Kramden Provides Computers for the NETT Program


Earlier this year, one of our favorite partners, WinstonNet, received a grant from the United Way as part of the Place Matters Initiative. The grant provides funds for WinstonNet’s Neighborhoods Empowered Through Technology (NETT) program. This program focuses on providing computer and soft skills training for unemployed and underemployed residents of select Winston Salem neighborhoods. To carry out the NETT program, WinstonNet partnered with the Urban League, Forsyth Tech Community College, Forsyth County Public Library, Winston Salem State University, and Kramden Institute.

100 participants will go through a 30-hour course covering computer and internet basics, office programs, and job readiness skills such as interviewing, resume development, and searching for job postings. The classes are held at Goodwill and Forsyth Tech, keeping them close to the neighborhoods the participants live in. After graduating from the program, participants receive a refurbished laptop from Kramden Institute for $25.


70% of program participants that have graduated from the program so far are currently looking for jobs or working to enhance their skills to get better jobs. Two classes have already graduated and two more classes are underway. Feedback from participants has been highly positive. One participant told instructors she was very excited because she could now apply to jobs online on her own using a computer.


Virginia Beach Recycle Drive & WTKR Interview

On Saturday, September 17th, Kramden Institute held a recycle drive in Virginia Beach, VA in partnership with Southern Bank. It was our second recycle drive in Virginia Beach and our third sponsored by Southern Bank. 98 desktops, 20 laptops, and 45 monitors were collected at the event.

Southern Bank promoted the recycle drive through TV ads on WTKR, the CBS affiliate in the Virginia Beach area. As part of the promotion, Kramden was featured on the Coast Live show to talk about our work and the (then) upcoming event.

Read more here


Johnston County Students Receive Free Computers



By Abbie Bennet, News & Observer
Reposted from the News & Observer

Technology is so prevalent that it’s easy to think all students have access to computers and Internet in their homes, or can get to a library to complete assignments.

But that’s not reality.

“We need a computer for school,” said Marvin Guerrero, an eighth-grader at Selma Middle School. “We use them a lot. It’s hard if you don’t have one or if you can’t get a ride to the library.”

“This is going to be a big help for us,” said Tyisha Melvin, Guerrero’s mom.

Earlier this month, 31 students in grades 3-12 from across Johnston County who attended summer enrichment programs at Selma Middle School received desktop computers to take home. The students attended Selma Middle School STEAM and Summer Reading for Educational Advancement and Development, four-week programs to help enhance learning, prevent summer learning loss and ensure students maintain good nutrition through the summer.

“There’s a technology gap that we want to help address,” said Selma Middle School Teacher of the Year Tarsha Johnson.

The computers were a gift from the Kramden Institute, a Durham nonprofit that helps provide technology and training to students without a computer at home.

Students accepted their computers on Aug. 12, when they also received instruction in how to use them.

Kristina Zuidema, office manager at Kramden, spent time with students and parents teaching them the operating system installed on their new computers – Ubuntu, a Linux-based system. Unlike Windows and other operating systems, Zuidema said Ubuntu was especially resistant to viruses.

Zuidema started with the basics of hardware setup and care, and most of the students were quick studies or already familiar with computers, despite not having one at home.

“I know how to use one,” said Melanie Zavaleta, a sixth-grader. “This is a little different, but it seems really cool.

“I think it’s going to be a big help with my school work,” Zavaleta added.

The computers will benefit more than the students who received them, Kramden officials pointed out. Siblings and parents will benefit too, they said.

“You can use this, but your parents can use it too,” Zuidema said.

Johnson is also president and founder of REACH Our Communities. (REACH is short for Reaching Every Adult and Childhood Hardship.) She nominated the students in the summer enrichment programs to receive a computer from the Kramden Institute.

“They’re really excited, and we’re excited for them,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you’d never know a student lacked this kind of technology at home, and many families take the advantage of having a home computer for granted. It really makes a difference for these students and families.

“The computers will impact not only the kids but their parents too,” Johnson added. “They’ll have an opportunity to use the technology to job search at home. That’s important in helping our families be successful.”

Computers are prolific, and making sure that these students and their families have access to technology was key, said Cari DelMariani, director of programs for the Kramden Institute.

“Computers are so essential for students today,” she said. “ It’s pretty much impossible for them to be able to keep up if they don’t have some type of technology in their home.

