SYRACUSE -- Nick Bogue did not glance down as his fingers raced across the black keys during his final five-minute keyboarding test.
His classmate, Tyson Bingham, also tapped his fingers as quickly as he could.
Neither of the eighth-grade Syracuse Junior High School students could see the letters on their keyboards.
Their teacher, Bruce Culp, with the help of his wife, Terri Culp, painted each key black and then put a clear sealant on each key.
Culp, who teaches keyboarding, said when students first start typing they are given a keyboard with visible letters. Then, after learning where the keys are and the proper placement of their fingers, they would receive an orange plastic slipcover to put over the keys.
But that "orange peel" caused the students more frustration as they tried to increase their speed and improve their accuracy, said Culp, who is in his first year of teaching keyboarding. The orange cover would slip off, and many of the students did not like the way the plastic felt when they typed.
"The orange peel bugged us, so (Culp) figured out how to fix it," student Kayla Costley said.
With the blessing of Principal Chris Keime, Culp rounded up 40 used keyboards, colored the keys with black marker and hooked them up to the computers.
After a few days, though, the marker wore off onto the students' fingers. So Culp and his wife painted each key black.
That too wore off.
The third time was the charm, Culp said.
He again used black paint, but added a clear sealant and, so far, very few letters have shown through.
Covering the keys forces students to look at their computer screen -- and not at their fingers -- as they type.
Kayla, who brought her English assignment to complete after she finished her keyboarding assignments, said "the black holes" make her type faster, which also helps her finish her assignments faster for other classes.
Students are allowed to use either the keyboard with the visible letters or the keyboard with the covered letters for their assignments.
Nick said the blacked-out keyboard has improved his typing skills. He really didn't like the orange, plastic cover, because "it messed up your technique."
As Nick and Tyson finished their timed tests, they checked to see how fast they had typed.
Nick finished at 42 words per minute with 95 percent accuracy. Tyson finished with 41 words per minute, also with 95 percent accuracy.
"I could've done better, but I was scared at first I'd mess up, so I wasn't concentrating," Nick said. "But once I started to focus, it wasn't that bad."