School administrators aren’t immune to the lure of grand-prize dreaming, but despite those dreams, winning came as a huge and welcomed surprise.

Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District is the lucky winner of 20 Hitachi iPJ-AW250N Interactive Projectors, including mounts and installation – a prize equivalent to $44,780 — announced Troxell Communications, Inc., a firm based out of Phoenix, Ariz.

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“Troxell launched the ’20 20 20’ Interactive Classroom Technology Sweepstakes with the hope of giving a school district a head start with a new level of instructional technology that we believe will result in more student engagement than ever before,” said Troxell Account Executive Jessy Raspiller. “Our congratulations to Paul Turnbull and Mark Swanitz.”

The district first came into contact with the firm when in the organizing process for last spring’s valleywide schools conference said Swanitz, principal at Santa Ynez. Troxell has offices located in Santa Barbara. Even though the school does not have money for new technology at the moment, they continued to view Troxell as a good resource for the school.

“We were up front with them that we couldn’t afford new equipment at the moment,” said Swanitz. But with the school’s move toward teaching 21st century skills to students, knowing what the newest technology offers is important. So when Raspiller offered to set up a private demo in the distance learning center at the high school – and spending the time meant a free entry in the contest – well it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up the administrators said.

The Hitachi’s first-ever interactive projector has all the functionality of an interactive whiteboard built into it, said Raspiller. It eliminates the need for additional hardware. Designed for easy setup even in rooms where space is limited, the projectors feature an ultra-short-throw lens that enables it to be mounted close to a wall or any flat surface. This prevents obstructed images and shadows, with no light shining in the presenter’s eyes. The user can write, draw and manipulate and resize projected images by using Hitachi’s pen-sized interactive control, which is included, she says.

“We are extremely excited to receive this outstanding prize. Our teachers and students will immediately benefit from this tremendous gift,” said Turnbull. He plans to wait until the teachers are back to determine which classrooms will get the most use out of the equipment. Troxell will install the units free of charge. According to John Glad, product manager, Hitachi America, Ltd., the projectors feature a simple menu system that provides ready access to all functions. The projector comes with a dynamic set of teaching and lesson-building tools for educators including a wealth of graphics, templates and colors. PowerPoint, Word, PDF, JPEG and other formats can be imported directly into the iPJ-AW250N, he says.

“It’s cutting-edge 21st century technology. The product is used all over UCSB,” says Swanitz, who is eager to expose students to some of the technology they will see when they get to college. The new Hitachi units will offer a full complement of video and audio inputs including HDMI, S-Video and composite video, RGB, stereo mini-jack, and RCA audio and video outputs. The projector incorporates high-quality optics for clear, sharp images with the ability to project an 80-inch diagonal image, the company says. With an Ethernet jack for connection to local area networks and built-in speakers equipped with 10-watt amplifiers, the school will not the need to connect to external speakers.

“Thank you, Troxell and Hitachi!” said Swanitz with enthusiasm. However simple the words, the sentiment is shared by the school board, teachers – and come this fall – by students across the Valley whose education will be enriched by the generous gift.