Computers: Deconstructed Workshop for Teens #ttw15

Last fall, I was paging through More Teen Programs That Work by RoseMary Honnold and found a program that I just HAD to offer. Before we go into that, I must mention that I have an amazing teen room; not just a YA shelf in the corner of some other department. This offers me the luxury of seeing teens every day in their element. They don’t have to be quiet—they can be themselves. I have developed a rapport with many of them and have had frank conversations about what they want to get out of library programs. Minecraft, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and other techy-fun-stuff are just some of the responses I get from these teens. So, as I was paging through Honnold’s book, I stumbled upon a section called “U-Build Computers” by Dana Burton. It begins with a program advertisement that reads:

Build a computer from second-hand parts. Grab your screw driver and let us show your how to meet the challenge: tear down and rebuild a set of computers in one hour: No experience necessary.

Brilliant!  I just had to offer that for my teens, but how? I know how to use a computer. I know how to upgrade the memory in a computer. I have even replaced the hard drive in my own laptop. I do not; however, know how to tear apart a computer and rebuild it in one hour.

One of our neighboring cities, Stevens Point, has a technical college with two IT programs: Computer Programming and Networking/IT. My husband just happens to be enrolled in the Networking/IT program and has been working for their PC Clinic, fixing computers for fellow students, faculty, and community members. I asked him if he would be interested in volunteering for me by leading this type of workshop. He was excited at the possibility of sharing his love for technology with tweens and teens. We talked about getting computer towers donated, but after putting out some feelers, got very little response. A few people were worried about their personal information which had been stored on their old computers. When I had just about given up on the idea for this program, I remembered the Teen Tech Week Grant, sponsored by YALSA and Best Buy….my light at the end of the tunnel.

Here is what the Teen Tech Week site says about the grant:

Through generous funding provided by Best Buy, YALSA will distribute 20 grants of $1,000 each to support digital literacy programming…

To determine if you are eligible to apply, you must answer yes to the following questions:

  • Is your activity organized through a library?
  • Is your program open to all teens in the community?
  • Will you be the project coordinator for this activity?
  • Are you a personal member of YALSA?

I was able to answer yes to all of the above questions, so I quickly drafted my application, expressing our community’s need (and want) for a program like this. In early February, I got the “congratulations” email from YALSA and quickly got to work on planning this program.

I needed a snappy title, not that “U-Build” isn’t snappy…I just wanted something that would attract attention. I decided on “Computers: Deconstructed.” I asked my husband/volunteer (husband-teer?) to come up with a list for materials needed. Here’s what we got:

  • 7-refurbished Dell OptiPlex computers, with keyboard and mouse included.
  • 7-Anti-static mats
  • 25-Anti-static wristlets
  • 7-#2 Phillips screwdrivers
  • 1-PC repair kit
  • 10-soldering kits (which we didn’t end up having to use)

My husband-teer also recruited a fellow classmate to help with the program. I set up registration, limiting it to 24 teens (more than that would be too large a group to accommodate…and we could always offer a second workshop for the overflow. That ended up not being necessary, as only 7 teens registered in advance, 1 registered at the program…and only 2 that showed up. (My live-and-learn moment: Friday after school is not a very good time for a program in my community.)

At the start of the program, I asked a polled the teens:

  1. My overall understanding of how computers work: 1-5. Both teens responded with 3.
  2. How confident are you in your ability to take apart and reassemble a computer in 1 hour? 1-5. Both teens responded with 4.
  3. How much do you think you know about the safety procedures involved in working on a computer? 1-5. Both teens responded with 2.
  4. My interest in computers/technology topics: 1-5 Both teens responded with 5.

Then, each teen was paired up with a volunteer who explained safety procedures for computer maintenance, pointed out each part of the computer and explain what it does. They then explained how to safely and carefully remove it and replace it. Each teen was given a computer to work on and set loose to practice their new-found knowledge. When they were stumped or needed help, they asked their volunteer.

At the conclusion of the program, I poll them again with the same questions, but I added one more: How likely are you to come to another program similar to this one? 1-5. Responses showed an increase in confidence and interest in programs of this type.

And of course, I displayed some books on computer maintenance, STEM activities, and other Teen Tech materials.

Despite my low numbers, I plan to offer this program again for teens, adults, and even as a makerspace activity with my own new-found knowledge of computer repair. My volunteers both expressed an interest in facilitating this program again for me.


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