Broadcasting students at Cleveland High School are about to have some high-flying fun with the purchase of a new 13-foot video blimp.
Jon Souders, CHS Broadcasting teacher, presented the blimp’s specifications at a recent Board of Education meeting. He sought their approval to purchase the more than $5,000 blimp. He said a donation by local businessman Allan Jones would cover the cost of the unmanned, camera-mounted airship.
Board members agreed to accept the donation on a 6-1 vote with Steve Morgan uttering the lone “No.”
Morgan expressed his wariness over accepting a donation which could have strings attached.
“This is going to open a gate. Are we ready for that?” Morgan asked his fellow board members.
Murl Dirksen, board member, asked Souders if there were any stipulations attached. Souders said there had never been any stipulations. The CHS broadcasting department will be free to use the blimp for whatever purpose it sees fit.
The only indication of Jones’ donation will be the “Buy Here, Pay Here,” logo of his car dealership.
Morgan said he thought accepting the donation would lead to instances of future donations, not necessarily from Jones, being given with strings attached or for advertisements.
Board members George Meacham and Richard Shaw said the Raiders’ scoreboard already offered forms of advertisement for local businesses.
Souders later explained how the blimp will benefit the broadcasting department.
“... By providing the students real-world equipment to operate and a new angle of video coverage for the audience to view,” Souders said. “It will also allow the broadcasting students to utilize the video to enhance their other products when they need an aerial shot of a building, field or subject.”
According to eblimp.com, the aerial device can reach a speed of more than 25 mph and has a run time between 15 to 90 minutes, “depending on speed and airborne cargo.”
Colleges, universities and companies around the country have bought small blimps from the same company CHS will buy its from. Souders pointed out the high school will purchase the same model blimp used at colleges like Louisiana State University, “Not a smaller, less professional model.”
Jones, in a later interview, said his donation is meant to celebrate the success of Souders’ broadcasting class.
“The school’s broadcasts are the most watched in the nation. It has always been my desire to help Cleveland High lead the nation in streamcasting,” Jones said. “...Look at the great things that are happening. I believe this blimp is the next step in technology and the students are going to be very successful.”
Souders explained students will learn how to pilot the remote-controlled blimp in teams. As he said, one student will “pilot” the blimp while another will operate the camera on the bottom of the blimp via remote.
He said the effects will be two-fold. “This will develop teamwork skills for the students, as well as the technical skills of operating a remote camera.”
Jones expressed his interest in CHS students copying what is being done at the University of Tennessee’s Saturday football games.
“The college partners with businesses to promote sports,” Jones said. “When a local high school leads the way in technology or is No. 1 in anything, it makes the community feel good and makes the students feel good.”
Continued Jones, “Success spreads throughout the whole community. This blimp is also important because on Fridays when the away teams come in to play Cleveland, they are going to see the blimp and it will make an impression on them.”
“They are going to know we mean business!”
The blimp will be used for the schools’ athletic events, like soccer, baseball and football, but will also be used at other venues as well.
“It will also be used for graduations and other outdoor events,” Souders explained. “Cleveland High School Broadcasting Department hopes to use the blimp to obtain footage of other schools in the district for promotional and educational purposes.”
Souders thanked Jones and the car dealership for the donation. He also thanked Renny Whittenbarger, Career and Technological Education director; Dr. Martin Ringstaff, city schools director; and the school board for their support of CHSLive.