Jefferson Collaborative Inquiry and Research Network (JCIRN)

An electronic platform to support collaboration efforts related to research and outreach

There is much more to TJ’s renovation than bricks and mortar. As a leading science and technology high school, TJ must constantly keep on the cusp of new technologies that can advance research and expand outreach. JCIRN is an important part of the vision for TJ’s post-renovation future.

The goals of JCIRN:

  • To provide TJ students access to cutting edge research experiences
  • To broaden TJ’s impact on schools throughout its region and beyond.

How JCIRN Advances TJ’s Mission:

  • Creates the means by which any and all TJ students can work with an outside mentor
  • Connects students to remote databases and instrumentation
  • Supports student research and allows students to establish new projects with other research institutions
  • Introduces new network tools to faculty, including videoconferencing, virtual classrooms, remote access to high performance computing
  • Expands storage space for student projects
  • Allows the construction of research databases to support collaboration
  • Facilitates the establishment of tutoring and mentoring programs with geographically remote schools
  • Allows remote access to network software, stored files, and video communication tools, including access via handheld technologies
  • Provides an additional tool for research on devices, systems and software, namely the network itself
  • Ensures necessary security through reliance on a tiered security infrastructure designed specifically for the needs of high school students.


Principal Evan Glazer Answers Questions About JCIRN

Q: What does JCIRN stand for and what does it do?

A: JCIRN stands for Jefferson Collaborative Inquiry & Research Network. Most scientific inquiry requires collaboration, and one of the strengths of our program is that starting in freshmen IBET, our students learn how to conduct and present research in teams. I want our students to have as much experience as possible developing teamwork, a key 21st century skill, and to be able to practice that skill with other students, and with professors and industry researchers, including alumni, no matter where they are located. JCIRN enables collaboration by creating an electronic platform where students can securely store and retrieve data, access software, interact remotely by video, share reports, identify mentors, recruit participants, and access instrumentation remotely, all within a secure subgroup visible only to project participants.

The JCIRN platform has three primary capabilities: teleconferencing; project and database workspace; and mentorship matching. In other words, it will be TJ’s internal Skype, Google Docs and LinkedIn.

Q: How will JCIRN assist TJ with its outreach mission of sharing our students’ love for STEM with younger students?

A: JCIRN’s potential to expand TJ’s outreach to elementary and middle school students, including those in economically challenged parts of the county, is extraordinary. Essentially, all the outreach that our students are currently engaged in through our “Stembassador” program, our weekend outreach events such as “Science and Techstravaganza,” and our “8th period” and after- school tutoring and other programs will be amplified by JCIRN.

Once an outreach project is established by a TJ student or teacher, JCIRN members will be able to share curriculum and podcasts, interact via video, broadcast presentations from VIP speakers, and use group or one-on-one tutoring tools. TJ could impact many schools and students beyond our immediate area for the first time.

Q: Why can’t the School use one of many existing document-sharing services or off-the-shelf network platforms?

A: The short answer is that there is no existing platform that supports everything we want JCIRN to do. Instead JCIRN will leverage open- source technology to fit our unique purposes. One analogy I’ve heard compares JCIRN to a “more robust Intranet.” TJ’s Intranet was created by students to serve our particular student needs, and has been modified and upgraded over the years but not replaced with an off-the-shelf product because we can more easily tailor our own product to meet our changing specifications.

The JCIRN portal will be based on the Liferay Open-Source Platform and will be customized and integrated with other modules and software packages to meet our unique requirements, including: compatibility with existing operating systems, browsers, and mobile devices; scalability; user-friendly navigation; varying levels of access and security options; smooth integration of network services; and robust security and authentication. The communications component will provide at a minimum for: traditional and instant messaging and chat; voice and video conferencing; collaborative real-time document editing; podcast/power-point sharing; video and tutorial recording, storage, and access.

Q: How are you ensuring network security?

A: We will ensure security through a tiered security infrastructure designed for the needs of high school students. In order to access the network, non-TJ users would need to complete a profile describing the reasons for their interest in joining the network and their relationship with an adult member of the school community. A systems administrator would authenticate each user as a trusted source based on their profile and by verifying the relationship with the school community member. Only once admitted to the network does a member have the opportunity to participate in research or outreach projects by requesting permission from the project manager. The broader JCIRN community will be aware of all projects by reading posted abstracts, but full project details will be available only to members of each project subgroup.

Q: How close are you to realizing this dream?

A: The JCIRN project team has been working closely with FCPS IT staff to discuss details and plan for the unique platform. Dwight Yamada, now retired from Northrop Grumman, a major JCIRN sponsor, has provided invaluable assistance as a consultant. Cisco Systems’ recent installation of hardware to support JCIRN and other school technology needs has brought us significantly closer to implementation. Other corporations active on TJ’s Corporate Advisory Board, including Hewlett Packard and Grant Thornton, are providing additional support and guidance. Back when JCIRN was just an idea, Microsoft and Cisco hosted brainstorming events that helped us solidify our thinking about some of the more critical and complex issues, such as security.

Many seniors have uploaded completed research projects onto the platform for use by future TJ students and others. Current students’ local domain names and passwords are already linked to the platform. A recent TJ graduate developed a populated JCIRN prototype with video conference “meeting rooms” available for students to reserve for project meetings and matching features that help students search for relevant projects and potential collaborators. Thanks to Northrop Grumman’s generous support, the school will soon hire an IT staff member who will devote a significant percentage of his or her time to JCIRN.