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Unboxing the Black Boxes

by ERIN CLARK and THOMAS PUGH - Students theorize the underlying purpose of the bathroom devices.

One of the "mysterious black boxes" - an elusive creature roughly the size of a small digital camera, it is never seen without its mate of identical size and coloring.

WESTFIELD, Ind. (Feb. 1, 2019) - A few weeks ago, mysterious black boxes appeared on the outside walls of the restrooms around the school. Though they were taken down only weeks later, the black boxes immediately became a topic of conversation and speculation among the student population.

By far, the most popular student and faculty theory was that the boxes were meant to act as Juul and Vape vapor detectors. This theory was partially supported by the findings of Myah Sandlin (11), who decided to take matters into her own hands.

“So what I basically did is at lunch, I saw there were the two black boxes,” Sandlin said. “So I went up to it, looked at it, and I typed what was written on the box into Google because I’m sixteen. I looked it up, and it said it was a vapor sensor. It didn’t say it was for vapes, or Juuls necessarily, it just said it was a vaporizer sensor.”

While Sandlin attempted to directly research the origination of the boxes, other students noticed the green lights on the detectors and speculated about an alternate purpose.

“If you walk through, the green light will beep on either side, and when you walk out, it’s motion detected,” Madi Carr (12) said. “The black boxes literally have to be for counting the number of people that come in and out of the bathroom. That way they can have the appropriate amount of stalls in bathrooms of the future as they build onto the school.”

Like Carr, Abbie Scott (12) took an interest in the boxes. Though Scott also thought the devices were counters, she reasoned differently about their function.

“It’s to see when students go in and out of the bathrooms to make sure they’re not spending too much time in there,” Scott said. “That way they can regulate it more next year, saying, ‘Teachers, stop letting your kids go to the bathroom so much.’ It’s basically saying how many people go to the bathroom per hour.”

Sandlin, Carr and Scott all had convincing guesses backed with data; however, they and many other students were unable to get a direct answer to their queries from faculty, most of whom did not know the answer themselves. However, few select members, such as custodial staff member Mr. Dustin Bezan, were able to shed some light on the situation.

“They were counters, to monitor the traffic going in and out, to see what bathrooms were getting used the most,” Mr. Bezan said. “That way, as a custodial staff, they can keep it stocked and keep it cleaner, depending on where it is, because bathrooms like the one in the cafeteria are usually busy.”

Contrary to many students’ guesses, the devices were made for a more direct purpose. And even then, the boxes did not prove as effective as the staff hoped.

“They wanted to try it out, so they did it, and then they took them down,” Mr. Bezan said. “There just wasn’t really any point to them. The bathroom needs to be cleaned, it doesn’t matter how many people go in there. They were literally only out for a couple weeks before they were taken down.”

As short lived as they were, the boxes remained one of the more interesting mysteries for Westfield High School this year. The random appearance coupled with the inability to extract information from the staff made the boxes as puzzling as ever. Regardless of their removal, the mysterious black boxes are finally unboxed.

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