“It’s an amazing feeling to come provide that technology to so many students.”

The computers came installed with more than 60 programs for students to use, including educational programs, web browsers and software for editing photos, audio and video.

Kramden also provides technical support for the computers for as long as the students are in school, Zuidema said.

“So you can call us if you have any problems and we can help you out,” she said. “We’re here for you if you need us.”

“We make sure the students know how to use all the programs on the computers so that they can fully use their new technology when they get home,” DelMariani said.

Students and parents carefully carried their monitors, towers, keyboards and mice to their cars after learning how to use them.

“It’s important to have a computer at home so that I can learn all year and not just at school,” said Malachi McDuffie, a seventh-grader.

“As a teacher at Selma Middle School, I see firsthand the obstacles that our students face every day,” Johnson said. “We (REACH Our Communities) are here to provide support to the students and the families by equipping them with the resources and knowledge that they need to overcome these obstacles. We want our communities to be safe and full of productive, law-abiding citizens, and the only way I know to ensure that is to educate the kids and their parents. This is our goal.”

Read more here


Camp #3 – PC Building

Being true to ourselves, our third camp of the summer was on a subject near and dear to our hearts – building computers. Thirteen students from across the Triangle joined us last week for a 3 geeky days spent learning the ins and outs of computer hardware, how to assemble the pieces into functioning machines, and how to benchmark the hardware and load an operating system.

After an introduction to the key concepts, the students broke into teams and assembled loose parts into an empty case. Kramden instructors were there to provide advice and help the students with troubleshooting errors. After the first round of building, the students disassembled their computers and spent time learning about more advanced concepts before building their second computer using a different case and components. One student remarked in surprise that building a computer is “just like Legos, everything fits together right once you know how”. After three successful builds, the students learned how to upgrade their computers using GeForce GPUs provided by NVIDIA (Thanks NVIDIA!).

Not only did NVIDIA provide GPUs for the students to use, but two engineers from NVIDIA visited the camp and gave a presentation on the hardware development process and talked about what it is like to work as a computer engineer.

The last few hours of the camp was spent using online resources to create parts lists for different budgets and uses, from casual gaming to professional video editing. The camp was a huge success and we look forward to offering it again in the future.

Camp #2 – Drones!

By Lile Stephens, Technology Education Instructor

Last week we launched our first ever Drone Flight Camp and it was awesome! Twelve middle school students from around the Triangle joined us downtown to fly drones, learn about the industry and jobs, train on drone racing simulators, and participate in a variety of tasks, missions, and races. They came in at a variety of levels–some had flown (and crashed!) RC helicopters and quadcopters while others had never flown before. At the end of the week, everybody went home with skills that will allow them to fly accurately and responsibly. We may have nicked a few fingers and smoked a few motors, but there’s no better way to learn!

The first few days of camp were centered on learning the principles of flight and the specific characteristics of quadcopter operation. Each student was required to perform a series of simple but focused tasks, each one building on the other. To save batteries and propellers, some of these tasks were performed on FPV Freerider, a terrific simulator used for the emerging hobby of drone racing! Organized into teams, each ‘flight crew’ was responsible for keeping track of each other’s progress and practicing safety. As they got more comfortable and honed their skills, some of the students were able to fly using First Person View, piloting by watching a real time camera feed from the drone’s point of view while the other team members acted as spotters and navigators. Using the FPV the students worked through several scenarios. The most successful mission that every team got to try was inspecting a bridge for structural weaknesses–in this scenario the team was required to fly close and hover near special markers that would simulate the condition of certain points on the bridge, recording that data on video, then analyzing it back at ‘base camp.’

While it was mostly fun and games, we did take some time to talk about how drones have and will be used and the precautions we should all take moving forward. By far, the most fun I had was Thursday morning when each of the teams got to participate in a racing tournament! Using obstacles and checkpoints, we created a relay race system so each team member had a section of the track for which they were responsible. The cheers and chants from the bleachers was deafening!

Every day Sarah and I got to hear a bit from the parents about how much their kids were enjoying camp, which is always great. There were even several parents that wanted to take a drone class and were wondering when we’d let some adults play (stay tuned…). I think it’s safe to say we all had a great time and are looking forward to many more of these in the future.


