Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hardware and Networking Lab and the Technology Refurb Program

"If we followed the same logic with

textbooks, we’d have one classroom

set and everyone would share. Here's

one textbook; you have five kids who

have to share it, [and each] gets to

take it one day a week. Obviously, you

limit the options that you have."

Dr Seymour Papert, MIT


Building off a student internship and computer refurbishing program that I ran with comrades where I used to work, we took off in a new direction with a Hardware and Networking course at at BBA in 2005. I took in donations from a University and a handful of businesses and created a workbench style lab for the course: Good old hands on hardware configuration and testing. I brought in some hubs, switches, a wireless router and some cable and we started creating closed testing loops and wired up workstations.

The needs of the Hardware and Networking course quickly moved discussions on the schools Acceptable Use Policy to create more student opportunities. We needed to access the Internet for practical projects beyond what the restrictions at the school could provide. Experiments with Open Source software, virus and spyware/malware work and browser tests to name a few. After some lobbying with the IT Department, the Hardware and Networking Lab was shifted over to it's own cable modem for internet access where routing, workstation and network security, and advanced networking tests took off. Shortly thereafter the IT Staff at BBA was brought into class first as guest speakers and then as regulars to mentor diverse interests and projects. This was the precursor to more advanced Student Internships / Independent Studies at BBA with the IT Department and a shift toward students being included in professional development initiatives on campus.

With continued donations in the first year we established a larger bank of hardware than we could use for testing. We began to refurbish these computers and sent 15 of them on home with students in the first year. Having a computer to learn with rather than one just to access information brings on all sorts of opportunities. Word quickly spread and demands for machines grew.

After the first year the RLab course (Tech Research) was taking flight. I moved into teaching three full section of the RLab and passed the Hardware and Networking course notes and brainstorming from the first innovative group of students (J Lapointe, L Annunziata, M Naples, Z Greene, L Spencer, R Vandelinder, R Lane, P Buckley, C Fries, C Walker and A Tinker) on to Mr. Morrison and the IT Department. Mr Morrison, the IT Department, the Hardware and Networking courses and many IT Internship students continue to expand the refurbishing program.

We still seek donations for this refurbishing program. PCs and Macs are cleaned, loaded with an OS (operating system), updated, software packages are installed and then it's shipped out for use and experiments.

Phase II of this program?

Phase II will look to take in iPods, refurbish them and reallocate them to students for academic projects and experiments.

No doubt this will lead on to other interesting opportunities on campus.

If you would like to donate hardware to this program, contact Kevin Morrison (kmorrison@burrburton.org) or us in the Lab.

Thanks for tuning in, AP