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North Bend's Jumbo-tron a giant teaching tool

NORTH BEND — Lights — camera — touchdown Bulldogs!


North Bend senior Andy Huber took a moment to clap — but just a moment.

"Alright, Bailey, you look at the goal posts. No, no, no, Dusty, you look at the kicker," Huber paused. The instant replay he had just recorded finished playing across the scoreboard.

"Dusty, you're live."

North Bend High School's Jumbo-tron displayed a sky-cam close up of the kicker, lining up for a field goal. Once the kick was away, Huber quickly switched the video to the ground-cam, which showed the football flying perfectly between two goal posts.

While its installation in spring 2009 was controversial at first, the Jumbo-tron has fans. Paid for through a $250,000 anonymous donation, the video scoreboard at the south end of the football field was put in place amid district-wide cuts that at one point were forecasted as high as $3 million.

"To me personally, that is a huge slap in the face of every one of the 31 employees," Jim Rose, a North Bend accountant, said in an April 2009 school board meeting. "That project should be stopped immediately."

The money was donated to the district under the stipulation it would be used to buy the Jumbo-tron.

The video scoreboard went up, and North Bend School District's technology specialist, Suzy Callery, immediately saw the potential for student learning.

"Here's a state-of-the-art tool we have access to," Callery said. "Can we use it for curriculum?"

North Bend High School technology teacher Shelly Tilden volunteered to teach students to run the Jumbo-tron, incorporating live video feeds from two cameras with animated graphics and pre-recorded commercials.

She asked for volunteers out of her various technology classes, trained them each how to operate the cameras and the computer system, then turned them loose at the first home football game.

"This is such a great experience for them," Tilden said as she watched her current students work at the tricaster station. "They can go out and get jobs in the real world. They could get jobs at a television station."

With the program now entering its third year, students who have manned the Jumbo-tron in previous years train incoming students in the three stations: the sky camera, the ground camera, and the tricaster station.

The student who mans the tricaster station is in control of the Jumbo-tron. He or she decides which video feed to display when, and whether to put up an advertisement or a graphic. The student also chooses when to record brief segments of the video for the instant replay.

Cameramen shooting live feeds for the Jumbo-tron receive direction from the tricaster via headsets.

"At the last football game, we lost all communication in our headsets," said North Bend senior Thomas Capps. "Then we had to use walkie-talkies and run people back and forth."

The whole Jumbo-tron team remembered the incident.

"The dull games are where nothing goes wrong," junior Bailey Swieck said from his position next to the field.

A half hour later, when the game began, he hustled up and down the sidelines — camera to shoulder — shooting the live video.

"I will be the guy down here walking back and forth right next to the action, getting knocked over, getting hit with everything imaginable," Swieck said. This includes footballs, water bottles, helmets and 180-pound football players.

Up at the sky camera, the Jumbo-tron team shares a box with the opposing coaches. They must remain silent.

They follow the action constantly, working as a backup for the ground camera in case their view is obstructed.

"We try to catch as much of the action as possible," senior JT Wilson said, staring at the camera pointed out the window.

Like most of the students in the Jumbo-tron team, Wilson anticipates a career in technology.

"Since technology is a growing thing in our world," Wilson said, "it is never a bad thing to know more about technology."