We could not have done this without the support of others. First and foremost we’d like to thank Rob and Tucker at ReCity for donating the space and accommodating all of us for a whole week! The Cary-based Forge Initiative loaned us six drones and some obstacles–thank you! Special thanks to John, the developer of FPV Freerider, who donated four software licenses for us! And finally, one of our newest employees, Sarah Huff! Sarah is a teacher that has joined us to assist in our first two camps and is so much fun! Sarah, you are great with the kids and help keep everything organized, cheerful, and silly!

Our First Ever Camp!

By Lile Stephens, Technology Education Instructor

We just finished up our first tech summer camp and it was a blast! Ten students joined us for the week to create original projects around image, sound, and video. To kick off the camp, we dove head first into GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP is a powerful open-source alternative to Photoshop which we used to teach students about image resolution, layers, and color/value adjustments, as well as advanced topics like alpha channels and layer masking. Each student showcased their skills in a final project by choosing to make a fake video game box cover or fictional album cover! Next, we used the program Audacity to record, download, and mix different sounds into a sound story. The skills developed in this project will provide a solid foundation for anyone interested in recording and mixing music, editing podcasts or radio shows, and sound design for TV and film. Audacity can also be downloaded for free to any computer.

album Gabrielle1
guardian album

Our kids used their new imaging and audio skills in a final group project: an infomercial! We divided up the camp into three groups, tasking them with inventing a new ‘use’ for an existing object and pitching it as a new must-have invention. We had a lot of fun with this one. After looking at some examples of infomercials from the past, students got to work finding clips, writing a script, recording voiceovers, and adding graphics and effects. We even used a low budget but effective green screen to transport our actors to different locations! It was difficult to find an open-source and cross-platform video editing program, so we decided to try out a collaborative web-based video application called WeVideo. Our students were able to pass the job of editing back and forth with this program that is optimized for education. The principles of editing and even the layout of the software provided a primer for anyone looking to graduate to more professional video software. After spending almost half of the week working on our video projects, the Kramden staff joined us for the debut screening and we all had a good laugh.

In between instruction and projects, we had brainstorming sessions and played a variety of games. The weather was great and we were able to have some time outside to eat lunch and hang out in the gazebo. All in all, our inaugural camp was a success! We’re looking forward to having regular camps in the future and seeing what crazy things our students can create!

Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle…. Or Not?

If you’ve ever been involved with Kramden, you know how seriously we take our electronics recycling program.  We put an emphasis on reuse first, by evaluating every desktop, laptop, and LCD monitor that comes through our door to see if it meets our standards for reuse. Every item that meets our specifications for hardware capabilities and cosmetic condition enters the refurbishing process and ultimately winds up in the hands of a student in need of a computer.

Unfortunately, we cannot directly refurbish every computer that is donated to Kramden. Some are too old or in too rough of shape to go through the refurbishing process. All of the computers that don’t meet our minimum specifications are taken back to our sorting and recycling area where volunteers disassemble them down to their basic parts. Any part that we can reuse is put back into service. Everything we can’t reuse is sorted out and prepared for recycling. We mean everything, from old motherboards and disk drives to scratched monitors and broken keyboards. That’s our process – reuse or recycle – with nothing being tossed in the dumpster.

A Kramden Super Geek takes apart an old desktop computer.

Recently, KCTS 9 posted a video and article that follow Jim Pickett of the Basel Action Network, an e-waste watchdog group, which highlight the shortcomings of the global e-waste recycling industry. It is a fascinating and disheartening piece, but one that everyone should see. The investigation showed that the vast majority of e-waste is being recycled properly here in the US. However, too often computers, televisions, and printers are instead shipped whole to countries in Asia where they are improperly broken down by companies that do not employ basic safety precautions. This behavior has catastrophic health and environmental consequences and needs to be stopped.

At Kramden, we believe in proper recycling and environmental protection, which is why we are taking the time to bring this issue to your attention and be transparent about our process.

We set high standards for recycling equipment that is donated to Kramden and only work with select partners. The recyclers we work with must hold top-level certifications for their operations including R2 and ISO 14001. We visit the facilities of our partners on a regular basis to make sure every item, no matter how small, is being handled properly. We do not accept items for donation that we and our partners are not equipped to properly recycle. By breaking down old computers and sorting them the way we do, we ensure that they are recycled and remanufactured sooner and more efficiently.

