Some time ago we were contacted by Mike Hopwood of the 4x4 Center in South Burlington, Vermont. He was interested in doing a bit of work on his website for The 4x4 Center as well as in getting our feedback (and later, a proposal) on integrating iPads into the classroom for a winter tire school he operates. If you find yourself wondering what kind of Land Rover restoration and vehicle repair shop has a classroom, you'd be joining the club. It didn't take long, however, for us to understand the project in more detail.
You see, Mike Hopwood operates a facility that provides Michelin Tire dealers from around the country an opportunity to test-drive Michelin tires in extreme conditions. We're talking about driving Jeeps up steep mountainsides, navigating seriously difficult terrain and generally putting these tires through the paces. Folks arrive from all over the country to participate in two-day courses at the Bolton Valley Resort. For this initial project we were tasked with taking care of preparing for the Winter Driving School. Our work was to include:
I use the phrase "was to include" because when the rubber met the road on this project we found out there was a lot we didn't know about the classroom itself and what challenges we faced in implementing this project. (Spoiler alert: it all works out in the end)
The primary project focus was replacing printed classroom materials with iPads and then providing incentive for students to return to the website. The school itself is a way for Michelin to train dealers about their tires by providing instrumented vehicles for winter condition testing. The students get behind the wheel of vehicles equiped with Michelin tires and other brands and they handle things like braking on ice, quick turns in deep snow, climbing steep hills and other tests. They get to experience first-hand the performance of Michelin tires versus other brands and to see actual numbers related to performance. Our job was to make that experience something that could last beyond the two days and provide students with incentives to use what they learned and create rich media they might be able to employ on the sales floor.
We took quite a bit of time in crafting our plan for the project and looking into the best ways to accomplish the goals we were given. We provided a list of the equipment we would need, a plan for how we were going to accomplish the goals and a timeline for getting the job done. Then we waited. And waited. And waited.
The purchase order for the equipment we needed (iPads, a charge and sync cart, Mac Mini computers ...) got sidetracked. The equipment was necessary to accomplish the goals of the project. Our timeline assumed the equipment would ship and we'd have plenty of time to work out the process for iPads in the classroom. The first class was already scheduled and the equipment had not yet arrived. This was the first in our series of "uh-oh" moments. If there is one thing we have discovered throughout this project it is that "uh-oh" moments really are opportunities to shine as a group dedicated to accomplishing goals for our clients.
When the equipment finally did arrive we no longer had weeks, we had days. And with those days we worked through the night with each of us getting sometimes as few as three hours of sleep. We did what had to be done to be ready for that first class and we pulled it off. Below is a picture from that first day of class.
The second "uh-oh" moment came when we realized how bad the wireless internet connection we had to work with was. It turns out that the classroom shared a single DSL line with all the guest rooms of the resort. This meant that we could not rely on the wireless connection to push the documents students were filling out to the website server some of which can get quite large. As a result, we had to go the extra mile and show up after every class and manually capture the data off the iPads. That extra mile is something Edgeworks Creative prides itself on and so we have done it. Thankfully, the classroom now has its' own DSL line and its' own router so we no longer have to babysit the documents loading to the website - it's now working as intended.
The students seem to enjoy the iPads and we have had positive feedback on the introduction of iPads to the classroom, integration of photo and video content to the website and the sharing facilities we provided for the students to be able to share their media.
Working with the folks from Michelin's Training group has been a pleasure and we're looking forward to working together in the future for the summer courses when we will be implementing the outdoor camera network and summer content as well as other future endeavors together.