‘Pretty cool’: Project salvages old computers

Posted: September 7, 2013

The Winchester Star

Handley High School technology education teacher Tom Sager (from left) checks a computer’s hard drive with students Chris Crawford, 15, and Adam McKiernan, 16. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Handley High School students Adam McKiernan and Chris Crawford love to tinker with the innards of a computer.

“It’s just always fascinated me,” said Chris, a sophomore. “I’ve always had an attraction for [computers].”

Now, Adam, Chris and about 30 of their peers will turn their tinkering into something others can treasure.

Through the Virginia Student Training and Refurbishment (VA STAR) program, Handley students in the computer system technology class will repair and refurbish surplus computers, which they will then donate to families and students in need of one.

Through the class, students will also earn an industry-recognized Information Technology certification.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Adam, a junior. “We’re both learning about computers, and at the same time, we’re helping people.”

During classtime, students will work on computers donated by Northern Virginia companies and government agencies. They will replace the hard drives, clean the interiors and make sure the video cards are working and that the power supply is reliable.

Junior Alicia Dehn, one of the few girls in the class, is excited about the prospect of the repair work.

“I was the one who always fixed my grandmother’s computer when something was wrong with it,” she said.

Tom Sager, technology education teacher, said students not only will learn practical skills, such as dealing with pesky error messages on their computer, but will also help the community.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he said.

The VA STAR program provides a $2,000 stipend to purchase repair parts.

About 50 refurbished computers will likely be ready for donation in November — 25 for Quarles Elementary School and 25 for Handley students. The Winchester Education Foundation will provide an equal number to families and organizations in need of a computer.

Another batch of computers will probably be donated in the spring.

Quarles has participated in the program since 2012 and received 50 refurbished computers for distribution during the past school year.

The program is administered through Prince William County Public Schools and its SPARK Education Foundation, in partnership with the Winchester Education Foundation.

The program is a collaborative effort involving Virginia’s Secretaries of Education and Technology as well as the state’s Departments of Education and General Services.

Winchester-area agencies and companies that would like to donate surplus computer equipment may contact Todd Lynn at 540-662-3471, or Steve Muller at 540-667-4253.

The computers must be fairly new. For qualifications and more information, visit vastar.schoolfusion.us.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com