See also Whiz Kid article.

Tech club helps fix Computer Glitches

By Shawn Cohen, Poughkeepsie Journal: 1/27/99 1b


Typically, teachers educate students. But in the world of computers, there is sometimes a role reversal.

Poughkeepsie High School students John Lyon, Joshua Pilgrim and Latisha Clark occasionally get summoned to classrooms to help teachers install computer software or assist with "trouble-shooting." They have even helped to rebuild old computers so that new computer labs could be opened in the high school and middle school.

They did so as members of a new student club called Tech Scouts, which was formed by the district's new technology director Bram Moreinis last fall.

"It's not very often that a student gets to help a teacher with something," said Lyon, a senior. "This is not like any other club I've ever been a part of."

Bram Moreinis based the club on a program he developed for the Central Park Secondary School in Manhattan three years ago.

The 17-member club, which meets once a week allows students not only to hone their computer skills, but also to assist the district with its serious computer needs, according to Moreinis. The district, which employs only two technicians, often has a hard time and long waiting list to address computer problems for the eight schools, he said.

"We had to come up with a way to make better use of our human resources," said Moreinis, the self- dubbed "scoutmaster" who assigns tasks to the students.

He says it's a win-win situation for everyone.

"The kids need a way to capitalize on their skills - for their careers and sense of self," said Moreinis. "Very often, technologically gifted students are socially isolated. Now they have an opportunity to depend on each other, be respected for their skills and work together for the sake of their fellow students."

During Thursday's meeting, he introduced the scouts to the newly-appointed "turnkeys" - eight staff members
who will work with Moreinis to support technology in their buildings.

The turn-keys will help teachers who need assistance in classrooms, and with leadership teams as they decide how to use and re-assign computers.

Also during the meeting, the students video-conferenced with staffers at Dutchess County BOCES, live via the Internet.

Afterward, the tech scouts headed to a computer room to work on their own web site, which was started by Moreinis.

Most members are high school students, but one is just 9 years old - a computer prodigy named Adam Tabak. Tabak, who is self-taught and attends Poughkeepsie Day School, was invited to help with the club.

The scouts have been very active since September Members collected, cleaned, tested and repaired 14 machines from stockpiles of retired EBMs, with new hard drives.

The systems are now being used at the high school.

The students made similar efforts for the middle school to create a new typing lab.

"It is a pleasure to work with knowledgeable young people who enjoy doing and teaching those of us who are dinosaurs along with our equipment," wrote high school social worker Mana Watsky in a letter of thanks to the Tech Scouts.

Scouts are learning to program in BASIC and plan to start an online newsletter.

Logging on:  The Tech Scouts web site address is www.pcsd2.kl2.ny. us/tscouts