Computer History Museum Provides High-Tech Integration Challenge
Bowen Technovation sets itself apart by testing all pieces, building all racks at HQ, saving time and money at site.

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February 08, 2011 By D. Craig MacCormack

With more than 100 interactive electronic exhibits, a small theater with a projection system and an orientation theater all in need of top-notch A/V assistance and less than a year to do it—all while the building remained open for business—the folks at Bowen Technovation in Indianapolis knew they had a challenge on their hands with the Computer History Museum renovation as part of a major new exhibit called “Revolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computing.”

Instead of fretting about the compressed timeframe or looking for excuses why the job couldn’t get done on time, Bowen Technovation instead completed the work in about 10 months, just in time for the $19 million exhibit’s public opening Dec. 13.

Among the distractions during the intense installation period was Google putting in an ice skating rink on the second floor of the museum. While this area was outside the construction zone, it only added to the hustle and bustle inside.

Overcoming Challenges

The biggest piece of the installation, says Bowen Technovation President and Creative Director Jeff Bowen, was a control system. Through this setup, every exhibit and every piece in every exhibit is under one master control, he says.

While there is a single on/off button that allows museum workers to flip every exhibit on simultaneously, the system also allows for flexible scheduling, a bonus in a building that frequently hosts training sessions and functions for Intel, Cisco, Google and other IT giants.

Another issue for the seven-figure installation that includes 100 Furman conditioners, says project manager Mark Trotter, was the existing wireway in place before the building was transformed into a museum in the 1990s. Bowen Technovation helped to transform a shower room in the museum into a second control room, part of the effort to limit the length of the HDMI cables connected to many of the new exhibits.

Getting all the pieces of each exhibit to synch up was a major piece of Bowen Technovation’s work, says Trotter, especially being under time pressure to meet the deadline for the public opening.

Setting Themselves Apart

One way Bowen Technovation streamlines its installation process, Bowen says, is to test every piece of equipment it plans to install at its headquarters before it’s brought to the site. In the case of another major Bowen Technovation installation last year, workers found problems with all 12 projectors Bowen was slated to install, a discovery that would have led to lots of down time for integrators if it weren’t discovered until the pieces were sent to the the site in Texas.

Bowen Technovation also builds racks at its headquarters and air-rides them to the site where they will be installed, Bowen says. This practice, which dates back to the beginning of the 25th-year firm, translates into almost 100 percent success of equipment once it arrives at the installation site, he says.

Click here to check out pics from the project.

“Time on the site is so much more expensive, especially when you’re talking about more time in hotel rooms and eating out,” Trotter says. “We also want to keep the client involved in the process while we’re working on these projects, so it’s better to handle these problems sometimes without them even knowing about them.”

Another way Bowen Technovation distinguishes itself from the competition is by creating customized training manuals for its clients as part of its focus on training and documentation. Employees did preliminary training for museum staffers before wrapping up their work and expect to go back in another month or so for follow-up training after they’ve some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t or why they can’t make it work, Trotter says.

“(Upgraded post-installation documentation is) an area we’ve really been a leader in,” Bowen says. “Every single wire is labeled and the labels are secured with clear heat shrink. It’s only in our best interest to do these things correctly since we will work with this client’s site for many years to come.”

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About the author

Craig MacCormack is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience covering local and national news and sports as well as architecture and engineering before moving into his current role. He joined Commercial Integrator in January 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @CraigMacCormack.
View all posts by D. Craig MacCormack
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