For parents gathered in gymnasiums around the country to watch their children graduate, there's no place they'd rather be. On the other hand, if the crowded space is not adequately air conditioned and starts smelling more like the locker room than the gym, then even proud parents' thoughts start to wander toward questions like, "How long until we can finish this up and go get some dinner?"

That was the situation that Atlanta's Henry McNeal Turner Middle School was trying to avoid in May of 2003, as the staff prepared for the school's graduation ceremony.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The good news for the school, which has an enrollment of over 600 and is located in the city's Dixie Hills community, was that a separate, newer gym building was large enough for the event. As for the bad news, for reasons unknown, the gym - which has 25- to 30-ft ceilings - also had an insufficient three tons of air conditioning at its disposal.

Combine such limited climate control with a typical late May day in west Atlanta, then add several hundred to upwards of 1,000 students, staff, friends, and family, and all the ingredients are intact for a special day tainted by uncomfortable conditions.

A Little Elbow Room

School officials looked into some options to solve the problem, and that led to a call to Spot Coolers (Boca Raton, FL). Between what the company could provide and a couple of fortunate logistical circumstances regarding the school's layout, a cool matriculation was in the cards after all.

The day before the graduation ceremony, the company arrived with a 25-ton, trailer-mounted unit in tow. A generator also came along, so that the portable cooling unit could run as needed without putting any additional burden on the school's electrical system.

From there, getting things into place proved fairly straightforward, according to Garth Tagge, vice president with Spot Coolers. The company's staff elected to duct the air to and from the unit using two windows along the top of the gymnasium, positioned 25 ft off the ground and approximately 30 ft away from each other. One window was used for supply, and the other for return; hoses ran from the trailer unit to each window, installing temporarily but snugly into place with a plywood insert.

The hoses terminated there at the windows, and from there, elbows were used inside the gym to direct the air and achieve successful distribution throughout.

All Downhill From There

Noise during operation is not an issue for typical portable cooling applications, but such distractions would be particularly unwelcome in a setting like this. The participants received a little additional peace-and-quiet insurance thanks to the topography of the area. With the school's location near Anderson Park, and more specifically, the gymnasium's location on a side of a hill, it was easy to position the equipment slightly down the hill from the school. This required a few more feet of hosing to run up to the windows, but that was not an obstacle.

As a result, the cooling equipment and the portable generator did their job a little further away from the action, lowering the gymnasium's temperature to a pleasant level in plenty of time to greet the first arrivals. The ceremony proceeded as scheduled; those in attendance could speak, listen, and celebrate without the indoor environment becoming a distraction. Finally, as another group of students said goodbye to middle school and started looking forward to summer and their newfound freshman status, the entire portable cooling apparatus was packed up as well, ready to move on to its next assignment. ES