I’ve always wondered how people live without technology. How could I do my homework or study or organize events with my friends? In my life, technology is a necessity.
In fifth grade, I met a classmate who did not have access to a computer. He was assigned to our group to work on a Prezi presentation. My group would have daily Skype meetings at 7 p.m. to discuss the project and fine-tune the details, but he never joined us. He missed a big part of the discussion and couldn’t complete the project because he didn’t have a computer.
It was my first encounter with a person lacking a computer in the Silicon Valley, but unfortunately not my last. From then on, I knew I had to do something about it.
Three years ago, I met Terence Lee, founder of the nonprofit Equal Opportunity Technology (EqOpTech) at Los Altos High School. The organization redeploys old laptops to those in need. The idea is simple. Many businesses and families have older but fully functional computers that are collecting dust and eventually end up in landfills. EqOpTech scouts for donations of these older laptops, receiving hundreds from school districts, nextdoor neighbors and Silicon Valley technology companies, and refurbishes them to give to children from low-income families who do not have access to computers.
Thinking that this was a perfect opportunity to help, I joined EqOpTech as an intern in 2016. Since then, I have refurbished hundreds of donated laptops and organized a few laptop drives in Los Altos and Mountain View elementary schools, approaching principals and IT specialists for donations of their outdated Macbooks that were no longer in use. Recently, I led a campaign to refurbish 50 laptops for children in East Palo Alto, and we will soon be sending 50 more. Students can now do research and complete their online homework with the donated laptops.
Providing the technology is not enough. Teaching children how to use the technology and offering STEM education so that they can break the poverty cycle is the second pillar of our program.
EqOpTech has teamed up with Sunday Friends of San Jose to roll out and implement pilot STEM education workshops using the redeployed computers to access online educational programs such as Khan Academy and Scratch. Students attending the workshops are mentored by our EqOpTech high school volunteers, who developed personalized learning plans for them tailored to their STEM interests and needs. Students engaged in the workshops are rewarded with badges and have priority access to the dedicated laptops of the regular Sunday Friends program.
At-risk students at Sunday Friends also can also earn EqOpTech refurbished laptops after completing the Sunday Friends curriculum. Our goal is to help students develop a passion for lifelong learning with the technology tools to support it.
Santa Rita laptop drive
Reusing technology gives disadvantaged children an equal opportunity to learn, compete and be successful in school. I ask you to join me to be part of the solution. If you have an older, functional laptop with a charger, please donate it to EqOpTech. Each donated laptop will be refurbished to its full functionality with a new operating system and removal of all personal data prior to redeployment.
Drop off laptops at Santa Rita School, 700 Los Altos Ave. in Los Altos, during school hours through May 31.
Daniel Lim is an EqOpTech intern and junior at Los Altos High School.