To me, projectors are the most versatile piece of technology that a PE teacher can have in their gym. Using a projector (or sometimes multiple projectors) has become a daily necessity within my lessons over the years. From displaying directions/objectives/outcomes to displaying animated skill GIFS and live student heart rate feeds, this piece of technology has had the single biggest impact on the way in which I teach and the way my students learn.
The unfortunate issue that a lot of PE teachers face is that their district is not willing to mount a projector somewhere in the gym (either on a drop pole from the ceiling rafters or on the front/back wall). I remember a few years ago when I heard that all classrooms in my school were getting interactive Epson projectors, but when I inquired about getting one for my gym, I was told we were the only classroom that wouldn’t be receiving one. The reason they gave was because they were worried about it getting damaged as a byproduct of the things we do day in and day out in the gym. I would imagine that a lot of districts use this same reasoning as an excuse to not invest in this type of projector set up for their PE teachers (and I say excuse because there are no shortages of gyms that I have seen that have come up with ways to protect this valuable mounted technology..it can be done).
This has resulted in the overwhelming majority of PE teachers that currently use projectors resorting to keeping their projector on a wheely cart and rolling it in/out from the plug in the wall when needed/not needed. While the benefits of using a projector in this way certainly outweigh the inconveniences, there are still limitations to this type of projector set up. One such limitation is that wheeling the projector cart out onto your gym floor results in a loss of valuable activity space since it is a safety hazard to have students moving around so close to the cart. Considering most PE teachers do not have the proper amount of activity space as it is, this is a big deal. Another limitation is the fact that since the power cord is tethered to the outlet in the wall, there is now a formidable tripping obstacle that your students and you as the teacher must try to avoid in order to stay safe. Like I mentioned earlier, using a projector on a cart to me still has benefits that outweigh the inconveniences and as long as safety risks are mitigated (coning off around the wire/cart) it is a viable option to use, but the question that can still be asked “is there a better way?” Is there some type of #physedhack that can reduce/eliminate some of the aforementioned risks while also being cost feasible? It turns out there is!
Enter the rear projector set up! I first saw this on Twitter thanks to an awesome PE teacher in Iowa named Mark Jungmann (@NorthPolkWestPE) and soon replicated by another fantastic PE teacher named Mike Graham (@pe4everykid). They had both set up their projectors against the wall with the lens facing towards the middle of the gym. Hanging off the back of their basketball hoop was a frosted shower curtain secured to some PVC pipes. Sure enough, the videos/pictures I saw of this had their students moving along to dance videos/warm ups projected quite clearly onto that frosted screen. You might be saying, “well wouldn’t the image be backwards since the projector is at the back and not the front?” As it turns out, most projectors have a setting in their menus that allow them to be projected from the rear…this effectively flips the image so it is correct when looking at it from the front!
This #physedhack is a game changer find for those that use projectors on a regular basis in their gym. It is a cost feasible way to eliminate the cord/projector cart being in the middle of your gym floor. Mark and Mike are great innovators within our profession and if you are not already following them on Twitter, do so. You won’t be disappointed.
So how can you make this set up for yourself? Check out Part 2 of this blog if you are feeling crafty!
So you read Part 1 of this blog and if you are reading Part 2 now, I’m assuming you are ready for a DIY project to make this rear projector set up a reality in your gym!
Well, first you’ll need to take a trip to Home Depot/Lowes and get yourself the materials. Here is what I used:
To Make the Brackets:
Measure out 8 inches of the flat aluminum bar and mark it off. Make a cut using a hacksaw/circular saw/miter saw on that line. Do this twice since we will need 2 brackets. I was lucky enough to have a 16" section laying around that I could just cut in half.
Before we do anything else, we need to know the diameter of those exposed bolts coming out from the back of the basketball hoop. Use a ladder/step stool and a tape measure to measure the diameter of the exposed bolts. That measurement is the size of the nuts you need to buy. In my situation, the exposed bolts were 5/16” in diameter, so I bought 2 5/16” diameter nuts.
Next we need to measure where to drill the hole for where the brackets will slip over top of the exposed bolt on the back of the basketball hoop. Mark a spot on centered on the flat aluminum bar about 2.5" down from the top. Repeat this on the other piece of aluminum.
The hole you drill into your aluminum brackets needs to be a bit bigger than the diameter of the bolts because you want it to slide right through and not catch the threads. In my situation, I used a 1/2” diameter drill bit to make the hole. Drill it through the mark you just made on both pieces of aluminum.
Now we need to get ready to bend the aluminum into an “L/V” type shape so the top PVC pipe holding the screen can sit right in the crease. Measure a spot about 1.5” down from the hole and make a line across the aluminum at this spot. This will be your bend point.
Take your 2 pieces of aluminum out to the curb outside your house. Line up the bend point line with the edge of the curb so that one end of the aluminum is on top of the curb and the far end is sticking out. Apply pressure with your hands to both sides of the aluminum bar until the end that was sticking out bends into your desired shape. Repeat this for the other piece of aluminum and you have finished creating your custom brackets!
Securing the Brackets to the Back of the Basketball Hoop:
Set up your ladder underneath of the hoop. Put a washer on each of the exposed bolts coming from the back of the hoop so the brackets have a flat surface to press up against.
Slide each of your brackets on to the exposed bolts. Slide the brackets down until the are up against the washers.
Place the other 2 washers on the bolts as well and slide them down until they are up against the brackets. You should now have a “bracket sandwich” (Washer-Bracket-Washer).
Take the 2 nuts and hand thread them on the exposed bolts. Use a correct sized wrench to tighten them down in order to secure the brackets in place. Ensure the brackets are perpendicular before tightening down all the way.
Your brackets are now good to go!
To Make the Screen:
To make the screen, start by cutting the 1” PVC pipe to desired lengths. These will be for what we attach the frosted shower curtain to at the top and bottom. Your cuts need to be at least as wide as your shower curtain. I left a few inches sticking out on either end as well.
Once your cuts are made to the PVC, tape the shower curtain to one of the PVC pipes you cut. Make sure the curtain is centered on the pipe and it is taught. This will be your guide as to where to drill your holes for the eye bolts to secure to the curtain to the top PVC pipe. Mark a hole in the center of each grommet hole on the PVC pipe. Try to make sure your markings are going in a straight line from beginning to the end of the pipe. Repeat this for all of the grommets.
Remove the shower curtain template and then begin drilling your holes for your eye bolts. Make sure you are using a proper sized drill bit for the diameter of your eye bolts.
Once all of the holes are drilled, hand screw an eye bolt into a hole until they are snug.
Stretch out your frosted shower curtain. Take the other PVC pipe you cut (the one without the eye bolts) and center it at the bottom of the shower curtain (the non-grommet side). Roll the bottom of the shower curtain up like a burrito with the PVC inside until you get some overlap.
Duct tape the bottom of the shower curtain to itself to create a little sleeve for the bottom piece of PVC to sit in. This will help to ensure the screen is pretty taught and stretched out for better viewing.
Zip tie the top of the curtain to the PVC pipe with the eye bolts in it by using zip ties to secure the grommets to the eye bolts. Repeat for all eye bolts. Cut the ends of the zip ties at desired length.
Place the end caps on the PVC pipes and you are done with the screen build!
Use a step stool to place your screen on the brackets, set the projector up behind the screen, change its settings to project from the rear and BOOM! You are ready to rock!