Arlington prep school club rebuilds broken computers, gives them to disadvantaged students

03/03/2014 8:49 AM

03/03/2014 8:50 AM

Students at Uplift Summit International Preparatory School in Arlington are giving back to their peers with a technological spin.

Members of the Root 122 after-school community service technology club are taking old, broken computers and restoring them for students who need them. Funding came from a $500 Catch the Spirit grant given by generationOn to newly registered middle school clubs in five U.S. cities.

The club has already given away two computers and wants to make and give 20 more, instructor Thomas Davenport said. Members started raising funds to continue the project with an arcade night Friday. Guests could buy tokens and play games on computers set up to look like a classic arcade.

Davenport said the inspiration for restoring the computers came from an unexpected source.

“Surprisingly I got the inspiration from Half-Price Books,” he said. “It’s that idea of taking things that may originally be considered a nuisance and turning them around to be used again.”

He said the same idea could be used with computers, which are dangerous to throw away. Using the old computers promotes sustainable recycling to the kids in his club and teaches them the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, he added.

Davenport’s interaction with his students and other sixth-graders at the school helps him and the club determine who gets the next computer. He said kids with learning disabilities are a high priority, as well as kids with an affinity for computers who don’t have them at home.

The computers the club gives away use an operating system called Ubuntu, a Linux system available for free. Families who get these computers don’t have to worry as much about viruses because if the computer begins to act up, they can reinstall the system, Davenport said.

Angel Lanuza, a Root 122 member, said he had been looking forward to the arcade night, which he and his friends in the club had been working on for months.

“It makes me feel really good to be in this club and do the things we are doing,” he said. “It’s fun trying to make the computers and also setting up all the games here for everyone to play and have fun.”

Club member Adrian Lopez said he joined the club because of his love for programming and the happiness he gets from helping out.

“Helping people with what we do has been so amazing,” he said. “I love to help people who see my love of video games and computers start to love that themselves.”

Lopez said he enjoys working with computers both in the club and at home and spends a lot of time building worlds and server plug-ins for the multiplatform survival game Minecraft. Working on that game, which he said his friend inspired him to do, has helped him enjoy his experiences in the club.

“I love that people can enjoy me playing and creating things and then want to start playing too,” he said. “It’s just like the salt on top of some really awesome french fries.”

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