Computers for the community

Gold Coast young people Miles and Mason have been hard at work this past week, building over 45 computers for Substation33. Substation33 is a YFS social enterprise that opened its doors in 2013 as an electronic waste recycling centre. More recently, Substation33 has started an Innovation Lab, providing an opportunity for upcycling and e-waste diversion from landfill. One of the initiatives Substation33 has implemented includes rebuilding computers from parts and selling them for $100 each to families who can’t afford new machines.

“[Regional Industry Officer] Brad approached me one day to ask if I knew anything about computers, and I said yes, but I said we should involve Mason too because he knows a lot,” said Miles. “So we have been working on building the computers, restoring the hard drives, and installing Windows on about 45 computers.” The two have found some of the computer parts haven’t worked, which they expected. “The parts are mostly from people who have donated their computers to upgrade,” explains Miles, “so they are just old parts, they aren’t necessarily broken. All in all, the parts have been good.”

Mason, who is looking to pursue a career in the IT industry, has had some previous experience building computers from parts. “I built my own computer, and one for my family,” says Mason. “I have been interested in computers for a long time, including computer engineering.”  He notes that the Substation33 computers have been a bit different to his previous experiences, saying “the computers I’ve built previously have been larger. These ones are more compact, which means they are a bit harder to build.”

Both Miles and Mason have completed some work experience in IT, which, along with self-directed research, gave them the tools and experience they needed to complete the task for Substation33.  While Miles is pursuing a career in hospitality, he found the hands-on experience in IT to be very valuable. Miles and Mason will likely be undertaking more projects with Substation33 once the computers are finished. “We might be doing more work for them [next semester], including building some battery packs,” said Miles, “which will include soldering batteries and copper wires together. We might even be making some that are solar chargeable.”

The AITC is focussed on providing well-rounded and varied learning opportunities for young people throughout their senior schooling. Completing work experience in a number of different industries, and providing young people opportunities to undertake projects like this one is what sets the AITC apart from schools with traditional curriculum models.