Students putting computers in Mississippi classrooms

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 12, 2002

NATCHEZ &045;&045; We’ve come a long way, baby.

Thirty years ago, teenagers spent their free time building model airplanes and rockets from kits. By contrast, today’s high-tech teens build computers in their spare time.

Twelve Natchez High School (NHS) students are working hard this summer to build computers for students they don’t even know.

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The project is a part of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s initiative to have an internet-accessible computer in every public school classroom by the end of 2002.

The team of students works from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily for five weeks during the summer, earning $8 an hour. Each week they build an average of 85 computers that will then be shipped to other school districts throughout the state.

The program will continue on a smaller scale during the first semester of the upcoming school year.

Teacher Shannon Burts estimates NHS will have built more than 500 computers by December.

During the regular school year, Burts teaches two computer engineering courses, which cover hardware, software and networking.

&uot;Taking at least one of my classes is one of the stipulations to participate in this summer initiative,&uot; Burts said.

Besides earning extra spending money, Burts said the students are gaining invaluable hands-on experience. That experience includes assembling a ready-made computer kit (ranging in price from $480 to $600 apiece) which involves installing the central processing unit (CPU), CPU fan, RAM, motherboard, CD-ROM and hard-drive.

The finished product is a fully-loaded, top-of-the-line computer.

&uot;Each one (computer) has a 40 gig hard-drive and 256 mb of RAM,&uot; Burts said. &uot;I wouldn’t mind taking one of these home.’

Student Michael Pace wouldn’t mind taking one home either. Pace, 18, is a recent graduate of NHS. He said the experience has encouraged him to build and customize his own.

&uot;I think I could build one (a computer) for myself,&uot; Pace said, &uot;and I probably will before I leave for college.&uot;

But beyond building computers, Pace said he is building the futures of other Mississippi students. &uot;It is good to know that these computers are going in Mississippi classrooms,&uot; Pace said, &uot;and that Mississippi students are going to use them to learn.&uot;