Northfield Boys and Girls Club goes high tech with a little NU help

No matter how fast your Pentium processor is, when you've only got a single laptop to share among about 15 users, productivity slows to a crawl. Up until last week, that was the situation at the Northfield Boys and Girls Club. Fortunately, five rebuilt computers donated to the club by Norwich University are making a big difference for the children who utilize the space.

"It's going to be a great transition for the kids," said Tony Moulton, Director of the Northfield Boys and Girls Club. "With five computers, we've got five more opportunities for kids to do their homework, five more opportunities for them to surf the Net here in a safe way; it's just great."

Moulton said the idea for the computers came from Boys and Girls Club volunteer and Norwich sophomore, Robert Owens. According to Moulton, Owens began volunteering at the club earlier this year and within a few weeks of his start, approached Moulton and mentioned the possibility of acquiring a donated computer for the kids. However, that single computer changed into five when Owens contacted Joseph Morvan, Director of User Services at Norwich University.

"I explained to Joe that they only had one laptop at the club and there were always about 15 kids huddled around it," said Owens, a biology major and member of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). "I thought, 'Norwich has a lot of old, junk computers, maybe I'll be able to get one for the kids.'"

Morvan said Norwich University tries not to sell its old computer equipment because doing so can raise legal issues with software licensing and technical problems, however, the school often donates to charitable organizations. When he heard the Northfield Boys and Girls Club was in need of some help, Morvan's wheels started turning.

"I thought this would be a great way for Norwich to support the Northfield community, and also give ACM students the opportunity to do some volunteer work," Morvan said, while watching a group of Norwich students lug monitors into the Boys and Girls Club last Thursday. "Robert really got the ball rolling, though. Then the ACM club took ten old computer lab machines, stripped them down and made them into five machines."

ACM President and computer engineering major Jeff Belanger said the 23-member ACM club got together a few weekends back to do the grunt work. Motherboards, hard drives and processors were pulled out, cleaned and put back into five Dell desktop cases. Originally, the group tried to install a free Linux operating system on the machines, but issues with the video drivers forced them to install Windows 2000 on the computers, instead, Belanger said.

"They're perfect for doing homework, word processing and surfing the Web," Belanger said. "And this is a perfect opportunity for the ACM club to give back to the community."
Along with donating the time to rebuild and set up the computers, Owens said ACM members will also provide the Boys and Girls Club with technical support if it's needed. So far, though, there hasn't been any trouble, and the kids are enjoying the new computers.

"The kids love them," Owens said. "They're able to do their homework, print and surf the Web when they're at the club. It's excellent for them and it also takes a lot of the workload off of that laptop they were using."