I'm sorry about the gap in blog posts. There has been a tremendous amount of stuff going on, and I've been too busy to read my email, let alone blog...
We made the decision a couple of months ago to pull the trigger on children's check-in. This is something we have wanted for at least nine years, so it is quite exciting to finally be making it happen.
The first step was software, and we found a solution that would work for us in the check-in module written by CCCEV. I blogged about this here. Next up, we had to create a replacement for the family registration windows app since we were planning to do this as an all mac solution. Daniel wrote a replacement for this as an Arena module, and we involved the Arena community in its development to insure that we benefited more than just HDC with it.
The biggest thing for us is being able to do this as an "all mac" check in solution, allowing us to work with equipment and software that we know well. Once we made the decision to move forward we had to write the family registration module, find a kiosk and get it ordered, and get the equipment in place. That's when we hit our first snag: We saw lots and lots of kiosks online, but we could not find what we needed, so we ended up building our own. The kiosks we looked at failed to meet our needs in several ways: (1) Most were not mobile. We had to have them on wheels. (2) Most did not have space for the printer. We wanted to print the labels at the kiosks. (3) None of them came equipped with macs, although many came pre-loaded with pc hardware we could not use. (4) Most of them were much larger than we wanted. We have to store these things, they need to be small. (5) None of them had a provision for a keyboard to be used only some of the time. It was either no keyboard, or a keyboard out all the time.
This is the final product of our design. The monitor is an ELO Accutouch 15" LCD. We tested two other types of touchscreen (Intellitouch and Caroltouch) from ELO and this was the favorite of our staff. Below the monitor you can see the tray that holds the keyboard. It recesses into the kiosk. The idea here is that people come up and primarily interact with the screen as a touch screen. The keyboard is utilized by volunteers when these need to be used to register new families or make changes to the data in our database. For the most part the keyboards remain hidden. Then the printer, a Zebra GK420d.
The back of the kiosks show the way we have assembled everything. There is a mac mini mounted on the side, a linksys 5 port ethernet switch (powered by Power over Ethernet) and then a power strip. What this photo doesn't show (it wasn't installed yet) is a panel on the back along the bottom that provides external plugs for power and ethernet. So the volunteers only have to take the 12' cables and plug them in on the outside. There is no stretching of the power strip cable, no stress on the switch inside etc. Everything is self contained. We also found USB powered fans to keep everything cool. The best part about them is they only create 19db of noise: they are virtually silent.
Then we had to start setting everything up. This means a serious assembly line of stuff. Here you see 16 mac minis being installed and tested. Below, power strips, mini shelves and ethernet switches await installation.
The kiosks are not quite finished. They are due to be wrapped with a vinyl wrap that includes kids graphics and such to make them blend into our environment better, but we stained them ebony to minimize the showing of dirt on exposed areas, as well as to make the kiosk disappear behind the printer.
This is the first batch of kiosks, eight of them, ready to go for this weekend. We are implementing check-in at our 7 community, which has a much smaller group of kids than our Harbor community. We figured that 7 is the perfect place to test and work out the bugs. We go live tonight, I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow!