Students engineer aid for teacher with shrinking vocal cords


Krissy Koh

Recently, the Ignition club paired with senior Ian Schneider to make a speaking aid as well as a video setup on YouTube for Statistics and Calculus BC teacher, Jim McGuirk. McGuirk’s vocal cords have been slowly shrinking due to voice projection, and this microphone helps to slow down the process so that he doesn’t have to project his voice. Students got involved and started planning around November of 2018. The aid was in use starting the third week of this school year. 

From left to right: McGuirk, Zhang, Schneider, Jonathan Liu. Photo courtesy of Erik Zhang

“We’re doing it for Mr. McGuirk. He’s a good friend of mine. Also, I kind of like the idea, just being able to help out a teacher and make something cool,” Schneider said.

Erik Zhang, president of the Ignition club, said he originally planned to only get speakers, a microphone, and a transcription of the class. Over time, with more help from his club members, the idea evolved into more of a project. It turned into a YouTube channel so that students could look at the board as well as listen to the lecture with YouTube’s caption option simultaneously.

Student attaches cord to ceiling for speaker. Photo courtesy of Erik Zhang

The headset has an attached microphone which is connected through bluetooth to two speakers that project his voice to the class. The microphone is also connected to the software and then is automatically transcribed onto McGuirk’s computer. McGuirk could then title the video, add a date, and then start the lecture. 

McGuirk acknowledges the technicality and effort used by the students.

“I’m very thankful. I know they spend a lot of time on this, and it’s not as easy as I thought it was but they stuck with it and kept trying,” McGuirk said.

At the end of class, after McGuirk stops recording, the video is automatically uploaded onto YouTube and saved on his hard drive for 24 hours in case the video doesn’t upload correctly. The Ignition club also coded options for McGuirk to upload videos through his phone through a scanner on his computer that he can scan through his iPhone camera, and then immediately have the video on his channel.

Liu holds equipment for aid. Photo courtesy of Erik Zhang

Since starting the project in November, the Ignition club and Schnieder have continued to edit  the software in order to finalize the project before this school year. 

At first, the camera was set up on a desk in front of the class but later they decided to move the camera on the ceiling because it would make the footage smoother. However,  after McGuirk’s classroom was moved, the project was set back. It was finally put into action about a month into this school year. Since then, the club has worked to perfect lighting, camera focus, and still go in frequently to edit the code and tweak the software and plans for their future ideas.

“We’ve been talking to the principal and the PTA to get more funding to spread the aid out among other teachers. Current plans are to go to certain TrigH classes and potentially Alg2H classes next year. At that point it’s solely about the live streaming capabilities,” Zhang said. 

Ultimately, the goal is to help students that have missed class or need homework clarifications.