With our commitment to doing things the right way, we invite anyone in our community to ask questions about our operations. Stop by our office for a tour and we will gladly walk you through our refurbishing and recycling process, from the moment a computer enters our front door until it leaves the building. You can find our contact information here.

Want to learn more about this issue or read the full article by KCTS 9? Click here.

Job Seeking in the Digital Age Class Graduates

IMG_0182 (edit)

Berthe receives her certificate from Marshall Burkes, Technology Education Coordinator at Kramden Institute, and Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger.

Kramden Institute and the Town of Chapel Hill completed the graduation of the second ‘Job Seeking in the Digital Age’ course at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Thursday, June 2.

Thirty adults from Chapel Hill public housing communities have now completed the course. Participants spend four weeks learning about online career resources, how to write an effective resumé and cover letter, the best ways to submit  job applications online and via email, and how to present themselves professionally in interviews and on social media.

Graduates receive a free laptop upon graduating from the course. The class and laptops were sponsored by Google Fiber.

The Mayor of Chapel Hill, Pam Hemminger, addressed the graduates in a congratulations speech and presented certificates to graduates. Berthe, a participant in multiple Kramden classes, hugged Hemminger as she received her certificate.

“Because I love the class so much I’m here a second time,” Berthe said. “[The course] has made me feel better so I don’t need to find jobs posted on the street. I can now go online to find them.”

Berthe loves the library, and she keeps library cards for herself and her six children. She was excited when she learned about this job readiness class, since she enjoyed her experience in Kramden’s Digital Literacy class last year.

Chris, who is currently working in the food industry and is an aspiring writer/blogger, looks forward to using his computer for a job search and writing practice.

During the final class session, Shannon Bailey, a reference librarian at the Chapel Hill Public Library, spoke about how to get a library card and showed students how to access the library portals to and


Kramden goes to Costa Rica

IMG_9325a (Large)

Jason Ricker, Kramden’s Director of Technical Operations, shows a group of students how to use some of the apps on their new tablets.

Kramden Institute partnered with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club to award 101 laptops and 60 tablets to students at nine schools in the Alajuela province of Costa Rica. For most of the students, this is the first time they have had access to technology and educational apps.

Each school received training on how to use and care for the equipment during a 30-minute orientation led by Costa Rican native, Henry Vargas. Vargas has been trained by Kramden on the refurbishing process and operating system and has completed the Kramden Digital Literacy Curriculum. He will revisit all nine schools in three months to conduct training workshops and repair any equipment.

IMG_8892 (Large)

Students and teachers pose with their tablets and computers on the front steps of their school.

Jason Ricker, Director of Technical Operations at Kramden Institute, was able to award the computers and tablets to the students. “The biggest impact was getting technology into the hands of students with no access,” he said. “There are some schools where the only technology is the teacher’s smart phone,” Ricker said.


IMG_8922 (Large)

Kramden volunteer Erica Ricker gathers an audience for a quick demonstration of the tablet.

All computers featured the Spanish language version of the Ubermix operating system. This is the second year that Kramden and the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club have worked together to bring computers to Alajuela.

IMG_9161a (Large)

Kramden laptops set up in a classroom at one of the schools.

IMG_8911 (Large)

Students take turns using a demonstration tablet to play an educational game.

Kramden Won a STEMmy Award!

STEMmy award

Last night, Kramden was honored as the Youth Serving Organization of the Year by US 2020 RTP at the first annual STEMmy Awards. Also known as the Golden Gears, the STEMmy Awards honor individuals, organizations, and partners for their amazing work and contributions in making science, technology, engineering, and math more accessible for low-income, minority, and female students around the Triangle. Kramden was selected as a “nonprofit that connects youth in the community to a variety of engaging STEM opportunities.”

Other STEMmy winners include:

  • Student of the Year K-8: Mansi Goyal, Hunter GT/AIG Basics Magnet Elementary, Grade 5
  • Student of the Year 9-16: Joanna McDonald, Green Hope High School, Grade 11
  • STEM School of the Year, Lowes Grove Middle School
  • Mentor of the Year, Kenneth Lyle, Duke University
  • Higher Ed Department of the Year, Kenan Fellows Program, NC State University
  • STEM Industry Partner of the Year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, RTP
  • RTPi3 Essay Contest Winner- Benjamin Warlick, Charles D. Owen High School, Buncombe County