Bexley kids turn trash to treasure

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A quartet of Bexley students proved trash can become treasure both financially and environmentally following recognition in a national science competition.

The Bexley team-with members Maranda Gammage, Meghan Heckman, Hannah Hood, and Nan Boyle and lead by Coach Lindsay Young-reprised their award-winning five-minute presentation to the Bexley School Board during a June 23 meeting.

"Their project looked at alternative energy sources," said Young during the group’s appearance, which featured an updated version of "The Christmas Carol" based on converting trash to useable energy. "They realized methane gas created in landfills was not being used as an energy source. They tested methane for heat and found it in piles of decomposing matter."

As part of the recognition, the team was awarded a $25,000 community grant and plans to work with the Kurtz Brothers operation to explore the energy potential for methane created when yard waste is composted. Principal Superintendent Michael Johnson said the event was also significant in that it was a national science competition and hopefully represents just the starting point for future endeavors by the girls.

"This is a perfect example of a partnership," added Principal Jon Hood. "This was really generated through the support of our parents."

According to Hood, the judging panel for the Florida competition, which featured a 40 minute question and answer session in addition to the five-minute presentation, consisted of the top engineer at the Disney studio and a number of presidential appointees.

"For these guys to be selected by these judges was an honor in itself," said Hood.

Technology news

District Technology Director Paul Ross updated board members on progress made by his department in the 10 months since he became director. He also outlined goals for the following year.

A report commissioned by the district in 2007  found a high degree of frustration existed with Bexley’s computing department including: instability of computer services, poor communication between users and the Information Technology (IT) staff, lack of user involvement in planning, and lack of rigor in technology support and planning.

The Haskell Report recommended the creation of the position now held by Ross, stabilizing the current computing environment, and the need for a detailed plan for Linux and open source migration.

Ross and his department hit the ground running and have implemented sweeping changes within the district’s technology system.

"We’re talking about quite a few upgrades here," said Ross. "We were able to upgrade the computer systems within one year with the host system in the elementary schools. It is cleaner and more efficient. The middle school was totally transformed in terms of technology."

With the implementation of a Thin Client system, seven computers can now run the power of 28 through a host system in selected classrooms. At the middle school, all Smartboard-the 21st century equivalent of a blackboard and chalk-connected  computers were replaced, all office computers were replaced, and the computer lab  was replaced with a Thin Client lab.

All high school Smartboard connected computers were updated with Windows XP, the computer lab was converted into a Thin Client lab, and half the hardware was updated.

District-wide, approximately 250 old computer systems were retired, over 2,400 new Windows accounts were created, a ticket-based priority support system was established, network and software licensing is now well documented,  and the server room temperature dropped by 12 degrees.

"Previously, you could cook your breakfast in the server room," commented Ross.

"We’ve done a lot of network documentation, crawled through some ceilings, and looked through closets. This past year was quite hectic. I walk around the buildings and talk to faculty and students to see what’s going on. I don’t live in the technology department. I get out, walk about, and talk to people."

For the 2008-09 school year, Ross said he plans to continue his "walkabouts," dramatically expand usage of the existing network infrastructure capacity, replace printers in various locations, finalize a new email system, establish a new Thin Client computer lab in the high school library, continue updating systems, and conduct ongoing faculty and staff technology training.

"There are a whole range of projects that we’re looking at," he said. "We’re really going to open up the speed within the district. We’re launching a new email system and hope to have it up and running by July. We also really want to open up to the community and give them a taste for what’s going on. It’s been a busy, but productive time. We’ve really taken it up a notch this year."  

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