Everyone knows we give laptop computers and free wifi to students and their families who need it in Montclair, but we also support our students in three ways with various activities at our lab at the United Way building here in town. Here’s the run down.
Support for students’ Laptop Upcycle laptop is provided at Open Lab times at the HackNCraftNJ lab every Saturday morning from 10:00 AM – Noon. Students are welcome to stop by and someone will be in the lab to assist them.
Laptop Upcycle is also running two coding and development meetups each week where students (and their parents) are welcome to join us. On Sunday afternoon we host a Take CS50 Together meetup where those interested in coding and computer science work together on the Harvard University Introduction to Computer Science curriculum. It is a college level class, but it is fun and engaging.
We also have just started a weekly Thursday After School Class/Meetup on the Raspberry Pi platform and projects using the Pi. There will be specific topics each week on the Raspberry Pi and we will encourage participants to do their own projects where we support each other. This meetup is for Middle School students and older. Laptop Upcycle staff members will be running this meetup, so they would also be happy to support any laptop issues at this meetup as well. The meetup is from 3:00 PM to 5:00 every Thursday in the lab. Come out and learn some Raspberry Pi!
Finally, we have established a dedicated Laptop Upcycle Intern working session in the lab for every Sunday afternoon from 4:00 PM to 6:00. Students who are interested in obtaining community service hours and also want to learn some cool technology (fixing laptops, hacking around with Linux, or developing support systems), we would love to see you.
The links for the specific meetups are embedded above, or you may sign up for all of our meetup notifications on the HackNCraftNJ Meetup page here.
When we deliver laptops to young adults in our schools, we always ask for a brief thank you note. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's a wonderful thing and it makes our volunteer work worth it. Here are 16 of them from Buzz Aldrin School earlier in the year.
Welcome to October and a brief back to school update from us here at Laptop Upcycle.
It has been about a year since our humble beginning here in Montclair. In that time, we have made a great deal of progress. From a pure numerical stand point we have given out 96 laptops to students in the Montclair Public Schools. We have also given families in our town 18 free wifi devices that allow their household to get free wifi for 5 years.
While we are certainly proud of this achievement, we are more excited that we have made great progress on learning what it takes to develop our nonprofit to expand and serve even more in our community and beyond. In essence Laptop Upcycle is like a computer program one may code. Simply stated, there are inputs, some processing, and some outputs. For us the inputs are the laptops and funds donated to us, the processing is the dedication and hard work of our volunteers to wipe, clean, and update the machines for delivery, and the output is the exciting and rewarding event when we give laptops to young adults. Of course, there is some other stuff thrown in there, some PR, some partnerships, and some relationship building, but that’s most of it.
Colin McCarthy of Essence, an Upcycle Super Hero
The accompanying photos on this post show these steps in action. Early on, we promoted our efforts on Facebook and our request for laptops that were no longer being used was picked up by Colin McCarthy at Essence in New York. Essence was one of our first contributors in 2016, and quite frankly, we would not be where we are today without them. The photo above was taken two weeks ago when Colin and Essence contributed their SECOND batch of high quality laptops. We (and the kids) could not be more thankful.
Our IMANI program delivery this past Summer
Speaking of the kids (the output part of the equation), this past Summer Sarah and Jon spoke at the IMANI Summer program at Montclair High School. As a result of that partnership (thanks to Joann McCullough), we were able to give laptops to this group of kids before school started last month. We also dropped off another group at the High School last week and have another delivery planned next week. Ms. Chanda Fields is a superstar at the High School, and we really appreciate her help.
Finally, we wish to thank all of our volunteers (the process) for making it all happen. See some of us on the splash screen of our home page. Mike Brown and Mark Zbucki joined us this past Spring and have been amazing. Mark created our new student centric Ubuntu software image and automated our systems, and Mike created a process flow system for our laptops which helps us turn around our donations even quicker. He also led our Summer intern program that introduced some new energetic volunteers to our group. They are key to the future of Laptop Upcycle and we are grateful to all of you – the two Ethans, Alex, Reese, Patrick, Amina, Sam, and Sydney. We’re excited that we have a new group starting with us too.
