Thursday, February 7, 2008

Computer Refurbishing Program

I run an after school technology club with another tech ed teacher. For several years, I had always thought about taking old computers that people are getting rid of and setting them up with Open Source (free) software so students could use them to do school work. I have been playing with linux distributions for quite some time. I was first introduced to them by my friend, Duncan McGreggor, when he was volunteering at TJ when he was between jobs. It was Duncan who piqued my interest in using freely available software to do the tasks for which most people will pay $100s or $1000s. So I figured why not put that value into the hands of students who could use it?

It was not until I met Chris Gregan, founder of Aptenix Desktop Solutions, that I realized it could be done. I met Chris at the 2007 Maryland Instructional Computer Coordinator Assocation's (MICCA) annual conference in the Baltimore Inner Harbor Convention Center where I have presented anually on technology. When I saw the big blue penguin logo on Chris's vendor kiosk, I had to talk to him. I'm happy I did.

I asked Chris about Aptenix. It turns out that his company does for business what I wanted to do for students - except I wouldn't charge the students. :-) It wasn't until October that I contacted him to get his advise on how to do the project. He developed a plan where the students in my technology club would do a standard linux install and then he would build a server with all the updates which the new desktops would use to update the installed software. He recommended Ubuntu because of it's ease of use and stability. I was very surprised that in the age of Microsoft, Dell has even started shipping its computer with Ubuntu as an option.

The first thing the students did was perform an autopsy on the computers. They took them apart and identified the parts. Then they put the computers back together in working order. After that they installed Ubuntu from CD and finally updated it using the server Chris set up.

The students have really enjoyed this project and when it was time to publisize it to our student population, we have had over 50 requests from families for one of our open source computers. This is not only a good project for students to meet their technology standards, but it also provides many of the students we are targeting for intervention with a tool to help them complete their school work.

Read more!