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NIH Record

NIH'ers Bring New Technology to Local Students

By Kimberly C. Mitchell

Students at Eastern High School in Washington, D.C., will soon be able to surf like never before. Thanks in part to the volunteer efforts of NIH staff, these young scholars will be exploring the Internet on donated computers. Three federal agencies are collaborating on a project that involves donating excess computers and equipment to Eastern. NIH, the Veterans Administration and the Internal Revenue Service have combined forces to offer their personnel and technical resources to benefit students and teachers at the school. This is the first time that such cooperation has occurred between these agencies on a volunteer basis.

Computing and networking technology were once strictly the stuff of dreams at schools like Eastern, where the ratio of computers to students has been appallingly low. Now, thanks to the computer donation program, the school is equipped with more than 30 workstations with Internet access. "Many here at NIH take the Web for granted," said Bruce Fuchs, director of the Office of Science Education. "It's important that students learn both the power and the limitations of this technology."

Douglas Whitley (l) and Ken Wong of CIT connect the network that will provide each classroom with Internet access.

Douglas Whitley and Ken Wong, both network engineers at the Center for Information Technology, volunteered on Saturdays and provided their technical expertise to connect the newly installed local-area network (LAN) at the school. These volunteers, along with OSE's Bill Mowczko and Fuchs, are now completing their final tasks, which include connection of individual classrooms to the Internet.

After installing the network connections, OSE plans to conduct Internet training workshops for the Eastern faculty to acquaint them with the software and to provide them with basic knowledge and skills that will help them instruct their students. In the fall, faculty and students will put their knowledge and computers to work when they pilot a "Health Curriculum Online" program developed by OSE and the Office of Research on Women's Health. The online modules will educate students about such public health issues as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The scenario-based curriculum focuses on health risks and teen lifestyles. Students are instructed to perform lab activities and to use Web links to locate more information on diseases and on health-related careers.

The computers and network system provided to Eastern will also help support the Health and Human Services Academy at the school. The HHSA, a specialized institute based at Eastern, provides an intense curriculum of study with emphasis on the biomedical sciences to prepare students to pursue careers in the health professions.

The NIH Direct Donation Program is an implementation of both the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 and Federal Executive Order 12999. The order, entitled "Educational Technology: Ensuring Education for All Children in the Next Century," allows computers and related equipment to be transferred directly from the institutes and centers and from the excess warehouse. The order stipulates that federal agencies should play a larger role in education in America by making excess resources available to students and teachers. It also encourages federal employees to volunteer their time and skills to implementing these resources in the classrooms.

At NIH, the donation program is coordinated by two industrial property management specialists in the Division of Property Management, Office of Logistics Management: David A. Hubbard, II, and Hannah L. Stachmus. Together, the two regulate the donation process at NIH -- fielding requests from schools, universities and other organizations, screening excess computers and equipment from the ICs, and whenever possible, making them available to the requesting organizations. They also oversee the donation of excess equipment at the Gaithers-burg Distribution Center, the site of NIH's excess warehouse. NIH has donated 58 items to Eastern, including 27 monitors and 25 CPUs.

Spending their spare hours engaged in the time-consuming task of setting up and connecting the network in the school has been a labor of love for many of the volunteers, who were happy to lend a hand and help usher in "the wave of future" that is taking place at Eastern. "It's wonderful working with the students and the principal and seeing their excitement at having access to the Internet," said Mowczko. "We've opened up a whole new vista for them. That's very satisfying." Eastern's assistant principal, Carl Frederick, echoed this sentiment, saying, "The students, teachers and administrators are all very happy to see this happening; the response has been very positive."

For more information on the NIH Direct Donation program or on Executive Order 12999, contact Hubbard or Stachmus at 496-5711.

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