As is often the case, I have gone on a bit too long. So much for “brief”. We’ll share more on our new plans very soon. Stay tuned!
Jon for the Laptop Upcycle team
Are you a High School student looking for a Summer project in town? Consider joining the Laptop Upcycle team on our continuing project to source and give laptops to students who need them in our public schools.
We are looking for volunteers to make a difference in four areas:
Since we’re a nonprofit and we are working with limited resources, we are not able to pay you for these positions, but we do offer:
Laptop Upcycle is a Montclair, NJ based division of HackNCraftNJ, Inc. committed to obtaining, refreshing, and distributing technology to students who need the tools to succeed in school. We believe all public school students should have access to the technology and hardware they need to learn regardless of their family's income level. Laptop Upcycle's mission is to eliminate technology impediments as a part of the achievement gap.
If you have questions or would like to join us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Greetings Mr. Cook,
Congratulations on your inspired commencement speech at your Alma Matter, MIT, today. Since my 128K Mac days, I have long been a consumer of Apple products and they have helped shape my own technical education. As you are an MIT graduate and my youngest daughter has ambitions to attend there in the Fall of 2018, I had many reasons to watch your presentation.
Your position at Apple indeed affords you the opportunity to share your leadership insights and wisdom on those who are venturing in to the challenging and exciting technical future. You have earned this honor through hard work, insightful strategic choices, and effective management and development of your quality staff. You touch upon a number of these highlights in your presentation. Bravo!
Today you said, “When you are convinced that your cause is right, have the courage to take a stand. If you see a problem or an injustice, recognize that no one will fix it but you.” Five of us in Montclair, NJ have done just that. We have taken a stand.
This past Fall we started up a small nonprofit called Laptop Upcycle with a simple goal: We believe all public school students should have access to the technology and hardware they need to learn regardless of their family's income level. To that end we take donated used laptops, refurbish them and give them to students in need, free of charge.
You see Mr. Cook, we agree with you. We see the power that technology has to change lives and we all know that what really matters is how we can collectively serve humanity, leaving this place better than when we found it. So even though we understand and appreciate your opinions on AI, and your well-founded pride in Apple technology that can help those with the means to run a marathon when they couldn’t before, we believe a higher priority MUST be placed on those who are at risk in our economy.
Let me share something with you. We live in one of the most affluent suburbs of New York, Montclair, NJ. Yet we estimate that over 100 students entering the town High School each year do not have ready access to their own computer to do their homework at home. Many students we work with shuffle from make-shift living arrangements to the library just to try and keep up with their studies. It doesn’t take an AI or an advanced degree to predict that Montclair is not unique in this regard, and that the situation can only be worse in less affluent communities. All across the country there are young adults who do not have access to the technology tools you describe so eloquently.
These future leaders of our country are missing the opportunity to evaluate for themselves the positives and negatives of technology you describe when they are simply scrambling to find a PC at the library to complete their science paper. We have worked with over 70 families since last Fall, giving kids in our schools their own free laptop. It is a powerful moment when a 13-year old asks you, “Is this really mine?” or they send in a hand-written note describing how their new laptop has changed their family life. Our neighbors know all too well the strength of families, neighbors, and community. They only need some help to give their kids the tools to succeed.
You closed your speech today with an anecdote about a share-holder who was disappointed in your approach on green initiatives. You said, you do things because “they are the right thing to do.” At the risk of “getting your blood up”, I will in a similar way take on the role of that share-holder. In April of this year it was reported that Apple Forces Recyclers to Shred all iPhones and Macbooks. This report has supporting documentation included, and since we at Laptop Upcycle have seen that this shredding paradigm is common for most Fortune 500 (and smaller) companies, I have no reason not to believe the story is true. Please advise if it is not the case. Many of the Macbooks being shredded could still have several years of useful life in the hands of a needy student.
So, I’ve gone on a bit too long, but I will leave you with a simple challenge. You offered a positive vision in your commencement speech today. Assuming the report I describe above is true, I challenge you to live up to the vision you shared in Boston today and CHANGE your policy so that laptops you receive to be recycled are NOT ground up in to dust, but are received, wiped, renovated, and GIVEN to students who need them. It's the right thing to do.
