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E-waste boots up learning experience for Scouts

Boy Scouts Anthony Romero, Timothy Junkin, Josiah Junkin, Brandon Rapoza and Xavier Coleman work on a computer during a recent meeting.

Boy Scouts Anthony Romero, Timothy Junkin, Josiah Junkin, Brandon Rapoza and Xavier Coleman work on a computer during a recent meeting.

NEWMAN – Discarded computers are providing a hands-on learning opportunity for members of a local Boy Scout troop exploring the world of technology.

Tearing apart and rebuilding computers have been part of the routine for Scouts in Troop 83, led by Scoutmaster Kevin Rapoza.

Along with the learning experience, some Scouts now have computers of their own as a result of their efforts.

Rapoza said the project got its start when a company donated electronic waste to the troop.

“Instead of sending it off for 10 cents a pound, we played with it first. I taught the Scouts how to tear it apart and put it back together again. We were successful in rebuilding several desktops with parts donated by my computer company,” explained Rapoza, a paramedic who also repairs computers as a sideline business.

That was four years ago – but the project was ongoing, allowing new groups of Scouts to earn computer badges as they cycle into the troop.

Recently, Scouts rehabilitated six surplus laptop computers donated by West Side Healthcare District.

Some were sold on e-Bay, raising money for new camp stoves.

One went home with a Scout who didn’t previously have a computer of his own.

“The Scout who got the last one didn’t have access to a computer at home,” Rapoza explained. “He would stay after school to do his computer homework. Now he has a Dell laptop. It has scratches and dings on it from being in the ambulance, but it works perfectly. It has a new screen and hard drive, and it is ready to go.”

Typically, Rapoza said, he assigns teams of three to work on a computer.

“I usually put two who have a computer with one who doesn’t,” he explained. If a useable computer emerges from the work, the Scout in need of a computer takes it home.

That doesn’t always happen, Rapoza acknowledged.

More often than not, he said, computers donated to the Scouts are beyond full restoration – but still provide a powerful learning experience as Scouts disassemble and rebuild the units while reasoning their way through the project as they problem-solve.

When all is said and done, most of the donated e-waste is recycled.

All that is required for the merit badge is that the computer start. “If we can get a functioning computer that they can use, that’s wonderful,” Rapoza declared.

The restored computers are not cutting edge, he said, but prove functional.

“For a 10th grader who needs to do word processing, they are more than adequate,” Rapoza said. “A college engineering student would probably not be satisfied with it.”

He said hard drives are either retained by the donor or destroyed.

Scouts will collect e-waste, Rapoza said. Collection can be arranged by calling him at 499-8857.