walls!

This was OK’d in a district where 76% of the district’s 12,000 students are from low-income homes. The district, reports a local TV station, spends $6,879 per student on instruction, which is below the state average of $8,024 dollars.

So as a signage nerd, I like. But if I was a parent in District 99, I’d be doing a big, long “Hmmmmmmm …”

I was thinking the tech came in off a donation, but there’s no indication of that.