In every community across America there are organizations we know are ready to help do what we’ve done in Montclair. We’re willing to accelerate our model and help these communities with procedures, training, and policies for making this work. But we need the donations of hardware to make it happen. Imagine if Apple were to “Think Different” and not grind up recycled laptops, and instead help us to GIVE them to those who need them.
Our mission from above can therefore be generalized as follows: Every young adult in school who needs a computer to learn should have one. If they can’t afford one, we should find other ways to make it happen. Will you help us and show that Apple is a leader? If you have any doubts, check in with Pope Francis. I suspect you know what he will say. Please contact me with questions at email@example.com.
Jon Bonesteel, co-founder Laptop Upcycle
(May 1, 2017) Laptop Upcycle, a division of HackNCraftNJ, announces a $3500 grant from The Montclair Foundation that will support the organization’s free laptop program created for underserved kids in Montclair. Laptop Upcycle was formed Fall 2016 by Jon Bonesteel, Sarah Damaskos, and John Wisniewski, and has already distributed over 60 laptops and free wifi to to Montclair High School, Buzz Aldrin Middle School and Renaissance Middle School students who do not have home computer access.
Currently, Montclair middle school and high school homework is distributed, and graded completed primarily via Google Classroom. While reducing paper and waste, this type of computer-based learning model unintentionally penalizes students who don't have home computer access.
To bridge the technology-family income gap, Laptop Upcycle delivers donated, used laptops to Montclair students at risk. The laptops are donated by local businesses and families who have working, but no longer needed, hardware. The Montclair Foundation’s grant will purchase replacement batteries and missing power supplies for otherwise functional laptops.
Founding member John Wisniewski is thrilled, “With a waiting list of students, we’re constantly seeking usable, working laptops from the greater Montclair community. Many times, older donated laptops that are in good working shape are missing a power supply or their battery is just shot. The Montclair Foundation grant provides the critical gap funding so that Laptop Upcycle can replace these essential components and ensure that the laptop is 100% usable by the student.”
Laptop Upcycle’s process is straightforward and entirely volunteer-powered. As Mac or PC computers are donated, each is securely wiped to ensure that all data is thoroughly removed. Then, each computer is loaded with an open source Operating System and educational software to provide students with the technology they need for homework and academic success. For families without home internet access, a wifi router with 5 years of free service can also be provided. Laptop Upcycle provides drop-in support and Q&A for students and their family at the HackNCraftNJ Makerspace, located in the United Way building, during scheduled open hours.
To volunteer or donate laptops or funds, go to www.LaptopUpcycle.org. Donors receive a tax-deductible receipt of $300 for each usable, donated computer. For middle school or high school students without home computer access, students and families should contact their school guidance counselor or go to http://www.laptopupcycle.org/get-technology.html to apply for a laptop and/or wifi.
Laptop Upcycle's mission is to eliminate technology impediments contributing to Montclair’s academic achievement gap. Program volunteers provide outreach, collect, refresh and distribute donated private and corporate laptop donations to low-income middle and high school students who do not have home computer access. Laptop Upcycle is a program of HackNCraftNJ, Inc (Montclair, NJ), a 501c(3) not-for-profit organization. Visit www.LaptopUpcycle.org for more information or follow us on https://www.facebook.com/laptopupcycle/ for announcements and success stories.
The Montclair Foundation is a nonprofit that awards grants to charitable organizations in the greater Montclair area. It was established to support not-for-profit organizations that meet health, educational, cultural, social service and quality of life needs in the greater Montclair community. https://vanvleck.org/montclair-foundation-mission/
John Wisniewski and Jon Bonesteel met with Natalie Heard from TAP Montclair over coffee and discussed how we created the project and how we started up. There are some great pics of the three of us (including Sarah Damaskos) at Buzz Aldrin Middle School for one of our early drop offs with excited young adults. Dan Taylor and Principal Jill Sack have been great supporters of Laptop Upcycle. Check out the story HERE.