EqOpTech launches Computer-in-a-Box Programs at LAHS, Egan and Sunday Friends

Egan Junior High Principal Keith Rocha (left) and Terence Lee, EqOpTech Founder

Egan Junior High Principal Keith Rocha (left) and Terence Lee, EqOpTech Founder

By Terence Lee

Many believe that there is a wealth of technology here in the Silicon Valley that is both available and accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, the reality is that many kids from low income families do not have easy access to computers to complete online homework assignments. Despite this, locally, there is an abundance of older computers that are outdated and eventually end up as e-waste.

Terence Lee, a high school junior at Los Altos High School ("LAHS") and founder of EqOpTech, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, partners with local schools and nonprofit to enable equal opportunity access to technology. The student-run nonprofit refurbishes and deploys old laptops to students in need enabling access to the cloud (Google Drive) to complete homework and projects anytime, anywhere.

Following a successful phased roll out of a Refurbished Laptop Program at Egan and at Santa Rita Elementary School, EqOpTech is launching a Computer-in-a-Box Program to address the digital divide in the Silicon Valley.

Bridging the Gap between the Classroom and the Real World

The 21st century project-based learning is the future of education. Technology is deeply integrated into project-based learning; students are expected to learn and leverage technology tools, from online research, collaboration using google hangouts or google docs to shooting video, iMovies for TED talks. Likewise, teachers use tools like Edmodo, Membean and other Google tools to foster collaboration and student engagement. 

This poses a learning challenge for the needy students who do not have laptops at home. Not only are these students unable to access online research at home, but they also cannot collaborate real-time with classmates to prepare for classroom assignments. Overtime, students without laptop will be lagging behind their peers, learning at a slower pace.

Revive and reuse old technology

EqOpTech seeks to revive and reuse older laptops as a learning tool to enable students with an "equal opportunity" access to the cloud (eg. Google Drive) and to minimize unwanted computers going to e-waste. In November 2016, EqOpTech partners with Egan School to launch a laptop donation drive to support students without laptop. With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday breaks,  the EqOpTech tech team not only dedicates time to refurbishing each laptops to its full functionality but also dives into the latest technology to give the old laptops a new life.

On January 20, 2017, Terence Lee, EqOpTech Founder presented 10 refurbished laptops to Egan Principal Rocha in support for its Laptop Home Loan Program.

Breathe new life into old laptop using lightweight Linux

With Linux Ubuntu/Lubuntu installed into old white MacBooks and Windows laptops as a dual boot, students are now able to access the latest Google Applications and other cloud applications. The Linux dual boot not only allow access to the latest tech applications but also boosts system performance of older laptops so that they are as good as new. Other options are also available with Neverware, which turns old laptop into a Chromebook or running PIXEL from Raspberry Pi.

Turn Problems into Opportunities

"One of the challenges with refurbishing old laptops is time as not all laptops are created equal", Lee said. "It can take a lot of time to troubleshoot and find an optimal solution given the hardware and software constraints of different Windows-based laptop sold through various OEM." The light bulb went off when EqOpTech received the white MacBook 1,1 and 2,1 from Los Altos School District. "What if I document a step-by-step instruction for each MacBook, burn the ISO image into a DVD, record a YouTube video on loading Linux and put everything in a box to pass out to students for refurbishing", he said. This was the genesis of the Computer-in-a-Box service project.

Computer-in-a-Box Service Project

The "Computer-in-a-Box" service project has been rolled out at Los Altos High School EqOpTech Club weekly meetings. This event is open to regular club members, LAHS National Honor Society and any students who have a passion for technology and education. No prior computer skills are required. Students can check out a computer box to refurbish. Participants are issued step-by-step instructions to install Linux operating system (OS) to dual boot with Mac OS with all the packed essentials in a box: a DVD, installation guide (or via Youtube), and power adapters ready-to-go. E-mail eqoptech@gmail.com to request a computer refurbish box.

The “Computer in a Box” project is open to Egan Junior High School students in a series of live workshops. The workshops will take place in Room 29 at Egan School for 8 consecutive Mondays (2/27, 3/6, 3/13, 3/20, 3/27, 4/3, 4/17, 4/24) starting February 27, 2017 from 3 to 4:15 pm. EqOpTech is very grateful to Mr. Peter Swenson for opening up the computer lab to host EqOpTech's Computer-in-a-Box program. Sign up with Mr. Swenson, Egan Computer Science teacher.

EqOpTech plans to replicate more version of "Computer-in-a-Box" service projects to other students in the Bay Area. The next "Computer-in-a-Box" live event with Sunday Friends is open to all volunteers, where both old MacBooks and Windows laptops will be refurbished to help students in need. It is scheduled on April 23, 2017, from 2:30 - 4 pm at Lowell School, 625 S 7th St, San Jose. Sign up at www.SundayFriends.org/volunteers

All participants will earn community service hours.

Computer-in-a-Box instructors: Terence Lee, Daniel Lim, Egan Teacher Peter Swenson (left to right)

Computer-in-a-Box instructors: Terence Lee, Daniel Lim, Egan Teacher Peter Swenson (left to right)

The Best of Both Worlds: Dual Boot with a Dual Mission

Just as dual booting with Linux & Mac OS offers the best of both worlds, the "students-help-students" "computer-in-a-box" project solves two problems at once. The service project not only inspires students to give back to the community, it also enriches and broadens participants' computer engineering skills while helping other students in need. 

EqOpTech is a "company of the students, by the students and for the students". The nonprofit organization aspires to empower and enable student volunteers with a platform to gain real-world experience and leadership skills and inspire them to give back to the community.


Computer-in-a-Box Service Project at Egan - February 27, 2017

About EqOpTech

EqOpTech Inc., located in Los Altos, CA, is a 501(c)(3) IRS-designated tax exempt nonprofit organization that promotes and enables equal opportunity free access to technology for computer learning and STEM education in under-served communities. Visit EqOpTech at www.eqoptech.org