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Oct 29, 2009 8:11 AM by By MARSHA SILLS The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

Carencro HS students lead fiber optic work

CARENCRO, La. (AP) - High-speed fiber optic technology offers a new frontier in computing. Among the explorers: students at Carencro High School's Academy of Information Technology.
"The increase in speed and quality will revolutionize everything we do in the classroom," said Elijah Parker, 17, a junior at Carencro.
Parker is among the students in the academy being groomed by local tech professionals to use fiber technology through a project called FiberKids.
The project is a partnership among Carencro High and its academy, the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, the school system's information technology department, Lafayette
Utilities System and Louisiana Public Broadcasting.
As part of the project, students are exploring the ways the greater bandwidth can enhance learning.
The possibilities are endless: live streaming high-definition video for school conferences, lessons taught by experts and virtual field trips.
"That's just the beginning," said Kit Becnel, director of the Academy of Information Technology at Carencro High.
"It levels the playing field; we can be in a big city or a rural area like Carencro and have the same opportunities," Becnel said.
The academy is tapped into the fiber network via the LITE Center.
Across the state, research centers, such as LITE, and universities are connected to the statewide fiber optic network known as the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative.
The network initiative is part of a larger network, called the National Lambda Rail, that connects research institutions across the country to the network.
And Carencro High is tapped into it. The work under way is the first step in a long-term goal to connect every K-12 school in the state to the network, said Randy Ward, director of engineering at
LPB.
Ward said the Louisiana Broadband Alliance has submitted a grant application for a share of $7.2 billion in available federal funds to help make it happen.
Now, low bandwidth available at schools limits teachers' access to videos available for instructional purposes from LPB, Ward said.
And access to live events is hit-and-miss, he added.
"Connectivity is key. We have to have schools connected to the backbone to appreciate the services."
The project has the attention of Joaquin Alvarado, the senior vice president of diversity and innovation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
He attended the Lafayette Parish School Board meeting to commend the effort.
Alvarado was familiar with the project through his previous position with the National Public Lightpath initiative. Its goal is to connect public media, education, and technology sectors into a
national fiber optic network.
The area is a leader in the next generation of technology, Alvarado told the board.
"We're starting to see a surge in key communities that are not waiting for innovation to occur. They're making it happen," Alvarado said Tuesday.
While adults work on the infrastructure issues, students are focusing on learning new software to enhance creation of content for their peers.
Over the summer two academy seniors, Tim Treuil and Aaron Touchet, both 17, interned at LITE and impressed the staff with their skills on Maya, 3-D modeling software.
They created a 3D data set that recreated a hot air balloon ride experience for the LITE Center's six-sided visualization cube.
The cube enables researchers to immerse themselves in data.
The students' program offered a hot air balloon ride over hills and houses they created.
"They did the project in three weeks. That's pretty impressive in the grand scheme," said Marty Altman, chief creative officer for LITE.
The two seniors played down their skills on the software while working on another 3D project to show at the school district's Fall Frenzy on Nov. 7, the showcase of all the schools of choice programs.
As the students help the adults prepare for the possibilities fiber will offer students, they're preparing for their own future, Altman said.
"If kids are learning how to create content, they're learning how to communicate with each other and collaboration skills," he said.
"They're having to hit a deadline and deliver a piece of content. That's a huge step up no matter where they go or what they do."
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Information from: The Advocate, http://www.2theadvocate.com
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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