Noah Kaplan’s backpack, filled with binders and books, weighs about 25 pounds.
It would be a lot to haul from one class to the next if not for State College Area High School’s implementation of the Smart Locker System, which the senior created by crunching numbers for the past two years.
Kaplan now has time to stop at his locker and quickly exchange school supplies between classes, a luxury students sometimes weren’t afforded when lockers were assigned based on homerooms in previous school years. His system assigns lockers based on 2,300 student schedules and affects how they navigate State High’s hallways.
“It’s kind of complex,” Kaplan said. “The simple explanation is that when I developed it I made a path algorithm and found the shortest paths for every student going to classes and assigned a locker on the paths, so that they can easily visit their locker.”
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Students have noticed the difference.
“It’s been really nice, because it’s right next to my study hall third period,” senior Renee Olivett said. “I never really could use my locker before, so this is awesome and really cool to see him take action and do something like this.”
Senior Mike Rury now carries one or two books with him at a time instead of loading everything in his backpack during the school day. The lighter load made a healthy impact.
“It was awful to carry so many books around all the time, so much that I noticed when I worked out the last three years during the school year I had back pain,” Rury said. “The only time I didn’t have a little back pain was in the summer when we were out of school, and I think being able to take the load off my back between periods has made the difference.”
Kaplan said he can’t take all of the credit.
Retired district director of technology Tom Mincemoyer helped him develop the system’s concept. Statistics teacher Bill Harrington advised him on his research. And State High Principal Scott DeShong supervised the project.
“A lot of people made this possible, and I thought most of my time would be spent coming up with the system, but that accounted for less than half of my time,” Kaplan said. “The rest of the time I spent meeting with teachers and counselors and administrators to make it a reality and to make sure it would impact students the way I wanted it to impact them.”
Kaplan won’t give away any of Smart Locker System’s secrets, because he wants to monetize it by selling his services to other school districts. He’ll make his services available on slockers.com Jan. 1.
The website is almost complete, and Kaplan is collaborating with Superintendent Bob O’Donnell, who taught computer science, to create a video testimonial for the website.
“It’s a pretty complex problem to solve, which is how can you try to improve locker locations for 2,300 students?” O’Donnell said. “By listening to Noah and his approach to the problem I learned within the first 10 minutes of the conversation that he was a pretty capable student and resourceful problem solver.”
Kaplan was inspired to use his love for computer science to program games in eighth grade, but decided it was better to devote his time to solving real-world problems in high school.
He said he’s already taken on a new project — creating an app to improve communication between lupus disease patients and physicians.
He hopes higher education will provide him with a basis for solving more problems around the world.
“What I’m looking for in a college isn’t just gaining an advanced knowledge in computer science,” Kaplan said. “I want a broad education to reach different areas of society to have a part in solving other problems with computer science.”