When I think of Miami, Florida my mind goes to year-around sunshine, warm azure waters, and palm tree lined boulevards. But for the students at the Academy for International Education (AIE) located in the heart of Miami, there’s a lot more to life than spending time at the beach. These kids are at the forefront of technology and are involved in projects that most K-12 schools only dream about. This includes extended learning with opportunities to get involved in a number of technology-based projects. As part of the Flying Classroom Initiative, students recently built a race car and are now developing a concept flying car. This certainly beats the candle holder I made in high school wood shop. Whether working on futuristic transportation or something else, AIE is all about technology and innovation, including the tools used to teach its students.

AIE is a STEAM accredited, K-12 public charter school, managed by the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Vera Hirsh, the Head of School at AIE and Debbie Karcher, Technology Advisor at AIE, about the school and how they’ve partnered with Cisco to help deliver infrastructure that drives their modern learning environments. Vera explained that one of the main priorities is technology; not only learning about technology but, “using the latest technology to enhance education and connect students in new ways.”

Cisco Catalyst with UPOE+ Flexible Power and Connectivity

AIE is the first school in the district to rollout Cisco Catalyst Universal Power Over Ethernet (UPOE+) switches to deliver power and data over a standard ethernet cable. Each classroom will have a 90W PoE switch connected to USB-C dongles that allow students and staff to plug in, power up, and get connected to the school network over a single connection.

The advantage of UPOE+ in a school environment is low voltage. It can be easily wired into the school’s classrooms in a number of reconfigurable designs, enabling a flexible environment for both pod learning and social distancing needs.

The goal is to create learning spaces that adapt to the lesson de jour. “We have a heavy focus on enhancing education and learning through technology,” Vera reemphasized. “With the Cisco UPOE+ solution, we have the flexibility to create a space in the center of the room where we might have a robotics lesson or other advanced learning project taking place.”

In addition, the PoE power and USB-C solution is safer for kids than standard AC outlets. And UPOE+ offers more control with ability to drive analytics-based decisions, allowing AIE to strategically manage power consumption and costs.

Smart Things Deliver a Better Learning Environment

Cisco UPOE+ can do more than power and connect laptops, it can also power and connect smart lighting, HVAC controls, cameras, monitors, Wi-Fi access points, and a host of other connected smart solutions.

On smart lighting, Vera shared that different color temperatures and wavelengths can affect our circadian rhythm. “With the ability to to tune the color temperature,” she said, “smart lighting can potentially help kids get through the day a little easier.”

AIE, with its technology-enhanced teaching methods, needs the speed, stability, and security of an integrated wired connection. It provides students with a streamlined solution to connect and charge, enables new flexible classroom models, and has the potential to power a host of innovative and engaging teaching tools.

Vera left me with a final thought, “We’re training the next generation. And this means we foster an environment that creates life-long learners who will become productive citizens in a global economy.”

In closing

I absolutely love that AIE is using latest teaching methods and tools to foster an engaging and adaptive environment. Students at AIE are getting a hands-on opportunity to work in the classrooms of the future, today. Their story is one of inspiration; they are the next generation of leaders that will spawn new innovations in science and technology. When we investment in our future generations, they make the world a better place than we left them.

Learn more about Cisco UPOE+ and smart buildings.


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Brett Shore

Product Marketing Manager

Enterprise Product Marketing