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Cal Poly grads develop record system

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Press release from the issuing company

Two Cal Poly alumni played key roles in developing a new digital system that will serve the public for years to come by providing quick access to federal government documents online.
The new system of the nation’s Government Printing Office, called FDsys, offers public access to documents from all three branches of government — including such information as congressional bills and President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan.
Cal Poly graduate Robert C. Tapella, who earned his degree in 1991, has overseen the project in recent months since taking over as the nation’s public printer in 2007. Work on the new system was initiated by Tapella’s predecessor Bruce James.
Blake Edwards — a program planner with the printing office and a 2003 Cal Poly graduate — also played an important role in developing the new system that keeps record of Congressional bills, public laws and presidential documents, which can be accessed at http://fdsys.gpo.gov.
More than 154,000 documents are currently accessible on FDsys, with additional documents being added daily, according to GPO officials. A previous system used by the nation’s printer called GPO Access, started in 1993, was outdated, Tapella said in an interview with The Tribune.
“At the time, GPO Access was state of the art technology,” Tapella said. “But there have been many changes since in how people use information.”
Documents that used to take several minutes for congressional staff to research now take seconds to pop up online, Tapella said. The GPO is a billion-dollar agency with about 2,200 employees that handles printing and other services for all three branches of the federal government. Two of its key roles are printing the Congressional Record and passports.
“This helps the GPO to enter the 21st century and make things accessible to the public,” said Harvey Levenson, head of Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department, who taught Tapella and Edwards at the university.
Levenson said that more than ever, people want information quickly, especially when they’re using the Internet. The Office of the Federal Register’s new publication, “Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents,” was specifically engineered for FDsys, according to GPO officials. The publication contains information released by The White House Press Office regarding orders, statements and remarks made by President Obama.
In a visit to Cal Poly when he was working under James in 2003, Tapella hired the four top students in the university’s Graphics Communications Department. Edwards, now 27, was one of them.
Edwards’ role lately has been to develop technical aspects of the FDsys system.
The system features a search engine that is designed to be user friendly and find accurate matches using keywords. Levenson said the new system comes at an interesting time in Tapella’s career because the public printer is a Republican in a newly Democratic presidential administration. The position is appointed by the president.
But the Cal Poly professor said that the public printer isn’t a policy-making post and party lines shouldn’t be a factor. Levenson is part of a group lobbying to help Tapella keep his job. “Bob knows the business of printing and technologically he’s aligned with Obama,” Levenson said. “I think that could be a driving point in Obama supporting Bob.”




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