Brainy Teen Finds Way to Save Taxpayers Millions on Ink Costs
Friday, 28 Mar 2014 08:52 PM
A brainy Pennsylvania teen's science fair project showed how slashing the use of costly ink might save his school district $20,000 — and taxpayers millions.
Dorseyville Middle School sixth-grader Suvir Mirchandani came up with the simple and ingenious method while working on a project aimed at putting computer science to work saving paper and money, CNN reported Friday.
"Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume," the Pittsburgh-area 14-year-old told CNN, which noted Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce, while the equivalent amount of Hewlett-Packard printer ink can climb up to $75.
Collecting random samples of teachers' blizzard of paper handouts, Mirchandani concentrated on the most commonly used characters: e, t, a, o and r.
He then charted how often each character was used in four different typefaces, measuring how much ink was used for each letter with a commercial tool called APFill® Ink Coverage Software, CNN reported.
And voila: Mirchandani found that by using Garamond typeface — with its thinner strokes — his school district could reduce its ink consumption by 24 percent, saving up to $21,000 annually.
Teachers encouraged the teen to publish his findings in the Journal of Emerging Investigators, which is aimed at middle school and high school students, CNN reported.
They liked what they saw.
"We were so impressed," Sarah Fankhauser, one of JEI's founders, told CNN, noting the journal had received nearly 200 submissions since 2011. "We really could really see the real-world application in Suvir's paper."
The journal challenged the teen to apply his finding to the federal government, which racks up a whopping $1.8 billion printing bill every year, CNN reported.
Using the General Services Administration's estimated annual cost of ink — $467 million — Mirchandani declared using Garamond exclusively could save the federal government nearly 30 percent, or $136 million per year.
An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments got on board, he figured.
Gary Somerset, media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office, told CNN Mirchandani's work was "remarkable" — but was noncommittal about its use.
After all, CNN reported, much of today's government printing is available online.
"They can't convert everything to a digital format; not everyone is able to access information online," Mirchandani countered. "Some things still have to be printed."
"I recognize it's difficult to change someone's behavior," he told CNN. "That's the most difficult part."
But he's hopeful.
"I definitely would love to see some actual changes and I'd be happy to go as far as possible to make that change possible."