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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Western’s ResTek hosts event to increase classroom safety

By Alyssa Bruce

In a time of increasing violence in classrooms, ResTek, Western’s residential technology service provider, organized a “hackathon” over the weekend to come up with a solution to create safer schools nationwide.

Lead by ResTek’s system developer, Brent Carey, a combination of students from multiple majors and skill levels attended the event, which ultimately came up with a system capable of locking all doors in any given building at the press of one button.

Brent said that although this technology is not inventive by any means, the materials this group of students is using makes this project groundbreaking.

Senior Alex Covington is a computer science major who attended the event.

“The idea is to create a low-cost open source alternative to things that may already exist,” Covington said. “We are not doing anything new, we are just trying to make it super accessible to schools that might not be able to afford it.”

The university recently requested funds for security upgrades, including electronic locking doors, but only received $1.5 million out of their $7.2 million desired budget proposed in the Capital Project Proposal.

Brent said the hackathon generated ideas to use affordable materials already laying around in the university’s computer science and electronic engineering departments.

He said this device could cost as little as $35 per door, potentially safeguarding an entire high school for as little as $5,000.

Brent explained how this issue was brought to the forefront of his attention by his wife Tess, a high school English teacher of 15 years.

Tess said she has three different doors that enter into her classroom. To lock one door, she has to go out into the hallway. Another one of the doors, which leads to a shared work space, does not even lock and has three other ways of entry.

“I think that this has been a problem that people in education, teachers and administrators have been talking about for a long time,” Tess said. “School shootings are not something that only happen elsewhere; we need to be concerned about it. If we can do something that is affordable and simple for schools, than we should do that.”

Brent said nobody has breached a locked door in a lockdown situation.

He said usually only 4 percent of students are actually in the room that a shooter is in at any given time, so if all other doors could simultaneously lock, the other 96 percent of a student population would be safe.

Senior Jacob Thurber is a vehicle design major who worked on finding a way to connect the electronic device to the actual door. He laughed as he explained how simply great this device is.

“This is the engineers’ perspective, ‘oh wait a minute it takes time to lock doors? Well we can fix that! Let the politicians argue over the complex problems, this is easy,’” Thurber said.

After what seems to be a success for ResTek, Brent said he plans to have more hackathons in the future.

Brent said he is hopeful that this new affordable technology could be implemented in schools by fall 2019.

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