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Re: wwwtg: Re: [seul-edu] Version 0.6.0 of AUC
On Thu, 6 Jan 2000, Randy Edwards wrote:
> Congrats David. I assume you're one of the original cast behind AUC,
> correct? If so, could you give me a rundown on the design process of AUC?
> I've found educators just amazed at it, but haven't been able to give them
> many details on it.
> So I guess what I'm doing is giving you an open invitation to ramble on
> at length about how AUC came about, and especially the roles students played
> in its creation.
Thanks for your interest. I am one of the original cast and would be
happy to tell the story of AUC's creation, which is actually quite an
The whole story starts in the spring of 1997 at Montgomery Blair High
School in Silver Spring, MD. First, to clarify a few things, Blair has
two "magnet" programs for talented students. One of these programs is
called the CAP (Communications Arts Program) and the other program is the
Blair Math/Science/Computer Science magnet. At that time, a CAP junior,
Ben Krefting (who is now at Univ. of MD) was working on a project called
the "Change Project" for media and communications teacher Chris Lloyd.
The point of the assignment was to come up with an project to bring about
change in some area. Ben's (and his group's) idea was to create a
web-based system for educational collaboration for the CAP program at
Blair. The assignment was to just generate and plan the idea, not
actually implement it. However, Ben was excited about making the prospect
a reality, and thus in June, he sent out a call for help to make the idea
I responded to his email, because I had a good amount of web and CGI
experience (I was a sophomore at the time). The idea sounded neat, so
that summer I began work on "CAPOnline". It was meant as a special
purpose application for Blair, served over the web, where each class in
the CAP program (about 20 of them) would have a web page that could be
automatically updated. The page would have automated discussion forums
and a class calendar. Since I was the only one involved that had much
technical knowledge, I was writing all the code for this. It was written
in shell script, was very slow, and was difficult to read. However, it
was quick to develop, because shell script can get you pretty far with a
few lines. That fall (of 1997) enough of the system was ready that we
created accounts for all the CAP students (200 or so) and allowed them
onto the system. Throughout that school year, CAPonline became fairly
popular with the students and teachers in that group and was well used.
Also, I was continually adding features such as some special
administrative functions to organize the student run TV/radio station in
the CAP Program, WBNC. A simple web-based e-mail utility was built-in
that would allow communication between CAPonline users. CAPonline is
still accessable at http://cap.mbhs.edu/ (you can login with username:
guest, password: caponline) but is getting phased out.
Another major player at the time was Ivan Askwith, who set a lot of vision
for the project with ideas of where it needed to go and what features it
needed. He was in my graduating class and is now a freshman at NYU.
At the time, we had a number of local media articles written up:
The Washington Post
Silver Spring Gazette
Since there was a lot of good publicity for CAPonline in those days, I
decided that expansion was inevitable. The whole school wanted to use the
system, and maybe other schools, and the current code could not handle a
load of more than 20-30 classes and 400 or so people.
So, in June 1998, I started coding AUC from scratch. I decided it needed
to be fast, flexible, and customizable. Progress was slow because C isn't
an efficient language to write in, but AUC was making progress. The
school started using it slowly during the 1998-99 school year, and called
it BEN (Blair Educational Network). During that time I was the "Executive
Director" for the Internet Division of BNC, the student-run TV/Radio
station at Blair. BNC was the class period in which I could devote time
to the deployment of AUC at Blair. I also had a team of students to help
me. Chris Lloyd was the faculty advisor for the organization. Another
important player here was Peter Hammond, the school's User Support
Specialist, who was a genuine supporter and facilitator for the
student-grown unix/sysop culture at Blair. With all this interest, the
project gained a lot of momentum in that year. As a senior, I also saw it
as my last year to make a big contribution.
At the end of the year, the Blair baton was passed on to Jesse Kovach and
Mark Forrer, who as seniors in the 1999-2000 school year, would be
continuing AUC deployment at Blair, while I would continue development of
the code in college.
Ivan and I decided that we wanted to enter the ThinkQuest
(www.thinkquest.org) competition with the project. So we geared up for a
public release of the code in August of 1999, when the contest deadline
was. At that time, I released version 0.5 and 0.5.1. We didn't do well
in the contest, largely because it is intended for education _content_
projects rather than educational technologies.
Anyway, accepting that loss and moving on, I moved the web site to
sourceforge in December 1999, and released version 0.6.0 on January 1,
So that's the story. Sorry if it got long, but a third of the way through
I decided this was good material for the website, so I made it as complete
as possible. Thanks for asking the question, it forced me to reflect on a
lot of the important steps made in the past.
David Moore California Institute of Technology