Camp Hill Students & Faculty Ready For the Future with Fiber Network

W hen the Camp Hill School District, located outside of Harrisburg, Pa., decided to "futureproof" their network, they turned to AMP, also in Harrisburg, to manage their entire infrastructure upgrade. The upgrade would span their two elementary schools, one high school and administrative building.

"Prior to our implementation or even our decision to re-wire, we reviewed all our cabling and infrastructure options with AMP, and they worked with the installers to ensure that our cabling needs were addressed while giving us a single point of accountability for the entire project," says Dr. Cornelius Cain, the district's superintendent of schools.

Making a Decision

The decision to install fiber optic cable involved students, teachers, staff and parents. "We involved the entire community in our decision because we wanted everyone's input," comments Cain. "We basically assembled a technology plan and urged input from faculty and staff, who'd be using the new system, as well as parents and students."

Because closet space was very limited within the schools and fiber provided the best upgrade path, a centralized optical fiber cabling design, which collapsed all fibers within each facility to a single closet, was implemented. Also employed was AMP's Centralized Network Administration (CAN) concept, which centralizes all network equipment in a single closet within each facility, maximizing port utilization and minimizing LAN administration costs.

The central closet for the entire district is located at the high school, which also houses the main server -- a Compaq 2500 rack-mount unit running Windows NT. Camp Hill is running a Microsoft NT 4.0 network operating system and MS Exchange Server 5.0 as their e-mail program. Via aerial-routed inter-building fiber backbone cable, central closets at each of the other buildings house a mini server running each of the facility's applications and network electronics.

Classrooms in all four buildings utilize the AMP Wireless LAN System, which allows teachers, staff, and students to access the network via RF from their laptop computers. The wireless access points within each classroom are interconnected via horizontal and backbone fiber to l0BaseT hubs within the central closet. Hubs are segmented via switch technology and interconnected through a l00BaseT backbone.

Each classroom throughout the entire campus was designed to support up to 20 wireless laptop computers at one time. Camp Hill's capacity planning will provide each school with the infrastructure to meet growth and technology demands for at least the next 15 years.

The Right Tools

The high school uses a CD-ROM tower where students can access various programs and learning applications. Additionally, the AMP Multimedia Distribution System (MDS) was installed as a pilot program to facilitate cross-campus learning, curriculum development and other audio/video features.

"We're not using all the video capabilities of our system just yet," notes Cain. "Right now all our classrooms can view learning programs such as are on The Discovery Channel from different locations in the school. We plan to take full advantage of MDS to allow students to participate in lessons taking place in different classrooms and assist teachers in their courseware development.

The school district had been using a Novell server to house administrative information. AMP integrated the server into the network so administration staff and the schools' principals could access and maintain the information more efficiently. Edunet, the schools' budgeting software, is also loaded on the network server, allowing staff with security clearance to access budget information. Laptops are a key connecting point for teachers, counselors and administrative staff. More than 100 laptops are in use, assisting in grading, curriculum development and other administrative tasks. The wireless network allows teachers to grade papers and send e-mail messages to enhance and improve communication with other teachers and staff. Teachers also take advantage of learning programs that allow students to study using an online textbook, and reinforce lessons with accompanying courseware.

Fiber Connects to the Future

A complete fiber optic networking system was important to fulfill Camp Hill's technology requirements. The system is designed to accommodate growth in the school's population as well as additional bandwidth demands. "Cabling is as essential to our system as the learning applications we will run over it. We're confident that our students will be well-prepared for the future," says Cain.

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This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.