Middle school students help to build their own computer

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LINDEN, NJ — Linden middle school students wanted a more powerful computer. So they built one.

Through the Linden Public Schools One-to-One technology policy, every student is given an Apple device for schoolwork. But a group of McManus Middle School students went a big step further and built their own computer.

The students worked with the help and guidance of technology teacher Howard Schulz, but much of the work came from their own ambition and ingenuity — and on their own time before and after school.

“Working with them, I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” Schulz said. “There’s definitely a learning curve. It was a lot of fun. And now we have a finished product we can use for the livestreaming and other things. It will be beneficial for them.”

The students are involved in McManus’ “Tiger News: Live,” a weekly news show they livestream to highlight school news. They first discussed building a PC to give them more processing power for livestreaming, graphics, gaming and camera switching. Their creation has a 32 MHz Ryzen 7 5800 Processor and 32GB of RAM.

The students explained that the process started with them watching online, step-by-step tutorials on how to build a PC. They then used an app called PC Building Simulator that allows a user to virtually build a computer. The simulator shows how different parts — such as a motherboard, a CPU and a cooling unit — fit and work together, right down to the last screw.

They then use a website called PC Part Picker to get prices and choose parts.

Schulz, who worked with the support of Supervisor of Instructional Technology Joseph Scaldino, then made sure the parts they needed were available through school vendors.

“We had to pick out parts that we wanted, that were good parts that would do what we wanted them to do,” Schulz said. “So this is what they came up with. Then we had to make sure everything fit together.”

The PC starts as an empty black case, but students add parts to it piece by piece according to their design.

“This came all in different pieces,” Schulz said, pointing to the finished product. “Everything in that case was a different piece. That case was empty. So we put the motherboard in, then we connected the CPU, then we added the cooler system. Everything was put in by the students.”

He emphasized that he made sure everybody got a chance to be involved since the students started out at different skill levels.

“A lot of times I have to put the reins on the horses and say, ‘Hey, let’s slow down a little bit,’” he said. “I want everyone to participate and learn the process.”

The students who took part are Jacob Gonczowski, Mohamed Gueye, Maksymilian Jadczuk, Christopher Joyner, Jakai Koonce-Motley, Mathew Kozak, Max Rodriguez, Gabriella Vazquez and Jeriah Watson.

They were all enthusiastic about the project, as well as about producing the weekly news show, and spent their own time doing the work.

“Some of these students are here at 6:40 a.m. knocking on the door,” Schulz said. “They’ll play games, they’ll set up all this equipment that’s around. They’re here, and they’re getting things done.”

Photos Courtesy of Gary Miller