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Leader of Ross High School inventors wins top regional award

A local information technology teacher, whose high school students are drawing national attention for their school security app, is finding himself in the spotlight.

Thomas O’Neill, a veteran Butler Tech teacher working at Ross High School, has been named as the 2017 Southwest Ohio winner of the Ohio School Boards Association’s (OSBA) “Outstanding Faculty Member.”

STUDENT INVENTORS: Ross High School students invent school security app

A former private sector computer technology specialist, O’Neill has made a career of highlighting his students at the expense of his role and this latest honor hasn’t changed his philosophy.

“I am not a fan of awards. Working with some of the best and brightest students on the planet is reward enough,” said O’Neill.

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Amy Webb, Butler Tech supervisor for programs in Ross Schools, wasn’t as reluctant when it came to discussing O’Neill’s remarkable contributions.

“Mr. O’Neill is one of the best teachers I’ve seen in the field,” said Webb.

“His problem-based approach to learning carries out to critical thinking application and solutions among his students. What his students are learning far exceeds past their high school careers,” she said.

The Butler Tech Information Technology students at Ross were recently named national finalists in a technology and entrepreneurship challenge run by Samsung.

Working across disciplines, the students developed a school safety mobile application that could improve response to many emergency situations. Their hardware and software solution streamlines communication among school administrators and first responders. It also incorporates early-warning technology that can interface with gunfire detection systems and metal detectors.

The team, said O’Neill, is still in the running for another national competition later this month.

The students are now continuing work on their School Safety System and are preparing to compete in the Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) USA event that takes place in Las Vegas May 26-28.

“This product is one that, when complete and ready for market, could easily be a multi-million dollar product,” O’Neill said of the school safety app. “Any funds that are generated…those funds go to (the students). They create revenue streams for themselves, and many times end up, before they go to college, paying for college because of these companies.”

Ross High School Principal Brian Martin said “what Tom and his kids do is remarkable. When you have companies competing for your products and your students, it says a lot about what he is able to accomplish on the high school level.”

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