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Schools going high-tech with computer labs

September 15, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Washington County's high schools are getting computer-assisted design laboratories, thanks in part to a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

As early as November, the schools will have state-of-the-art equipment, according to Career Technology Supervisor John "Bud" Ingersoll. Each lab will have 12 computers, a plotter, scanner and printer, he said.

The change represents a high-tech leap for most schools, where technical drawing is done by hand. "For the most part, we're still using T-squares and triangles," Ingersoll said. "We want to get away from that."

The ARC recently awarded a $237,100 grant that will help install CAD labs in Western Maryland's three counties. Each county must contribute matching funds and the state is providing more than $93,500.

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Washington County will put up half of its $200,000 project, according to Ingersoll.

The ARC is a federal-state partnership created by Congress to foster economic growth in the Appalachian region. The federal agency covers 13 states.

U.S. Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, both D-Maryland, said the labs will prepare students for a competitive high-tech job market.

"As we enter the 21st century, students today must be as familiar with computers as they are with paper and pencil," Mikulski said in a press release. The senators estimate the labs will serve more than 4,000 students.

CAD training is similar to mechanical drawing with a computer. It is especially beneficial to students pursuing careers as architects or in scientific and engineering fields. Every local high school has a drafting program and lab, Ingersoll said.

The labs generally consist of drafting tables without computers and other hardware. Washington County Technical High School has a CAD lab and others recently were installed in South Hagerstown, Williamsport and Smithsburg high schools.

"We had applied for this grant a couple of years ago but we didn't think we were going to get it," Ingersoll said. The money will ensure each school gets the hardware and software from Avatech Solutions.

Once the money comes in from ARC, the rooms will be wired and the equipment installed. Ingersoll said all secondary teachers were trained to use the computer systems Aug. 25.

At Williamsport and WCTHS, each computer will have software known as "CAD 2000," which is cutting-edge, Ingersoll said.

At every other high school, two computers will have the advanced programs and 10 will have other "LT" CAD software. Every student will have the opportunity to use the advanced system, Ingersoll said.

There is a learning curve for the complex programs. "It takes about a year for the kids to get proficient," Ingersoll said.

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