Above: The Elkhorn Area High School Broadcasting Club has grown in membership and the amount of events it livestreams as a result of COVID-19 and crowd restrictions. Among the club members are, from the left: (front row) Ethan Taylor, Abby Madl, Reid Ruth, Alexander Ruiz, Gina Rand, (back) Evan Christman, David Redford and Matthew Harvey. 

From the left: EAHS Broadcasting Club members Lexi Rode, Gracy Ivey and Taryn Shawback help livestream a variety of high school events for access by the greater community.

School’s Broadcasting Club steps up its livestreams of events

By Heather Ruenz

At a time when staying connected can be quite a challenge, the Elkhorn Area High School Broadcasting Club is not only succeeding but growing by leaps and bounds.

Gina Rand, a computer specialist for the Elkhorn Area School District, serves as the advisor for the broadcasting club, which she said recently began live streaming all of the events at EAHS in response to crowd restrictions because of the coronavirus.

And when she says all of the events, she’s not kidding. The club had 75 events scheduled to stream for the winter sports season along with other school requests such as holiday concerts.

“We have a group of students that have come together to create ‘productions’…  YouTube streams for all students, parents and community members to be able to follow district events,” Rand said.

She said how the club began is a funny story.

“My daughter played Elkhorn basketball beginning in 2016 and my dad did not live in the Elkhorn community. Originally, I began streaming the games so he could watch her play,” Rand explained.

She said it was a pretty big hit with the basketball families that had similar situations, and family and friends who live out of town loved watching the games.

“I had a few students ask if they could help with commentating, cameras and running the computer,” she said.

The following year, Dan Kiel, who was the athletic director at the school at that time, asked if they wanted to make it an official club.

The rest, as they say, is history, and Rand has been the advisor since.

 

It takes a team

“It does tie into my job in the school district as a computer technician although I have had a lot of help from more experienced people along the way,” she said.

Rand said she has a great support network for what she describes as her panic moments including Jake Rasmussan – the EAHS computer technician who was involved in broadcasting as a student at Burlington High School; Randy Dricken – the director of the IT department; Travis Osborne – elementary schools computer technician who helps with hardware issues; and Ed Kist – a friend and member of the community who is very knowledgeable with the audio/visual equipment used by the club.

“These guys are on speed dial for my panic moments just before we kick off a broadcast. Also, Rebecca Blom, media specialist at the high school, has been very supportive of purchasing equipment for the media center and sharing it with the Broadcasting Club,” Rand said.

The club tries to accommodate requests from any team, club or presentation in the school district that would like to have an event streamed, according to Rand. This includes concerts, meetings, forensics and sporting events. Some of the club’s bigger events this year included EAHS Honors Night, prom events, the 2020 Graduation and all of the homecoming festivities.

Taryn Shawback broadcasts an Elks football game at the high school last fall.

A humble beginning

Rand said the club has evolved over time.

“Originally, we had one computer stream setup and only streamed the girls varsity basketball games. Once we became an official club we slowly started to stream more events including sports and concerts,” she said.

This year, in response to COVID-19, the club has expanded its program.

“We now have enough equipment to live stream four events at one time. There are nights when we have high school basketball, wrestling, swimming and gymnastics all in one evening,” Rand said.

She said the students involved are enthusiastic and the club has grown to 10 members after being reduced to one student along with Rand last fall after some former members had graduated in the spring of 2020.

“We quickly we figured out that we were going to need more help and I have to give a shout out to my husband, Rick, who has put in endless hours of lugging around AV equipment, streaming games, helping students and completely supporting me streaming events for many years… and never complains,” Rand said.

She said one student in particular – David Reford, a freshman – was outstanding in helping with all the fall streaming before the club membership built back up.

Incentive for students

After what she describes as a “crazy, busy week” of streaming during homecoming, Rand said she went to John Handel, the current EAHS athletic director, who helped find solutions on how the club could step up its streaming for the winter season.

“The district purchased additional equipment and allowed us to pay students for their streaming time in the evenings. This was a huge incentive for a great group of students to apply for the 10 positions we decided to make available,” she said.

Rand said she’s very pleased with the enthusiastic, fun, and hardworking group of students who were hired.

Rand said the current setup requires one student to stream an event.  In instances where they decide to have additional broadcasting features – commentating, advertising, special effects or the use of multiple cameras – they add additional students to that event.

“We actually stepped it up a bit for the varsity football games in the fall with a couple of cameras, fly-in graphics with the player’s profile information and some commentating,” Rand said.

The club does its best to stream as many events as possible to the Elkhorn Area High School YouTube channel, which has more than 900 subscribers who are notified of our live stream events and can easily access the broadcasts. Rand said the broadcasting team watches analytics and takes pride in high numbers of viewers (they drew 300 to 700 viewers on some of fall sports) from all over the country.

Lexi Rode and Evan Christman stream a recent Elkhorn Area High School wrestling meet.

An exciting time

Rand said it’s an exciting time to be part of the broadcasting club.

“It’s very exciting especially now that there is such a need for streaming the Elkhorn Area School District events due to COVID-19. I have always enjoyed working with the broadcasting students and this year it is even more exciting thanks to the higher number of students and a very enthusiastic team,” she said.

In addition to others mentioned, Rand said the school district also deserves recognition for purchasing additional equipment so multiple events could be streamed at once.

One of the wish-list items for the club is a setup for streaming from a mobile device to YouTube for ‘off location’ events such as cross country.

“Streaming from a mobile device to YouTube is very restrictive and requires special equipment. It is rather costly but we would not need it until spring sports,” she said.

To subscribe to the school’s YouTube channel run by the broadcasting club, go to youtube.com, search EAHS YouTube, click on the purple Elkhorn Area High School logo and then click “subscribe.”

Rand said many schools have an outside company do their streaming but that’s not the case in Elkhorn.

“Our district has invested in the students rather than outsource our streaming services,” Rand said. “This is a win-win situation for our community and for our students who are getting experience in a new and exciting skill set that may eventually turn into a great hobby or possible career someday.”

 

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