Saturday, July 24, 2010
I do own a mirror or two.
Most of our work...work done by The HeliOS Project involves working with kids one-on-one. We find children that do not have computers due to financial disadvantage
then we build them one from donated or broken machines. It is indeed gratifying work. I have not had many chances to work with kids in large groups before...I mean working with them in a technical environment.
Until last week.
Skip Guenter, who is our Director of System Engineering lives in Hutto Texas....about 15 miles outside of Austin. Pastor Paul Gravley of the Discovery United Methodist Church of Hutto approached Skip and asked him if we would be interested in doing a summer camp at their location.
Well yeah...ya think?
The idea was to gather 20 kids, ranging from 3rd to 5th grade and teach them how a computer works. We were going to use perfectly good computers, take them apart, teach the kids how to identify the components, teach them the function of said components, put it back together and then install Linux on it.
Given it would even start after said exercise.
I had my doubts. I personally felt that this age range was a bit young. I just didn't think kids this age would sit for 4 days and participate in this program...much less understand what they were doing.
We brought in 10 identical Dell computers with monitors, mice and keyboards and set up the stations so there would be two kids to a computer. We took a collective deep breath and opened the doors. 22 kids flooded in.
What I believed to be probable mayhem stopped well short and developed into this great experience.
I have to admit surprise from the beginning. Not only did these kids grasp the understanding of the parts and components of a computer, they were eager to understand what they did and how they worked.
And sure, we covered the basics...RAM, Video cards and chipsets, optical devices and hard drives, but we found that our class was so eager to learn that we shifted gears and drilled deeper into the machines.
We began talking about IDE vs SATA, 20 pin vs 24 pin ribbon cables,Molex connectors, power supply detail...
They wanted it all.
I don't know how many of you have worked in a "teaching" environment but I sure learned a few things during Camp HeliOS.
Keep them engaged or they will venture ahead of you.
A few things surprised me here. First off, this was a first-come first-served camp. That means that all the kids voluntarily signed up for this camp. The second thing that surprised me was the number of girls that signed up.
Another thing that surprised us was that we had few if any dropouts during the 4 days.
I also want to give special recognition to a student aide during Camp HeliOS. Madeline not only did many of the preparation tasks to get things ready, she also helped greatly in assisting the camp kids with questions they had. Thank you Madeline...you were more help than you know.
The first three days were devoted to disassembly, reassembly and then Linux installs. To be honest, we scheduled this as a 4 day event because we thought kids this young would need that much time to complete and absorb the camp.
We ended up using the 4th day just to explore games available on Linux...and guess which one was the favorite.
World of Goo.
Thanks 2d boy for the licenses.
Oh, and take another guess. Guess who mastered the game twice as fast as the others?
Ken troubleshoots a faulty USB connection.
Skip does some one-on-one about RAM and how it works for temporary storage...I think he tried to sneak in the North Bridge chip into the conversation as well.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 3:37 PM