NEW COMPUTER OPENS WIDER WORLD TO STUDENT

August 18, 2001 12:00 am
SCHOOL HELP: Imbler student Andrew Nantz and his mother, Sherry, test the new computer. Also testing out the computer's digitized voice were Bill Lanman, Jack DiGiovana and Ralph Patterson of Free Masons. (The Observer/T.L. PETERSEN).
SCHOOL HELP: Imbler student Andrew Nantz and his mother, Sherry, test the new computer. Also testing out the computer's digitized voice were Bill Lanman, Jack DiGiovana and Ralph Patterson of Free Masons. (The Observer/T.L. PETERSEN).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

IMBLER When Andrew Nantz enters the fifth grade in a week and a half, he will have a students dream his own portable laptop computer.

But Nantzs computer will mean much more to him and his teachers than providing him access to the Internet. Nantzs computer can talk to him, help him write school reports, and translate those reports from Braille into English, among other tasks, making it possible for his teachers to read his work without the time lag needed for an aide to translate the work.

The new laptop computer, presented to Nantz and his teachers this week by the Baker Valley Scottish Rite of Free Masonry and the Portland Valley Clark Trust Fund of Scottish Rite of Free Masonry, should help Nantz with his schoolwork for several years.

And it represents a giant step in technology for the visually impaired student that Jack DiGiovanna of the Free Masons describes as a marvelous child.

Nantz has done his schoolwork for several years on a machine called a brailler, a metal, old-fashioned upright typewriter-like device that, through a series of keys, punched Braille letters into heavy paper. Nantz could then reach into the machine, check a few words, type some more, then turn the work over to an interpreter. At best, it was a slow, tedious process.

With the new computerized equipment, Nantz can either read a line of Braille on a special keyboard screen, or the computer will use a digitized voice to read it to him. A tiny earphone makes the computer much more usable in class, and with a keystroke, Nantz can correct his work before having it printed out in English.

The laptop device can be carried from class to class in a small backpack, and is about the size of a school dictionary.

The gift came about because his teachers in Imbler started talking. There wasnt money to buy the specialized equipment, but when the teachers, including Sandy Mills, Marian Montgomery and Peggy Lanman, learned about the equipment, they talked to people they knew.

Lanman happened to bring it up to Bill Lanman who brought it to the attention of Ralph Patterson, chairman of the Baker Valley group.

There was a tremendous need for this special equipment to continue his education, Lanman said. With more than a few phone calls, permission was obtained for the Free Masons to purchase the equipment.

As for Nantz, quickly figuring out the new laptop with a little assistance from his teacher, Dan Putnam, and his aid, Sheila Phelps, the point of the equipment is self-evident.

Ill probably do schoolwork with it, he said.