Albert Portnoy, left, and Oliver Leopold describe their new app.            RoundTable photo

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On a given day, most Evanston Township High School students – of whom there are about 3,500 – will have a class in physical education. Until recently, students would check the Physical Education Location Board to learn the day’s location of their physical education class: in one of the 12 gyms, two swimming pools or three weight rooms.

At the May 13 District 202 School Board meeting, ETHS students Albert Portnoy, a freshman, Oliver Leopold, a sophomore, showed Board members how they developed an app that allows all-school remote access to the now-digitalized Locator Board.

The two are in the same math class, and they also volunteer at the ChromeZone, the high school’s student-run tech center.

David Chan, Director of Instructional Technology at ETHS, said, “The PE Board displays the [class] locations for a specific period and for that to be automated, it needs to know what period it is.”

The information comes from ETHSBell, an earlier project of which Oliver was the lead developer. ETHSBell “is an extension that with a click of a button tells you what period it currently is and how much time is left in the period. It is popular at the high school since we have a variety of bell schedules throughout the week,” Mr. Chan said.

With information from ETHSBell, Mr. Chan said, “the display changes seamlessly as programmed by the students at the wishes of the PE department.”

“Albert … was interested in the programming behind my bell website, so when Mr. Chan came to me with the idea of a PE board, Albert was immediately on board. I was interested in finding more ways to integrate technology into previously low-tech places around the school,” Oliver told the RoundTable.

“It was very satisfying to hear all the oohs and aahs in the hallway the day it launched,” Oliver added.

“When Mr. Chan gave us the idea for the project, I decided it was a great project, as it sounded like a great way to work with the school to do something I love (programming),” Albert told the RoundTable.

“We decided we would start by designing the board, and then started working on the code. Once we got the ball rolling, it was a matter of figuring out how to link the different parts together. We are in the works of planning some new projects, including one for our student success center, The Hub,” Albert added.

Technology Integration Specialist Mina Marien said the project was not “teacher-led; it was student-led.”

“And teacher-facilitated,” said Mr. Chan.

Board Vice President Monique Parsons said, “How awesome it is that we are utilizing systems to have students come up with solutions to problems that affect them.”

Board President Pat Savage-Williams said, “You’ve shown us how creative you can be.”

Oliver said, “I’m really glad that ETHS has given us the opportunity to work in the real world while we are still in school.”

Mr. Chan said the Physical Education Location Board is the first project the club codETHS in which students responded to a problem/request by staff and provided a solution and worked with the staff to design, iterate, and deploy. “We involved the students very early on in the process because we wanted them to experience the early part of the design process where they hear from the users and establish empathy for the problem/users.

“We hope to recruit more students so we can have multiple project leads and teams working throughout the year.”

Mr. Chan said the club welcomes new members. “Real-world problems/challenges require all sorts of skill sets – thinkers, designers, artists, not just programmers.”