When trying something new, one of the best ways to gain knowledge and experience is to seek out someone who has done what you’re attempting. That’s exactly what happened with two schools in Wisconsin.
Eau Claire North High School welcomed Wausau West & East High Schools for a day of learning. The focus was on game day operations with their Daktronics equipment.
Wausau had ordered equipment that was arriving the next week. They wanted to hit the ground running, so Eau Claire North set up a day of learning with their students and staff alike. They showed Wausau’s staff what the equipment is capable of, setup tips and just how much the students are capable of doing.
We spoke to both schools to see what their experiences were like. Eau Claire’s Janelle Patenaude, Partnership Coordinator, and Joe Eisenhuth, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director, and Wausau’s Patrick Galligan, Activities and Athletic Director, shared their takeaways from their day of learning.
Q: How did the training come to be? Are you connected somehow?
Pat: There is an initiative in our district to share experiences and resources like this. We went on a field trip and learned from Eau Claire how they put their scoreboards in. They were kind of a big brother, teaching us how to set things up well.
Joe: This is our second year with the system, so we’re still learning. The students have taken on leadership roles with the program. How we all connected was a coach had worked at one location and went to the other, so we used that connection to bridge things and set up the show and tell.
Wausau got to see the value this project provides our students.
They were more than happy to show what they know how to do. If they could show people what they can do with the system every day, I think they would.
Q: What did training encompass?
Joe: Students demonstrated how the cameras, microphones and the show control all work together. This includes instant replays and live game streaming. Our Entertainment Technology class created buttons, various sound and video features for games and summarized what they’ve learned.
Q: How have students adopted the technology? Have they seemed to hold interest?
Pat: Our students have taken this and run with it. They’ve added so many capabilities, like running the national anthem, pregame songs, intro music for the starting lineup, halftime and time out songs, team photos and have done all this in about a month and a half. They’ve been fabulous.
Each school is doing something the other isn’t, so learning from each other as a district initiative is going well.
Janelle: We’ve also been asked to work with another local school, Memorial High School, to help their students learn how to get things rolling.
Q: What types of questions surfaced?
Pat: For us, we were going to receive our equipment soon, so seeing firsthand how the laptop and buttons work was invaluable. We felt much more reassured we could pull it off. We want to make good use of it, so we turned it loose to the students, and they’ve run with it. It’s very valuable to talk with someone who has a similar setup.
Q: What challenges do staff face in establishing these efforts?
Joe: We’ve approached it in a couple of ways. Our entertainment technology class utilizes the Daktronics curriculum as part of the program. Students use what they learn during class time and run the system during our games. An additional responsibility comes through working on a project that is funded by sponsors. Our Daktronics students have also provided show and tells of the system to two of our anchor partners which brings a real-world connection and experience.
Janelle: We’re always looking for ways to engage sponsors to keep them as close to the project as possible to see positive outcomes and what we’ve done with their investment.
A challenge is finding enough time to do everything the students want to do! Our sponsors see the creativity with the “wow” factor. One even said, “I’d hire that student today if I could!”
Q: Some schools offer paid time for students. Is that an option?
Joe: The students are hired as event staff. We call them “Daktronics Event Staff.” Students schedule their work times for different games using a scheduling app: girls and boys basketball, wrestling, graduation ceremonies, etc. They fill out time cards and are paid through our district office, just like our adult event staff. Students have voiced they’d do this whether they are paid or not.
These hands-on experiences with the Daktronics system provides our students with skills that translate into the workplace.
Pat: I gave the kids passes to go to the loft’s computer. They’re up there all the time. They do things on their off time. We’re lucky to have kids of that dynamic and be able to pay them.
Q: What content are you each showing?
Pat: One example is a commercial we produced. We have a sponsor, an ice cream shop, that doesn’t have their own commercials. Our students took some film and had one done in two hours, complete with voice-overs. The sponsor was thrilled with it.
Janelle: We had a sponsor get in touch and ask if we could create a commercial for them. The students were excited and the sponsor was thrilled. He said, “I want to use North High School as an example to other schools.”
Q: What have you learned from the process? Anything surprising?
Janelle: This has opened doors for the students beyond high school. Not all students are as interested in technology, so this gives them a door to expand their knowledge in various areas of study.
Joe: We are very proud of the work that our Daktronics students are doing under the leadership of entertainment technology instructor Jan Bowe. Recently, we’ve had two or three students talk about their work with the equipment leading them to think about related things as a career or college choice after high school. This provides them with another avenue for success and is in line with our state’s initiative of adding internships for high school students.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Joe: We are grateful for the generosity of our sponsors.
They were quick to support this project because they believed it would help our students learn new and different things.
School and community partnerships are vital to the success of our students. This type of support from our sponsors is yet another example of what a great community we live and work in.
Pat: We’re excited for the potentials of how we can use our resources. This spring, a shared video board will be installed at Thom Field (a community football stadium) for Wausau East and West to use. We’re looking forward to the additional location and greater messaging and sponsor exposure. We’re also using our existing equipment for our yearly concert and graduation ceremony.