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High-tech program debuts at Farrington


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POSTED: Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thomas Quiroz, a junior at Farrington High School, has high hopes for Project EAST, which brings sophisticated environmental technology to school campuses so students can solve real-life problems.

“;Maybe Farrington could become like the next MIT of high schools,”; he said yesterday with a grin after his school became the first on Oahu to launch the program.

The Environmental and Spatial Technology Project began in Arkansas in 1995 as a collaboration among industry, community organizations and schools. Students identify and tackle problems in their communities, with the help of high-tech tools.

Island Insurance Co. donated $50,000 to match state and federal funding to help start the program at Farrington. The project will bring computers, GPS mapping tools, architectural and computer-assisted-design software as well as 3-D animation to the campus in Kalihi.

Project EAST is scheduled to start at Mililani, McKinley and Roosevelt high schools later this year. It has already under way at 10 neighbor-island schools.

One EAST project mapped the locations of coqui frog populations and their elevations and rainfall, then used that information to analyze areas that might be in danger or have undiscovered populations. A project on Maui mapped frequently used trails, locations of defibrillators and available shelters for disasters.

“;Project EAST provides an opportunity for the students to connect what they are learning in school to the real world,”; said Isla Young, who coordinates the project statewide. “;Ultimately, the goal is to educate, train and employ a strong home-grown work force instead of having to import talent to fill the gaps.”;

To get familiar with the new technology, Farrington junior Marvhin Sadio is trying out a GPS tool to map the locations of trash cans and their use, in hopes of reducing litter. Classmate Quiroz is focusing on drinking fountains, many of which he says are not functional.

“;While we're learning, we're also doing something positive for the school,”; Quiroz said. “;There's a difference between learning and learning to help, and we're learning to help.”;