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Middle school student makes his own teleprompter for classmates

by Don Baumann

Even Bill Gates had to start somewhere in his computer education.

And chances are he didn’t start much earlier in life than Daniel Haanpaa, 16, who just completed ninth grade at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.

A year ago, Daniel took on a request to design a teleprompter software program for the school’s video production lab, so students might read their stories off a TV monitor rather than a piece of paper while on camera.

After researching the idea last summer, Daniel began writing the program in the fall. He did rewrites and tests until the software, which he entitled “Teleprompter for Windows, Version 1.5,” was ready when the school’s video productions classes began in January of this year.

After a semester of grueling field trials, Daniel’s work has withstood the test. The teleprompter program is now a mainstay in the studios of “Panther News” at Pau-Wa-Lu. Students can type their stories on their computers at home, save them to a floppy disk, then scroll them on a computer screen using Daniel’s software.

Daniel’s interest in computers extends back at least 12 years, according to parents Diane and Mike Haanpaa, Gardnerville residents for the past 2-1/2 years.

“We were loaned an old Tandy 1000 when Daniel was about 4 years old, and he learned it pretty fast,” says Diane Haanpaa. “He always wanted to know how it worked.”

Daniel pored over computer magazines as early as age 7 to explore the workings of computers.

“I began learning how to program from reading a tutorial on programming in basic,” Daniel remembers.

Adults who recognized Daniel’s fascination with computers furthered his early training, and his parents upgraded his equipment as much as possible. Larry Blatell, a family friend and owner of High Sierra Technologies in Truckee, taught young Daniel about operating systems, networking and hardware at his shop.

Today, Daniel helps out his father Mike with computer work at NuSystems in Gardnerville, where Mike works as the alarm division manager. At Pau-Wa-Lu, he also served as a teacher’s assistant for technology teacher Jim Abbott.

“Daniel installed hardware and upgrades for workstations,” Abbott said. In addition to computers, Daniel enjoys bike riding, family activities, and is active in the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So how will computers change in the future?

“They’ll become more user friendly,” Daniel said, with simpler versions of complex programs being developed. Daniel plans to be part of that development; he’d like to attend either the University of Nevada, Reno or Las Vegas once he finishes high school at Douglas. Bill Gates may receive competition from Daniel someday.

Although he’d like to become Microsoft-certified, Daniel does not plan to seek employment at the computer giant.

“Some of their programs are embarrassingly buggy,” he explained.

– Don Baumann teaches at PWLMS.