Music pulsated from a boom box in the hallway and students expertly navigated through a flood of blue cables.
Brainerd High School sophomores and juniors, part of the Cisco Networking Academy from BHS, combined their efforts to install a data network last weekend at the new Lakes Area Senior Activity Center on Kingwood Street.
The work allows students to gain experience for later use when looking for skilled jobs in the networking labor market.
That work meant using hammers to pound access through ceiling panels, testing connections and running the vibrant blue cables for the network installation. Students worked with MicroNet Inc., Brainerd, and Northland Communications, Brainerd, to install the network, which includes a 26-workstation lab.
Students volunteered for two eight-hour days of installation work. Before the weekend efforts, the networking class made several site visits to check the area and determine what materials would be needed. For the crew working last Saturday afternoon, the efforts included a few remarks about being tired after nearly two steady days on the project. But students appeared in good humor and worked well together.
Jill Waller, Lakes Area Senior Activity Center executive director, said the former nursing home probably rocked through the weekend as it never had before. There is no deadline for the senior center move from downtown Brainerd to Kingwood Street, although Waller said they hope to be relocated before next winter. To save money, much of the work is being completed with volunteer efforts.
Waller said the volunteer high school students were knowledgeable, interested and not afraid to ask questions. She noted students brainstormed on the project together and worked through problems.
"It was neat to watch," Waller said.
Twelve students and three teachers took part in the two-day project last weekend. All told, the project will include about 300 donated hours. Students also volunteered to come in on their Easter vacation on Monday to complete the networking, which is expected to take about half a day.
Project instructor Chris Hunter said the rate for that type of work can run between $25 and $70 per hour. The entire installation is being done free of charge. Christopher Serani, a member of the networking academy class, said the hope is that the needed computer equipment to complete this project will come from donations by area businesses and organizations.
Jim Reed, teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Brainerd, was also on hand to assist last weekend. He noted the community could continue to benefit from the volunteer students and their abilities. Reed will be one of the Cisco instructors next year.
Reed said: "These kids will be looking for more class opportunities like this to do more projects."
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