2006-12-06 / Education

Live from Amherst Middle School

Studio one of a kind
by JESSICA L. FINCH Associate Editor

Rob Zdrojewski prepares a group of Amherst Middle School students for Tech TV Morning Show which goes live at the school every morning at 8:52 a.m. Brad Taube, seventh grade, left, newscaster for the Nov. 30 show reads through the stories, as David Franco, eighth grade, at the podium and Sarah Rice, Lydia Wishman and Shaina Franco, all sixth graders, get ready for the show. Photo by John Rusac Rob Zdrojewski prepares a group of Amherst Middle School students for Tech TV Morning Show which goes live at the school every morning at 8:52 a.m. Brad Taube, seventh grade, left, newscaster for the Nov. 30 show reads through the stories, as David Franco, eighth grade, at the podium and Sarah Rice, Lydia Wishman and Shaina Franco, all sixth graders, get ready for the show. Photo by John Rusac At 8:52 a.m. each school day pupils at Amherst Middle School go on the air live to broadcast the morning announcements.

A pupil-managed television production, "Tech TV Morning Show," uses technology not found in any school in the world.

Over the past three years, technology teacher Robert Zdrojewski designed and built the TV studio, now used for seventh- and eighth-grade video projects, as well as the TV morning show.

Zdrojewski said he conceived the idea of turning his office into a TV studio but the image grew from there, and he received permission from the district to expand into a storage room.

The custom-built studio is split into two rooms. There is the control room, where crew members run the show, with equipment to monitor sound, teleprompting, lights and the technical aspects of the production.

Gabe Radoccia Feurstein, sixth grade, left, Mark Kozak, seventh grade, center, and Nick Ferrara set the technical aspect of the live morning show. Feurstein was managing the audio, Kozak entered the show's data into the computer system and Ferrara produced the Nov. 30 show. Photo by John Rusac Gabe Radoccia Feurstein, sixth grade, left, Mark Kozak, seventh grade, center, and Nick Ferrara set the technical aspect of the live morning show. Feurstein was managing the audio, Kozak entered the show's data into the computer system and Ferrara produced the Nov. 30 show. Photo by John Rusac The other room, the recording studio, is where the newscaster and on-camera talent are. It is a sound-resistant room with double steel stud, insulated walls for acoustics. The blue and green walls allow for broadcasting of images of set designs. Also in the recording studio are televisions for teleprompting.

"We can proudly say we do have the only teacher-built and designed school TV studio like this in the world," Zdrojewski said.

The video software is from Serious Magic and called Visual Communicator (Serious Magic was recently purchased by Adobe). Through the software, the morning show is not only broadcast throughout the middle school but also Amherst High School, Smallwood and Windermere. The show is also streamlined on the Internet at www. amherstschools. org/ webpages/ ATechTV/ video2. cfm.

Zdrojewski spent the past summer completing the TV studio at Amherst Middle School. The technology teacher volunteered his time to create the two-room structure. Zdrojewski spent the past summer completing the TV studio at Amherst Middle School. The technology teacher volunteered his time to create the two-room structure. The TV studio operates on $70,000 worth of software that was donated at no cost to the district. Zdrojewski also was awarded a $2,500 grant from Best Buy, which he used to purchase the DVD burner, flat-panel monitors and other hardware.

In his sixth year of teaching, Zdrojewski said the idea for the studio started out in one 10-foot by 12-foot room, which had been his office. He continued to dream, adding the storage area, and the two rooms are now 12 feet by 14 foot and 18 feet by 20 feet.

He estimates that he put in 1,000 hours of labor on weekends, evenings and school breaks - all which were voluntary.

Through his hands-on work, and relationships with Serious Magic, he created a TV studio that has been featured by the company on its Web site. The attention has led to Zdrojewski being contacted by teachers from as far away as England.

"We became a showcase school for the company. Schools across the world want to know how to get what we have," he said.

Zdrojewski added that he tells schools looking to build a TV studio how to get started and that it doesn't take much.

While seventh- and eighth-graders create a video project in the studio as their curriculum, the morning show is all voluntary.

Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders can be involved in many ways, from producer to newscaster and audio technician to director. They report to the TV studio in the morning, set the announcements into the computer for the teleprompter and run the show a few times before going live at 8:52 a.m.

In addition to the live segment, pupils' video messages are also featured in the show.

Pupils are trained to slow the teleprompter when the newscaster gets behind and to switch cameras when it is time for the late-breaking announcements.

Zdrojewski said the school has been doing a morning announcement show, and the "Tech TV Morning Show" is the evolution of that.

"It truly was a labor of love, and as the classroom teacher working daily in the studio, I now get the reward of seeing kids experience something that no other school currently offers," Zdrojewski said.

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