Bretford's new Juice power system is an easy way for schools to connect up to eight computers to a single outlet.

Bretford's new Juice power system is an easy way for schools to power up to eight computers from a single outlet.

Flexibility was a key theme at the 2010 InfoComm conference in Las Vegas, North America’s largest audio-visual (AV) technology show, where a number of companies demonstrated products intended to help schools deploy education technology more easily.

With more than 60 years of experience in designing furniture that helps students learn, Bretford showcased a number of solutions aimed at simplifying the integration of technology into the classroom. These included laptop carts that can intelligently sense how much power is needed to charge the units and deliver just enough power to meet these needs, as well as a clutter-free system for delivering power to as many as eight computer workstations from a single electrical outlet.

Bretford also unveiled a first-of-its-kind lectern with a built-in, 40-inch flat-panel display on the front, designed to highlight speaker information or reinforce key lecture concepts, and it announced a contest in which it will give away more than $17,000 worth of classroom furniture to one lucky school.

Bretford’s next-generation laptop carts can store up to 20 laptops horizontally or up to 30 laptops vertically. Their 270-degree hinges allow for both front and rear doors to fold back against the carts’ sides, allowing for easy access to the machines, and their perforated metal top, sides, and doors give the laptops ventilation while recharging.

But it’s the carts’ “brain” that is their most innovative feature. The “brain” uses microchip technology to distribute power to the laptops proportionately, reducing heat and saving battery life at the same time.

At InfoComm, Bretford also demonstrated a special netbook cart that it custom-designed for the San Diego Unified School District. The cart can store and charge up to 42 netbooks, and its shelves are removable, so you can take out a shelf to insert a printer or other peripheral device if you don’t need to store so many netbooks. The 42-netbook cart was designed specifically for the San Diego school system but is available for other schools as well.

In older school buildings in particular, it can be costly to add the electrical infrastructure needed to set up computers in a classroom. Bretford’s new Juice Power System aims to solve that problem. It allows up to four tables and eight computer stations to be powered from a single outlet, without the expense of hardwiring or the clutter of individual power strips.

The Juice Power System features a “toolless” installation that doesn’t require an electrician or a building modification, Bretford says, so it can be incorporated into a facility for less than half the cost of most hardwired components. The system will be available in the second half of July at a list price that averages $150 per table.

Schools that are still using Bretford products they bought decades ago have a chance to win free Bretford furniture through a new video contest, the company also announced. Schools that send in a video showing their oldest Bretford product in use are eligible to win furniture for a 30-student classroom, including 15 tables, a Presenter’s Assistant for Learning cart, a laptop cart, a flat-panel display cart, and a projection screen. The total value of the giveaway is more than $17,000. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 31, 2010; for more information, go to www.bretford.com/contest.

Another company that aims to make classroom technology as flexible and simple to deploy as possible is Extron Electronics, which highlighted an easy-to-use AV control system for classrooms with a single display source.