When it comes to innovation and accomplishing projects with limited resources, Sultan School District Technology Coordinator Dave Moon and his team have a way of making things work.
So when the scoreboard in the Sultan High School gym started to fail to the point of being disruptive, Moon began strategizing a solution that wouldn't break the bank. The resulting scoreboard project, accomplished last summer by Moon and his team with help from tech club students, exceeded the district's expectations on a number of levels.
Instead of a cumbersome unit that hangs on the wall, the new scoreboard uses ceiling projectors to transmit a brightly lit, clean image onto the wall of the gym, and can be customized to accommodate any gym sport.
The system is controlled by software installed on a refurbished computer and operated with either a touch screen device or a custom-built control panel, based entirely on user preference. The dual-projector setup gives the system built-in redundancy; if one projector fails, the other continues to provide the image.
It features a completely overhauled score table, redesigned to accommodate the system along with two 42-inch LED televisions installed in front for advertising content and the game score. The majority of the project was completed last summer by Moon as his technology staff; Benjamin Pederson and David Hockenson.
"I think we came out with a scoreboard that far exceeds anything we could have purchased,GÇ¥ said Sultan School District Superintendent Dan Chaplik. "This was pennies on the dollar of what it would have cost. They have done miraculous things with a shoestring budget. I'm glad they are on our team.GÇ¥
The need for a new scoreboard had become more and more evident over the years, said Moon, who had watched intermittent connection issues become increasingly problematic. The wall-hanging unit was more than 30 years old, and had really started to show its age.
He started calling around to find out about repairing it, but refurbished parts ran around $2,400, and there was no guarantee the new parts would actually fix the problem. And once the parts were used, there was no way to return them if they didn't work. Conservatively, they were looking at around $4,000-$5,000 to attempt to repair it, Moon said, with no guarantee it would be a long-term fix for the scoreboard.
Next, Sultan High School Athletic Director Scott Sifferman looked into how much it would cost to purchase a new scoreboard.
"The bare-bones, absolute-basic was about $15,000, and then a basketball scoreboard that does all kind of things is about $25,000, and that's not even multi-sport,GÇ¥ Moon said.
Moon had encountered scoreboard software a couple years prior, and he never forgot it. He began contemplating the idea of using a computer and projectors, and decided to give it a whirl. He recruited students from his tech club to help him create a demo, which was set up in the tech lab at Sultan Middle School.
They invited all district stakeholders to come and see it, including coaches, scorekeepers and administrative staff. Moon's department requested feedback, using it to compile a list of pros and cons.
"In the end, we had a short list of things that they didn't like, but it was a very short list and it was all addressable,GÇ¥ Moon said.
Concerns were raised about the use of a touchscreen device for operating the scoreboard, because coaches felt it would take the scorekeeper's attention off the game. Moon and his team solved that problem by using a keyboard emulator to assemble a handheld, pushbutton control mechanism, complete with a shot clock reset button.
"That worked out amazingly well, and it was super easy,GÇ¥ Moon said.
Other concerns were discussed and addressed, like what would happen if the projector failed. Moon knew that a dual-projector system would solve that. They also built a standby PC, just in case there was ever a catastrophic failure of the primary PC. The PCs were refurbished, given to the district by a government agency and added no cost to the project.
The entire system can be swapped out in less than 10 minutes, Moon said.
Next, they held a second demo in the Sultan High School gym. Moon secured the use of a loaner projector, hung some white paper up on the wall and used a scissor lift to position the projector.
The resulting image exceeded all expectations.
"It looked amazing,GÇ¥ Moon said. "It just turned out so good.GÇ¥
After that, Chaplik gave them the go ahead to proceed with the project. Moon and his team spent the summer months configuring the wiring, rebuilding the score table, installing the projectors and painting the wall with special projection screen paint. The entire team was thrilled with the board's brightness and clarity when all was said and done, Moon said.
All told, the innovative new system cost $7,615, plus a few small incidentals purchased by the tech department, bringing the total to around $9,000. It was implemented in time for the first volleyball game of the school year, held right after school started.
The software accommodates all gym sports, including basketball, volleyball and wrestling. Logos from each different school were uploaded into the software by tech club members, for a personalized display that welcomes visiting teams. Scoreboard operators can choose whether they want to use the touchscreen device or the push-button control, and the televisions built into the score table are used to display the score and run advertisements from local businesses.
Currently, the advertisements are static images designed by tech club members, but they are planning to step up their game in the near future with five newly built video editing machines. Tech club members built the machines from scratch, which are set up in the lab and ready to be used.
"We're going to start doing video commercials instead of static slides,GÇ¥ Moon said. "I'm pretty excited for that.GÇ¥
The new scoreboard is not the tech department's only recent success. Last year, the student-run broadcast network TurkPride.tv earned Sultan High School a spot on the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) High School Sports Network's honor role, officially listed as a "Select School.GÇ¥
The Sultan School District was the only district in Washington to achieve placement on the NFHS honor role. TurkPride.tv live streams Sultan High basketball games, wrestling matches, volleyball, football and soccer games. Additionally, the club was a finalist at the NFHS Academy Awards in the Highlight of the Year category for its broadcast highlight, "Turks get the 3 for OT.GÇ¥
In addition to sports, TurkPride.tv covers graduations, theater productions and community events.
Moon's Tech Club has flourished, making the best possible use of limited funding, including donated, second-hand computers and contributions from Moon and the community. Recently, when Moon wanted to explore the idea of adding an instant replay feature to the live stream, he reached out on Facebook to see if anybody had an old TIVO unit they would donate.
"Somebody dropped one off for me, and we got it to work exactly how we wanted it to,GÇ¥ Moon said. "It works amazingly well.GÇ¥
Now, if something happens during a game that warrants a second look, an instant replay can be transmitted out on the live stream.
Moon contributes his department's success to his students and his staff; Pederson and Hockenson.
"Huge credit goes out to my guys; David and Benny,GÇ¥ Moon said. "I come up with these hair-brained things and they stand behind me 100 percent.GÇ¥
For more information on the Sultan High School Technology Department, visit www.sultan.k12.wa.us/newssd/ssd.cfm?ID=114. For more information on TurkPride.tv, visit www.facebook.com/Turkpridetv/?fref=ts.Old scoreboard
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