Computer Students Win Slew Of Regional Awards

High school’s four-year technical program yields college credits, certificates, awards


Ty McGinnis-Kennedy checks out the type of memory before going back to the server and placing it in a memory slot.

Ty McGinnis-Kennedy checks out the type of memory before going back to the server and placing it in a memory slot. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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The design team opened the envelope as the clock started ticking.

The hotel wanted to set up a computer network — with connections in the rooms, stations at the front desk connected to a national registration system and several computers for guests in the lobby.

So, now, how do you network the computers? Do you need a server? What computers should you buy? Should you have a wireless hub? How do you hook in securely to the national registration network? How should you wire the rooms? Do you need a high speed connection? What will the hardware cost? What software should you put on the machines? Should you rely on cloud computing?

Remember — you need to list all the hardware and software and estimate the costs — and you have exactly 20 minutes.

A team of advanced computer students from Payson High School not only made the deadline, but they outperformed 14 other teams — many of them from much larger schools.

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Anthony Smith, left, and Nikolas Curi confer with teacher Bud Evans as they examine the inner workings of a server they seem to have problems with on a regular basis.

But the first-place award for the design team was just one of 21 trophies the 30 Payson computer students brought home from the Feb. 9 Arizona Eastern Regional Conference in Tucson — a dry run for the statewide conference.

Computer teacher Bud Evans, who learned his computer skills during his 20-plus year career in the U.S. Air Force, where he ended up teaching at a technical school in Mississippi, has nurtured the computer techs of the future through the high school’s technical training program.

Some 80 students start taking computer classes in their freshman year and a relative handful make it through the final course in their senior year. Most by then have 15 hours of college credit and computer certifications that make it possible to get a job even if they don’t go on to college.

The vocational program gets its funding through NAVIT, a federally-funded work training program. NAVIT also provides money for the students to attend various state and national conferences.

Moreover, Payson High School has one of the most active Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapters in the state. The chapter just finished an all-out effort to sell lollipops, which raised an impressive $2,000 to donate to the March of Dimes. The FBLA chapter in Payson has about 100 members, while the organization boasts 250,000 members nationwide.

FBLA sponsors the regional and statewide tournaments, where students face grueling tests of their knowledge and innovation. Payson will send a full team to the state finals on April 18, where some 3,000 students will compete for a chance to attend the National Conference in Florida in June.

The competitions involve detailed technical knowledge, the ability to work under pressure and the skill with which the teams present their ideas.

“They make presentations, take tests that pose 100 questions in an hour,” said Evans.

“Two years ago, the design team (from Payson) went to the nationals and won the eighth position. I’m hoping this team this year will do even better. I think they’ll be in the top five, if not the top three.”

Recruiting students into the computer program and clearing the space in their crowded schedules poses a challenge — especially now that the high school schedule has cut the number of classes most students take from seven to six.

“If the students want to take advanced placement classes, then it’s a little difficult. When we went down to a six-period day, the kids had to make some choices: Sometimes they can’t squeeze in both — advanced placement and computers.”

Moreover, the high school is working on an agreement with Gila Community College to expand its vocational offerings, complete with dual credit. Evans hopes to increase the number of college credits for students who take all four classes in the program from 15 to 20 hours, which will mean increasing the number of hours in each class.

Evans estimates that he spends about 500 hours a year outside of class working with the computer students and the FLBA chapter, including constant fund-raising and conferences.

But the father of two loves the job — and loves Payson.

He got his credential through a program financed by the Veterans Administration that helps retired military people go into education.

He grew up in Montana and once he discovered Payson while visiting his parents in Scottsdale, he devoted himself to finding a job here — calling every week or two for months hoping a job would open up. Four years ago, he made the switch.

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Anthony Smith looks in a textbook for a solution concerning a problem he is having with a computer. Ty McGinnis-Kennedy confers with Mr. Bud Evans, as Nikolas Curi and Dillon Walker run simulations on their computers.

“I enjoy this a lot more. It doesn’t have the formalities of the military and the customs and courtesies we had to follow — but it’s just a lot more enjoyable.”

He said the program gives him a chance to mentor students through their four years in the computer classes.

“Some are more prepared than others. And it really depends on their home. But the difference is, no matter what’s going on at home or anything else, if they’re willing to learn, they can do anything. It breaks my heart when they don’t want to take what I can teach them — if they will just read and study and pay attention they can learn so much.”

Computer students win awards

Students from Payson High School’s Future Business Leaders of America won a slew of first- and second-place awards at the Arizona Eastern Regional Conference in Tucson on Feb. 9. Some 700 students competed and the 30 Payson computer students who attended won 21 trophies. Among the winners:  

• Amber Bucanek (12th-grade), third place, Technology Concepts

• Christian Buskirk (12th-grade), first place, Network Design Team

• John Buskirk (10th-grade), first place, Introduction to Technology; and first place, Business Math

• Nikolas Curi (11th-grade), first place, Network Design Team

• Nicole Devaney (11th-grade), third place, Business Communications

• Trenton Hodges (10th-grade), second place, Introduction to Technology

• Ty McGinnins-Kennedy (12th-grade), first place, Computer Problem Solving; and first, Cyber Security; and first, Networking Concepts

• Austin Shannon (11th-grade), third place, Networking Concepts

• Joseph Smith (10th-grade), second place, Technology Concepts

• Dillon Walker (11th-grade), first place, Network Design Team; and first, Technology Concepts; and second, Computer Problem Solving

• Nick Waite, Nicole Devaney and Josh Wade, first place, WII Battle of the Bands

• Perla Guereque and Dania Morales, second place, Minute to Win It game

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