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Posted on Apr 28, 2016

Handy 6th-graders save school money

A sixth-grade fix-it crew with computer savvy skills has saved Monument Elementary School thousands of dollars by repairing some two dozen laptops and putting them back into use in the classroom.
All for the price of a pizza party to celebrate the students’ efforts.
Overseeing the students was Ted Vasei, sixth-grade STEM teacher. Vasei was impressed by the quality of work the students did and their commitment to doing the job right.
“The kids were very willing to learn the process correctly, and redo things when they didn’t turn out right the first time,” Vasei said. “They had an excellent work ethic, and, thanks to them, Monument has an extra 25 computers for staff and students to use that we really didn’t have before, and at much less cost than replacing them with new ones.”
Vasei’s computer crew was made up of three sixth-graders – Francisco Romero, 12; Manuel Diaz, 11; and Keira White, 11.
In Vasei’s classroom last week, the techy trio showed off their newly learned skills while finishing up the last of the broken computers. The computers, which were sitting unused at the school, needed new keyboards to get them back in action.
What was the hardest part about fixing the computers?
“Trying not to electrocute yourself,” Diaz said.
“That’s why we take out the battery, Manuel,” White interjected.
This project started when, earlier in the year, Vasei discovered a cart of older laptops that needed some TLC to make them usable again for students. He offered to get them back in working condition.
“We have several carts of modern Chromebooks that we use at our school, but there’s always a need for more student access to technology,” he explained.
Vasei set out to fix the computers; however, he soon realized there was a teaching opportunity here.
“I saw that this was a job students could do safely and with a little training,” said Vasei, who has been teaching for 26 years. “There’s a sense of pride and satisfaction when you can repair things on your own, or make something better than it was, and I wanted my students to be able to experience that.”
Besides, computer skills are a must-have in the workforce today, he added.
“With all the technology that surrounds us these days, there’s a widening job market for people who can keep it all running, and this was an opportunity to help students learn some valuable skills,” he said.
Vasei chose students who showed an interest in learning how to do the work – and who had the maturity to do it successfully. Romero, Diaz and White were willing to do the work during lunch and recess.
At home, he likes fixing things such as his bike, Diaz said. And he’d like to be a computer engineer when he’s older, he added.
White, who would like to be a doctor, said she enjoys working with technology.
“I fixed one every recess this week and last week,” said Romero.
The students worked hard and asked many questions, Vasei said. Together they talked about the different tools they needed and their function. Sometimes their work meant the students had to take things back apart again and do it over.
“Now they’re so good at it, I can just be here and they know what to do,” Vasei said.
Diaz said he’s learned a new skill that will help him at home on his own computer “instead of taking it to a repair guy,” he said.
In the future, Vasei would like to ask other schools in the district if they have some technology that needs some help. If there’s a need, he may train another group next year to do some additional repair work.
“When you fix something up yourself, there’s a real sense of accomplishment,” he said. “That’s a great thing for kids to experience. Not everything we can learn at school comes from a book.”

 

— By Jill FitzSimmons, editor@qvpr.com

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