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Juniata IT Students Create Palm Pilot Project for 'Digital' School District

(Posted April 15, 2002)

HUNTINGDON. Pa. -- A team of Juniata College information technology students are working to help make Spring Cove School District in Martinsburg, Pa. -- one of three "digital school districts" in Pennsylvania -- even more digital by designing database applications for hand-held personal digital assistants (PDAs) so school administrators can access several different database servers and incorporate data from those servers into the school district's centralized administrative system.

"We wanted the Juniata students to create a system where administrators could use Palm Pilots to access our student data base and our teacher contact information database," explains Chuck Kensinger, a Spring Cove School District administrator. "They became our technical consultants. We knew what we wanted the system to do and the Juniata team found products and designed solutions to get us that result."

The Juniata students are working with the school district as part of a course called Innovations for Industry, a for-credit course within Juniata's Information Technology (IT) program. Each student enrolled in the IT program takes the course over three semesters, preferably as part of their junior and senior years. Student teams work on real-world IT projects with corporate clients.

"Our student team created a solution that required them to design a database, program applications and make recommendations for a security system for that application," says Dennis Johnson, assistant professor of environmental science and coordinator of the Spring Cove Innovations for Industry team. "For undergraduate students to take on a project like this for a business client is quite unique for most colleges."

The Juniata team is working to create or adapt PDA applications for the district that would: allow access to a student database, including class information family information and emergency contact information; provide access to emergency action plans when an accident, emergency incident or medical emergency occurs; and access a teacher contact list for the entire district so employees can be contacted for school closings and other notifications.

The Juniata students, led by David Damato, a senior from Fort Lee, N.J., meet frequently with Spring Cove administrators via video teleconferencing and in person. "All types of businesses use Palm Pilots and other hand-helds to access databases for inventory or human resources information," explains Damato. "We decided to try applying these business solutions to a public school."

Damato and team members David Spokus, a junior from Lewistown, Pa. and Adam Clampett, a junior from Huntingdon, Pa., recommended that Spring Cove use one of two software applications to coordinate their database needs. The students recommended Pendragon, an independent software application written for Palm Pilots, or DB2 Everyplace, an application created by IBM Corp. "Each system offers different advantages," Damato says. "This project is really only a small part of building Spring Cove's digital school district, so the district probably should choose a system that can be expanded to incorporate other functions as the district needs them."

Spring Cove School District in 2001 was one of three winners of a $4 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Then-Gov. Tom Ridge stated at the time that the school district received the grant because the district's plan outlined the effective uses for technology in a rural school district. The school district is comprised of three elementary schools, a middle school and a high school, with a total student population of more than 2,000.

"This project is a small piece of a very large mission to create a new type of school district," Kensinger says. "But this small project was very important to us, not only to allow us to streamline parts of our jobs, but also in building partnerships with institutions like Juniata College."

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.