Bodkin Elementary boasts new, bigger, $17,000 computer lab Student candy sales, fund raising paid much of the bill

November 08, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Students at Bodkin Elementary School in Pasadena will be introduced to the Cadillacs of the computer world today, and they'll have the satisfaction of seeing exactly what was done with money from the candy bar and book sales they worked on so hard last year.

The school computer lab -- once equipped with 14 outdated Commodores, television sets for monitors and one printer -- has moved down the hall and is now a $17,000 technological wonder.

In place are 14 IBM-compatible computers, floppy-disk drives, six printers and kitchen counters that serve as desktops, so an entire class can be in the lab at the same time with some students working on computers and some working at their desks.

Before moving, the lab could hold only half a class.

The computer classes will be taught by parents, coached by Debbie Baker, coordinator of computer volunteers.

Credit for the technological transformation goes to Pasadena resident Ronald L. Spieker, a diesel mechanic for the Mass Transit Administration and self-described "computer junkie" who has devoted hundreds of hours to the project, said Principal Rosemarie Thompson.

"He's a godsend. And he doesn't even have children at the school," Mrs. Thompson said. "He has been a diamond for us."

Mr. Spieker's two daughters -- Hilary, 12, and Elena, 8 -- attend St. Jane Francis Catholic School in Riviera Beach.

During a swim meet at a community pool, he recalls, "A woman walked up to me and said they were looking for people with

computer savvy to serve on a committee, so I volunteered two days a week last year. I love computers."

With Mr. Spieker's help, the school set specifications and ended up with essentially custom-built machines: IBM-compatible 386 DX40S computers with high resolution monitors.

The money for the computers and two of the six printers came from fund-raisers, including a recycling campaign, a piano concert, a book fair and candy sales. Four of the printers were paid for by the county Board of Education.

"We wanted to get something that would last," said Mr. Spieker, who already is looking at the next phase of the project -- adding 16 computers and three printers.

"My wish list? A multimedia option, so that you could set up a PC with a CD Rom drive and stereo sound card. Then you could install a 23-volume encyclopedia that would include sound bites of Kennedy's speech, the speech from the moon landing and even make the sounds of a bird," he said.

Mr. Spieker works the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift for the MTA, but is up, and often at the school, very early at least two days a week.

"I'm a product of the Anne Arundel County schools," said Mr. Spieker, explaining why he volunteers at the public school. "I'm a graduate of Glen Burnie High. I'm like a farmer who puts back what you take out of the land."

At the elementary school age, Mr. Spieker said, children "are like sponges.

"In my day it wasn't important to learn about computers, but if you're not computer-literate today you have one strike against -- you already," he said. "You can't start teaching them about computers in the ninth or 10th grade and expect them to absorb all this technology. But you can give them a head start now by trying to show them keyboarding and basic reading and writing skills."

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