MILLBURN, NJ - going into the 2018-2019 school year with the new Common Lunch schedule, one of Millburn High School's key concerns was how to regulate who can leave the building. Previously, students in grades nine through 11 were divided into two different 30-minute lunch periods, and seniors had the privilege to leave the building during the entire lunch hour.

With this school year’s new schedule, all students get one hour to eat, so there would be no way to efficiently make sure only seniors left the building. To solve this problem, a group of students from the school’s Computer Science Implementation Initiative (CSII) were tasked with creating “senior kiosks.”

Working throughout the summer, the group of students constructed a cost-effective system in which seniors have to sign out of the building using their student IDs, allowing the administration to make sure only seniors leave. The project was led by Javier Coindreau, Joshua Kirshenbaum, Alden Lamp, Austin Peng, and David Shustin.

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While the system has so far been effective and efficient, the process of getting to this point was not quite so simple. Dr. Robert Keenan, the vice principal of Millburn High School, understood that there would be a problem with the new schedule, and decided to ask the CSII if they would be able to fulfill the need for regulation.

Up until this point, the program had been working on project management, so not only was this an opportunity for growth, it was also what the students needed to prove the credibility of their program. As David Ferrell, the CSII advisor said, “everything they did led up to it.”

Javier Coindreau described the project, saying, “when [the administration] saw that we were able to do project management and plan out things and not just go for the first thing we came up with, they noticed giving it to us was fine.”

On top of their schoolwork, these students built their first prototype in early June. Once school was out, they started working around the clock to get the systems done in enough time to test for September. Peng, one of the student team members explained, “we spent multiple days a week, multiple hours a day assembling the pieces, looking for errors, rechecking things.”

Beyond advisory help to communicate with the administration from Farrell, the students worked independently. They went to Home Depot to purchase their project materials, managed their $10,000 budget, and worked to meet their deadline. Alden Lamp illustrated the stressful situation, “there was a lot of running doubt through the office of whether or not we would be able to get it.”

Even with the challenges in front of them, the students rose to the occasion and delivered 3 working kiosks in a reasonable time, only using $4,000 dollars. As Farrell put it, there was extensive testing of the final systems. The students had to make sure that students with valid IDs and matching pictures could leave, that any invalids would be flagged, and that the system could handle an influx of activity.

Currently, the kiosks are adeptly functioning on a daily basis after the many months of problem solving and testing. The CSII achieved their goals of creating an effective system that saved the school money and proving their capabilities. Now, the CSII has started working on new projects, many of which are in conjunction with various administrative departments.

Shustin described several of those projects, including a self-playing guitar, a financial analysis system, an app to connect students with tutors in the school, and a terrarium as a final project for AP Biology students.

And even outside of technology, Dr. Keenan is completely in support of students getting directly involved in improving the school, like the CSII did. “I think the best experiences are practical experiences. Why not take the knowledge that they’ve learned and apply it to something that’s functional?”