Student-built computers to save Mississippi nearly $2 million

Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s office asked Moss Point computer teacher Anne Davis in June if she knew of any students who would be willing to help build 6,000 computers for the state’s public schools.

Nine students and four days of work later, 85 computers were ready to be shipped to schools throughout the state.

Davis teaches a class called ExplorNet that teaches kids how to take computers apart and put them back together. Moss Point High School is one of 12 sites in Mississippi that are building the 6,000 computers needed to put a computer in every classroom in the state.

The program not only provides hands-on job training, but also is expected to save the state nearly $2 million. Buying computer components separately and putting them together is about $300 cheaper than buying computers that are already assembled.

“Our students are using their skills to provide the technology for the generations coming behind them,” Musgrove said in a statement. “We’re moving into a new century and a new economy—an economy that’s wireless, borderless, and global. To compete—to win—in that economy, our students must have technological skills.”

The Moss Point teens started work July 10. They hope to complete their share of the work—500 computers—by the end of the year.

For 18-year-old Marlen Bogan, spending the day wielding a screwdriver for $8 an hour beats last summer’s job working at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“I think this is the best summer job you could have,” said Bogan, who graduated in May.

Like many of the students, he is remarkably comfortable with the technology. He has been playing with computers since he was 8 years old.

“It was fun taking them apart,” Bogan said. “I wanted to know, what does this do?”

Installing the software is the hardest part of the job, he said. Although all the computer parts should be the same, they don’t all respond to the same commands.

“It’s like they have a mind of their own,” he said.

After he gets a degree from a junior college, Bogan plans to get a job as a computer technician to pay for the rest of his schooling. He said he wants to get a degree in software engineering.

Davis said Bogan’s experience putting computers together this summer is transferable to real-world jobs paying $30,000 to $45,000.

Davis said she plans to have Moss Point High School students build computers for local residents once the computers for the state are finished in December. She hopes enough orders will come in to make the program self-sufficient enough to continue indefinitely.

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