SETV and High School Cube – Partners in Broadcast Education

The mission of the television production program of Southeast High School in Bradenton, Florida is to create as many real world experiences for the TV students as possible.

football1In doing so, they are prepared to enter the real world of work or post-secondary educational institutions upon graduation. SETV is in its ninth year of real broadcasting. It began in 2005 with the creation of the “Right Direction”, a half hour news/magazine program produced monthly that shows Manatee County what’s happening in and around Southeast High School. And even though the club was producing eight “Directions” a year, there were so many students interested in expanding their skills with the extra-curricular club that there just weren’t enough opportunities for all of them to get the experiences that they were looking for. The obvious solution to the problem was to expand the programming that SETV produced. But how?

The growth began in 2006 with the advent of the live broadcasting of Seminole football games. Through the generosity of the Southeast Athletic Booster Club and SEHS athletic director, Paul Maechtle, who purchased the technology necessary to access the internet from the football stadium, and the expertise of Robert Burwell who was then the co-television instructor at Southeast and who is now teaching digital technology at Manatee County Technical Institute, SETV sports broadcasting premiered with Seminole football games. However, everything started with baby steps. The only broadcast venue that we found was both limiting in the cost element as well as its data limitations and lack of individual archiving technology. There were times we couldn’t even get on the air because of the other site’s capacities. In other words, although it was exciting to be sending out live sporting events, it was a pain in the lower region to get on the web.footballsideline

The solution to these dilemmas was the discovery of a new website designed exclusively for the broadcasting of high school events. The website is www.highschoolcube.com. This simple discovery has proven to be a boon to the real world experiences available to Southeast career television technology students. The company is located in downtown Chicago. The site began its full accessibility in May of 2012 and has grown immensely in a short amount of time. Co-Founder and CEO, Larry Cotter (yes, you can even talk to the CEO), talked to me in August of 2013 and our conversation was both enlightening and educational. I was so excited about his information that I became compelled to pass it on to those of you who are struggling with getting started or by less friendly and costly websites.

Now, I must admit that internet broadcasting confounds and frightens me. I am a hardware guy whose only talent exists in teaching high school students how to frame a shot and how to read a VU meter. I am fortunate that I have a physics teacher, Michael Brooks, who has taken the time to educate himself to the world of the “cloud.” I think that is the right terminology. Probably not, though. However, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to get “on the air.” The website is simple to use and the people at High School Cube are friendly, patient and extremely knowledgeable. They realize that there are a lot of me’s out there. People scared to even delete anything from their Gmail accounts in fear of getting rid of something important.

The most important aspect of High School Cube is that it is FREE. Access to the site is free for both broadcasting schools and viewers. (Many of the new sites charge viewers. An aspect that would definitively limit my viewership) Not only can participating schools broadcast live, they can also download any programming they wish to HSC. And the site allows archiving of all events indefinitely. We produce a number of studio shows that we stream live to HSC and then let our viewership know about it through our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

And the accessibility is simple. You do not need a high level video switcher. You can get online with a laptop, iPad or smartphone. And anyone can do it. For example, if you have a parent, relative, or friend who would like to broadcast any event, they can use their own devices to do so with a minimal amount of instruction. High School Cube’s site is extremely friendly. This is very important to internet idiots like me. Not that my student’s parents or friends are idiots. I’m just trying to explain how simple it is. They even have great tutorials that explain simply and easily how to set up a broadcast should you be internet challenged like me. And if that isn’t enough, they are but a phone call or email away.

audioboard2High School Cube’s growth has been incredible. There are definitely many educators who want to give this real world experience to their students. When I talked to Larry, he told me that in 15 months that they were at full capacity, they had worked with 1,800 schools in 46 states and seven countries. At this writing in the beginning of January, those numbers have grown. They are currently showcasing events from 3,425 schools. They have broadcast almost 9,000 events. They have featured over 32,000 students live. They have captured over 42,000 hours of live production. And they have entertained more than 3 million students, family members and friends. Obvious HSC is doing something amazingly right.Because of current and simple technology, TV can be broadcast live wherever and however an internet signal can be accessed. Initially, we accessed the internet with an internet bridge antenna that connected to the school’s ethernet. We were able to utilize this with live broadcasting from our school’s production facility. We hosted our newly appointed Manatee County superintendent and also our school board chair person for a live talk show. It was a one hour live program. What was truly ground breaking for us is that the program was interactive. It was completely interactive for the viewers because they could send in questions through Twitter and Gmail accounts and those questions were asked live on the air. And the wonderful people at HSC assisted us with whatever technical issues we had.

