Help me buy a fancy chalk board
March 6, 2017 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I have some money to spend on our physics department colloquium room and I need help finding sliding chalkboards. I'm already getting a new carpet, a high-end projector, and acoustic baffles. But what I'd really like to do is get chalkboards that work like the one in this MIT lecture hall, with overlapping layers of chalkboard that you can move up and down. But I'm not having much luck finding a vendor. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Extra difficulty level: I must spend the money in the next two weeks or it goes away. So no architects - it must be off-the-shelf. Our physical plant people (who are good) must be able to install it. Also, please don't tell me to do some fancy electronic thing. Our IT department is beyond useless, so anything along those lines breaks and then never gets fixed. Plus, this is for visiting lecturers to give math and physics talks, so there isn't time for people to learn how use it in their one-off lecture. Every time I give a talk at another school and they have such a thing it ends up either being a disaster or, best case, a PITA.

Also, other lecture room improvement ideas beyond what I'm doing are welcome.
posted by overhauser to Education (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know but as a scientist and mathematician I just want to say: THANK YOU for deciding to invest in this dependable and proven technology over those crappy electronic systems and vastly inferior whiteboards.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:17 AM on March 6 [4 favorites]

US Markerboard might help you out, certainly worth a call. They do horizontal and vertical sliders, as well as custom work. Not clear to me if they would offer the nearly-bomb-proof sturdiness I expect from a good postwar university lecture hall, but if they can't give you top stuff they can probably hook you up with someone who can.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:23 AM on March 6

I quick google finds these guys. Although this link shows a whiteboard, they list chalk boards as an option.

As I'm sure you've found in googling, there are many other people who will custom build it, but these were the only people I could find who would sell it to you off the shelf.

Generally, a google search for "vertical sliding chalkboard" got me a bunch of options.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:25 AM on March 6

Here's another option that looks like they do quality work.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:27 AM on March 6

As far as other improvements, I use the wireless projector setup in our classroom all the time. There are more robust/universal/expensive options out there, but just attaching an Apple TV to your projector will be a relatively easy fix that lets people with Macs easily connect to your projector via Airplay.

Also, making sure that there is a outlet where the presenter's computer is likely to be is super-helpful. I want to plug in my computer when I'm making a presentation, but I really don't want to be tripping over the power cord. Same goes for the wired video connections: make sure that the plug-ins are right at the place where the computer is going to be and not in a place where cords are likely to get tripped over.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:33 AM on March 6

Sometimes, sliding chalkboards are custom jobs by the university physical plant/shops - check with them to make sure this isn't a thing they do. Also check in with procurement to see if there's a contract supplier that you're stuck with. Apart from US Markerboard and Aarco, you might want to try Claridge.

Other things to note:
  • You've probably already doing this, but have a projector screen wall behind the sliding chalkboards, rather than a fabric screen in front.
  • If you do horizontal boards, think about access to stuff that falls into the board recess. A removable/hinged kick panel will save you a lot of chalk.
  • See if you can include storage for chalk, dusters and pointers in the physical plant quote. Make sure it's separate from where adapters & electronics are going to end up.
  • Physically attach an assortment of common adapters to wherever the presenter will have their laptop. People don't mean to walk off with them, but it happens. Picture wire and a pair of adhesive cable tie mounts work well.

posted by zamboni at 11:45 AM on March 6

I am an architectural designer and I've done a few university classroom designs with sliding chalk boards. Claridge is the go to manufacturer for a lot of campuses. Here's Claridge's commercial catalog. Page 18, Thinline Vertical Sliding Units. You will likely want the floor mounted style as wall mounted would require a fair amount of modification to the existing walls. You want porcelain chalkboard in lieu of LCS. Their representatives are typically very helpful, and they should be able to tell you up front if they can work with your required lead time. I'd recommend calling them over emailing them.
posted by Kriesa at 11:48 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]

I don't know but as a scientist and mathematician I just want to say: THANK YOU for deciding to invest in this dependable and proven technology over those crappy electronic systems and vastly inferior whiteboards.

See, I'm a mathematician and I much prefer whiteboards. Also, chalk dust is really bad for electronic equipment.

In Mexico, I was at a mathematics institute whose chalkboards were made of pressed glass, somehow. They were glorious to write on (with ordinary chalk).

A really nice projector is also critical. Especially one that has faithful reproduction of colors--it's frustrating when your screen shows green and blue and red, and then the projector shows various hard-to-distinguish colors of dull.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:45 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. I am buying the best projector that it is possible to buy under the state contract, but the idea of a wireless setup hadn't occurred to me. So now we're going to add that in as well.

And Claridge is on the state vendor list, so I ordered a 14 ft x 4 ft three layer chalk board that moves horizontally instead of vertically as someone pointed out that vertical doesn't really work for shorter people.

I can't wait until it's installed. I'm excited to use it.
posted by overhauser at 9:48 AM on March 7

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