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April 13, 1999

The other day I spent some time, listening to an exciting array of plans being made by a local committee for the greater utilization of technology to educate young people in the Perry schools at every level. You cannot avoid being astonished by the possibilities of such things. Each of us has been profoundly touched in many ways by the modern miracle of computers and other electronic marvels. Just think about it.

For example, Billy Ray Richardson, a Perry product who is now deeply involved with the field of electronics, made a presentation to the local Rotary club recently. He discussed the strides being made in precision farming and the role being played by the company he represents, Site Specific Technology (SST) Development Group, based in Stillwater. Richardson is a training specialist for the firm. Using aerial photography, technicians can create models of farm fields on a desktop computer. With this they demonstrate portions of a particular farm acreage and show where lime, pH level or some nutrient is out of balance -- too high or too low. A seven-bin truck equipped with the proper technology can then travel over the surface and administer whatever is needed. The truck driver need only drive; electronic equipment operates the controls and decides when to apply the correct amount as the truck passes over a specific area. Incidentally, he illustrated his remarks with the use of a slide projector linked by cable to his laptop computer on a table before him. Another new use of technology.

At the same Rotary meeting, a friend told me about his use of a golf cart recently at Shangri-La Lodge. The cart was equipped with GPS (Global Positioning System). Those devices are commonly found in airplanes, but golf carts? In a plane, the GPS pinpoints a pilot's precise position in relation to coordinates. In golf carts, my friend said, they tell the operator (the golfer) where he is, traces a map of the particular hole he's playing, gives the distance in yards to the tee, and even suggests which club to use.

Those are only two of the thousands of applications in our daily life today. Most of them are for something slightly more meaningful than a game of golf. At the school technology meeting, we were shown several things with the use of a giant TV projector. Included were: how computers are used to demonstrate for students the dissection of a frog; magnifications that once could only be seen with powerful equipment; and any number of tools to help provide our young people with the type of education they must have to stay abreast of the times.

The thing is, all this costs money. A lot of money. It is far beyond the reach of budgets of most school districts in Oklahoma, where teachers wages already are at the bottom of the barrel. The local technology committee, composed of several Perry school faculty members and local community leaders, has determined that approximately $500,000 -- a half million -- is needed to supply the tools necessary for the program here. About half that amount already has been donated or pledged, and now an effort is being made to raise the remaining $250,000.

Now our aid is being solicited. It's up to the rest of us to make some response. We've all read interviews with centenarians and other aged folks in which they tell about the remarkable changes they have witnessed in their life span. We'll be able to tell some eye-poppers ourselves one of these days because technology is creating almost daily revolutions in the way we see and do things. Our kids and grandkids need to be properly prepared for the world they'll be dealing with. Let's make sure our Perry youngsters get the best there is. Contact Les Justus, Perry high school principal, or Dr. Donna Kapka, who headed up this committee, to see how you can help. It's going to take the best effort we can give it.