Now you might be thinking that our growth was plenty. Nope. At the end of April, the production team travelled to Pensacola,membership Florida to broadcast the opening and closing ceremonies of the Florida SkillsUSA state conference where it was viewed by thousands throughout the nation. In the middle of May 2013, the team produced a showing of the yearly International Baccalaureate pinning ceremony in the SEHS auditorium. Thanks to HSC who graciously put this live event on their home page, the induction received over 28,000 hits.

And the growth continues in 2013/2014 because of HSC and our ability to take the “show on the road”. SETV sports took the entire production for an away football game at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida that was possible due to our new Wi-Fi capabilities and HSC. We were also able to show the Manatee County Career Technology Departments Student Leadership Seminar in October on a Saturday morning from a sister high school. We’ve started to get so many requests for live programming from all over Manatee County. So much so that we have had to start turning down requests. And many of our sister high schools have joined the HSC bandwagon because of its simplicity and accessibility, and have started their own broadcasting. In other words, my students’ experiences have grown from the classroom, to the school, to the county, to the state, to the world. We jokingly hope that there is an extraterrestrial watching somewhere in the universe.

studio1I am afraid that you must indulge me a couple of personal experiences. We have a member of the crew who has family in Saudi Arabia. He tells me that they never miss a sporting event. My son teaches English as a second language in a university in South Korea, and he loves watching the broadcasts. But the most telling experience that we have had happened last May. As I reported, we did our International Baccalaureate pinning ceremony. An hour after the production, I received an email from the father of a young lady in the ceremony. He has not seen his daughter for over a year due to visa issues. He thanked me for the broadcast and the ability to see his daughter in such an important event in her life. The next day, the daughter came to the studio in tears to thank me for the broadcast. Do we make a difference? I think you know the answer. And thanks to HSC for helping to make this extremely important event in a parent and student’s lives to have happened.

You also are not limited to sporting events. Larry asked me to make sure that you know that HSC is interested in any broadcasting that your program is interested in including ceremonies, inductions, concerts, school announcements, plays and classroom presentations. You are limited only by your imagination. (Ed.Note:  High School Cube recently streamed the OETC conference for the SVN Broadcast Center)

So what has HSC’s full impact been on SETV? The SETV sports broadcasting team now consists of 25 to 30 members of the team, and they broadcast approximately 25 sporting events a year. They include football, volleyball, wrestling, basketball, softball, and baseball. The equipment has increased from its meager beginnings to seven cameras, instant replay, and live graphics. And although HSC has not helped us with equipment improvements, they have made us more visible and created avenues for funding that wouldn’t havestudiocontrolroom existed without them. Graduates are walking into collegiate programs with an amazing amount of experience that make them stand out and shine immediately. Recently, a graduate who is a senior at the University of Florida did a summer internship at ESPN in Bristol and one of the reasons he credits were his full experiences with live production at Southeast. And he is only one example of the successes SETV students are experiencing in their post-secondary lives.

One last indulgence, I want to thank Emil Williams, Jr. He is a HSC staff member, and he has been invaluable to us. He has answered questions in a friendly and professional manner no matter how simple they may seem. (I have actually started to learn HSC. I got over my fears and intimidations once I spent a short time on their site and discovered how user friendly it is.) What’s great about what Emil has done for us is to believe that there are real human beings there who are truly interested in high school students. I can call him or send him an email and he responds quickly. And he never makes me feel like I am the proverbial internet idiot.

Well, I am rambling. Something my students accuse me of all the time. If you haven’t fallen asleep or closed this page, you should go and check out www.highschoolcube.com for yourself. There is so much more there than I have been able to write about here. Discover it for yourself. You will find it an amazing tool for your students, their family and friends, and your school. And while you’re at it, please take a look at our own school page. When you get to the HSC webpage, simply type Southeast in the search window and click on the Seminole head. It will take you right to our site. (It’s really that simple)

Oops…..Did I tell you about the ability of a viewer to create their own highlight clips and post it? Yeah, you can. Go check it out


sandersMike Sanders is Director of Television, Southeast High School, Bradenton, Florida.  He taught speech, theatre, and television in Illinois for 26 years, and has taught television production at Southeast for 10 years.

Mike is member of the SkillsUSA national education team for the Broadcast News Program event. He has coached 3 consecutive national championship teams for the SkillUSA Broadcast News Program.

Florida SkillsUSA high school advisor of the year- 2013 and is a nominee for the State of Florida SkillsUSA National Advisor of the year - 2014