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Wireless LAN brings old-school academics into modern times

Loomis Chaffee School is more than 100 years old but it's also progressive, with its new state-of-the-art WLAN. The wireless network turns any space on campus into a classroom.

The walls at Loomis Chaffee School may be over 100 years old, but the students they shelter just entered the 21st century, when the network they access went wireless.

Chartered in 1874 and based in Windsor, Connecticut, the progressive co-ed high school/boarding school is deploying a Trapeze Networks wireless LAN (WLAN) system throughout its campus. The wireless network will give its 800 students, and 200 faculty and staff members, Internet access anywhere they roam. The goal is to increase academic flexibility by allowing any space on campus to be used as a classroom.

Taking the tether off campus residents is meant to expand the scope of learning, according to Joe Hernick, Director of IT at Loomis Chaffee. "Students and faculty can be connected to the Internet at any point of time, from anywhere, without needing to find a port," he said. "In chemistry, biology, and earth sciences, for example, there is more integration of computers in those courses. Historically these classes had to reserve space in the computer lab, which is disruptive and shortens class time."

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Illustrating examples of where the WLAN will come into play in everyday life on campus, Hernick explained that a biology class doing an arborism unit could go out and take a picture of a tree and upload it on the spot. Also, because the sports complex is wireless, coaches can use computers on the basketball court to record stats and share that data with one another.

The deployment thus far has made hotspots of all athletic complexes, the library, art studio, science center, and all other academic and administration buildings. Visiting parents are given guest access across the campus. The next phase of this project is to give boarding students wireless access to all their dorm rooms on campus.

"By year end, the whole campus will be saturated with wireless," Hernick said.

Loomis Chaffee's forward-thinking approach to academics and technology is in keeping with the school's origin and history. Located on a 300-acre semi-rural campus, it was founded by five siblings who, in the 1600s, had tragically lost all their children. The Loomis siblings eventually set out to found a school as a gift to the children of others. Since its inception, the school has offered educational opportunity for boys and girls regardless of religious or political beliefs, national origin, or financial resources.

According to Hernick, Loomis was founded as a school for all people, which was an unusual philosophy when you consider the era in which it began. "The family created an institute, knowing that they would never see the first stone laid, with no restriction on race, creed, or ability to pay; so it was very progressive when it started. The school's mission is very egalitarian, very accepting," he said.

The entire campus is run on a Cisco core infrastructure with Gigabit Ethernet between buildings and 100 megabits to the desktop. Before the school installed a Trapeze WLAN, there was limited wireless access available on campus from Cisco Aironet access points. The Trapeze Network deployment that is the foundation of the school's new wireless network includes the company's Ringmaster software tool suite, MX-20 and MX-8 switches, and about 100 Mobility Points (radios).

"This enabling technology allows us to continue with the mission of the founders of the school," Hernick said. "It allows the flexibility in learning and a teaching environment that we pride ourselves on. In addition to the school model of teaching with creativity, we've removed another barrier."

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