Roy Exum: A 14-Year-Old’s Discovery

Sunday, March 30, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Those in the printing business have been enamored with “fonts” for years. A font, of course, is a particular size, weight and style of a typeface and there are hundreds of them – there is even one called “Chattanooga” that is now being used in promotional materials printed in the city. As a type face, it is quite appealing, in my view, although I’m still a Century Roman kind of guy.

Now comes before us a kid from Dorseyville Middle School in Pittsburgh, Pa., who saw something most among us cannot. When Suvir Mirchandani was in the sixth grade, he did a science fair project that required him to think of a way he could save his middle school some money. Suvir had already noticed he was getting many more handouts than he did in elementary school.

So his idea was to wonder if he might find a way to cut down on the amount of ink it took for the school printers to spit out history and algebra handouts. Laugh if you will but, as he was quick to say, “ink is two times more expensive than French perfume.” As everyone did indeed smirk, he showed proof that Chanel No. 5 perfume sells for $38 an ounce but a similar amount of ink contained in a Hewlett-Packard cartridge – by volume – is about $75.

So Suvir – who is now 14 – studied four common typefaces that are generally used; Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans. He took five letters from each font (e,t,a,o,r) and using a tool called APFill@InkCoverageSoftware, he was able to measure how much ink was used with each letter.

The kid then enlarged the letters, pasting them on cardstock so he could weigh them, and found that if the school would only use the thin Garamond instead of the other samples, ink consumption could be cut by 24 percent at Dorseyville Middle. He then found out how many printer cartridges the school needed for a year and – voila – the savings computed to $21,000 annually.

The story gets better. A delighted teacher directed Suvir to a website some Harvard grad students have called the Journal for Emerging Investigators. The website features the work by middle school and high school students and is reviewed by grad students and professors.

Sarah Frankhauser, one of the journal founders, told CNN reporters, “We were so impressed. We really could see the real-world application,” so soon the grad students were wondering, “How much potential savings are really out there?”

At their urging, our 14-year-old Suvir looked at a larger printing project – the federal government. Get this – the General Services Administration’s estimated annual cost for ink is $467 million (the total printing bill including paper, machines and labor is $1.8 billion) so if Uncle Sam would go to Garamond instead of Times New Roman, the potential would be a savings of $136 million a year.

To get the government to do it takes time but GSA press secretary Dan Cruz said GSA officials are trying to get their printers to default from other fonts and that the hope is the initiative could save $30 million a year right away. It is an incredible finding.

But our young Mr. Mirchandani has one more idea. “Consumers printing at home can make this change, too. I recognize it’s difficult to change someone’s behavior. That’s the most difficult part but I would definitely love to see some actual changes. It is a way anybody with a computer printer can use less ink and save some money.”

YOUR EXERCISE: Prepare to print this document on your printer. Use your “default” type face, which is probably “Cambria” or “Calibri” or “Century” (it will be in the upper left of your tool bar). Change the size from the default (“11” or “9.5”) to “14” and print your sample. Now let’s do it again, changing the font only to “Garamond.” The new type face is very readable and – presto – a 14-year-old future genius has just cut your computer ink bill by about 24-to-30 percent.

* * *

There is little doubt East Tennessee State hired a standout soccer coach on Friday but it is highly doubtful anyone in Johnson City can say his name yet. Adegboyega Oshoniyi, whose Nigerian father died when he was four, has been a premier assistant at Penn State after spending six years in the MLS. He has been immensely popular in State College.

“Bo,” as he is called by coaches and players alike, was actually born in Boston and, while he has no trouble speaking English, just wait until he begins recruiting and leaves a telephone message on an answer machine. For the record, his first name is pronounced, ‘AD-eh-BO-yay-ga’ and his last name is ‘O-shah-nee.’

* * *

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, who should be a No. 1 pick in this spring’s NFL draft, proposed to his famous girlfriend in Gulf Shores on Friday night during their spring vacation. You’ll remember that CBS sports announcer Brent Musburger first brought Katherine Webb into the public eye when he oohed-and-ahhed over her while she was sitting in the stands at the 2012 BCS championship game.

Katherine, who was graduated from Auburn, soon became as famous as her Crimson Tide boyfriend. Her pictures zoomed from the Miss USA pageant (she was Miss Alabama) to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and other modeling sites. She gained further fame in a Carl’s Jr. hamburger commercial.

Now pictures of the custom diamond ring A.J. presented to the next Mrs. McCarron have gone viral.

* * *

Speaking of quarterbacks, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel had a great week showing off for the pros but his heir apparent at Texas A&M didn’t do as well. According to police reports, freshman signal-caller Kenny Hill was allegedly found severely impaired outside a College Station bar at 3 a.m. Friday. When officers asked Hill who the president of the United States was, the Aggie said “Bush” and then identified himself to officers as “Kennedy.” Hill, who faces a misdemeanor fine of $465, has been suspended indefinitely.

* * *

Finally, here’s a prediction: Kevin Ware, the great University of Louisville basketball star who suffered a broken leg during the NCAA’s Elite Eight last year, played sparingly this year before opting for a redshirt year. After Kentucky beat the defending champion Cardinals, 74-69, in Indianapolis late Friday night, the talented Ware announced he would transfer and play elsewhere next year.

I’ll bet you a dime-to-your-doughnut the talented Ware will end up much closer to his hometown in Georgia than he has been in Kentucky; Bruce Pearl recruited Kevin heavily once upon a time and I’m thinking Ware will soon be an Auburn Tiger.


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