VAN NUYS : Computer Bulletin Board Is Proposed

In the past, students used bulletin boards to communicate with each other, pitted pieces of cork dotted with news of bake sales, football games and pep rallies.

In the near future, they will communicate in cyberspace with computer bulletin boards, networks filled with virtual encyclopedias, electronic versions of the school newspaper and message centers where students and faculty can communicate via e-mail.

It may sound complicated, but it's the ambitious goal of six bright students at Van Nuys High School who have been working for several months to bring their school into the information age.

"We think it's very important to associate yourself with computers," said Jason Novak, 14, the youngest member of the group developing a computer bulletin board system, or BBS, for their campus.

The reasons are simple.

"Making this for our school will provide a great deal of information for our teachers and students," said Vladimir Estrin, 16. "There's a great deal of information you can access with a computer."

Although it currently exists only as a proposal, the group would like to create a network with six telephone lines where Van Nuys students and faculty could scan job listings, access the Internet and read and write messages on topics such as politics, space exploration and the environment.

To the boys behind the project, computers will play a vital role in stimulating students' minds in the future.

"Information is the core of education and books and videos are not going to cut it any more," said Andy Kim, 17.

The group took the computer bulletin board idea to Van Nuys High School's faculty in April, delivering a slickly produced videotape presentation that was enthusiastically received.

"We had 120 people with their mouths open," recalled teacher Kevin Henry, the group's sponsor.

Their goal is to have the system in place for the fall semester though they admit that they still have to acquire the estimated $5,000-$10,000 in computer equipment needed to operate it.

"At this point we don't have any equipment whatsoever," Jason Novak said.

The students hope to persuade hardware and software manufacturers to donate the necessary items, but say that letters sent to industry giants such as Microsoft have yielded little response.

"We haven't succeeded a lot," said Gerald Lee, 16, but the group remains optimistic.

According to Henry, the students will be responsible for the network once it's running and while many of them are a few years shy of graduation he's already making plans to keep it going after they're gone.

"I've told them that they have to train their replacements," he said.

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