Cheney High School has landed a $95,000 grant from the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to upgrade the computers used by students.
Career and Technology Director Adam Smith teaches Advanced Placement computer science and a Cisco networking academy.
“My classroom is the one that’s getting all new equipment in it,” he said.
The high school’s computer lab was installed in 2009 and is showing its age. “The computers are about 12 years old,” he said.
The students are currently using old 18-inch monitors that were donated and some are failing. About $55,000 of the grant will be used to purchase new computers and new 24-inch double monitors. The computers will all have double hard drives.
“We’ll be able to get solid state drives,” he said. “They use less energy and produce a lot less heat.”
The computers students are currently using were top of the line in 2009, but that was a long time ago in terms of technological advancement.
“They were the most powerful machines in the district when we bought them,” Smith said.
The district knew it wouldn’t be able to replace them for a while and spent extra for quality. But things are simply wearing out, Smith said. Hard drives and motherboards have been failing at an increasing rate.
“They are literally just keeling over now,” he said. “That’s been the frustration. We have one computer that every now and then just shuts down and restarts in the middle of a kid’s project.”
It’s difficult to get a student interested in networking and coding if they are immediately frustrated by equipment that is balky or doesn’t work. Getting the right equipment in front of students is an important part of getting students interested in science, technology, engineering and math careers, Smith said.
“We’re really trying to put this stuff together so kids want to be a part of it,” he said. “This is part of what I’ve been trying to do in the last year and a half, to make STEM look awesome and not have our equipment be old.”
The rest of the grant will be used to buy Cisco routers and switches for network architecture, Smith said.
“We do a lot of simulation software, but there’s nothing that replaces hands-on learning for students,” he said. “We’re going to be able to get the kids industrial-level equipment.”
Smith said the former Career and Technology director learned about the grant and volunteered to write the application when Smith found himself pressed for time. Smith said he’s grateful for the help. “He’s the one who put pen to paper,” he said.
Parts of Cheney High are under construction and that includes what will be Smith’s future classroom. He said he hopes to have the new equipment installed around spring break or by May at the latest.
“The money is in the account and ready to spend,” he said. “There’s so much in flux right now with the construction. We don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
But Smith said he should be able to purchase the networking equipment by the end of January and get that portion of the computer program up and running. “We really need it,” he said.
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