Wake County Families Receive Computers

By T. Keung Hui, The News & Observer
Read original here.


Wake County parents are getting free computers and training on how to use them so their children can have access at home to the digital resources that could help them succeed in school.

A total of 510 desktop and laptop computers will be given this school year to families who participate in the Family Digital Academy program offered at nine Wake schools. An excited group of 100 families received computers Thursday at Hodge Road Elementary School as part of an effort to help bridge the digital divide.

“We’re giving them the tools so even if they don’t have the academic knowledge, they have the tools so they can support their kids academically,” said Rosa Rangel, senior administrator in the school system’s Office of Equity Affairs.

Mariza Romero, who has two daughters at Hodge Road Elementary and one daughter at East Wake Middle School, was looking forward to setting up her new computer.

“It’s good because we don’t have a lot of money,” Romero said. “We have an old, old computer, but we have three girls.”

Rangel said she’s heard similar happy stories since the Family Digital Academy program began last school year at Combs Elementary in Raleigh. With the help of Univision and the Kramden Institute, a nonprofit group in Durham, 150 computers were distributed last school year.


Rangel said the program was so successful that it has expanded to include Brentwood and Washington elementary schools and Millbrook and Southeast Raleigh high schools in Raleigh; Carpenter Elementary and Cary High in Cary; Lincoln Heights Elementary in Fuquay-Varina and Hodge Road Elementary.

Kramden is providing the desktops, and the United Way is donating the laptops. Rangel said laptops are being given to high school students and to fifth-grade students since they’ll have the most need of the computers at school.

The workshops, which are being taught in multiple languages, provide parents with information about different online resources they can use at home to support their children. Organizers say putting these resources into the hands of parents could help close the achievement gap that exists between low-income and more affluent students.

Families are also being told how they can contact AT&T to get access to low-cost home internet service.

“We want you to understand what your child is doing so you can help them with their reading and math,” Rangel told parents at Hodge Road.

For Romero, who can remember the days when classrooms had one computer, she said having a modern computer at home is necessary for her children’s education.

“We used to look at a lot of books for homework,” Romero said. “Now they can just type in Google.”

Church gives away free home computers

By Ryan Hedrick, The Daily Dispatch
Read original here.

Woodsworth Baptist Church gave out almost 50 desktop computers Saturday afternoon to families with school-aged children in need of home computers for their schoolwork. This is the first time that the church has distributed the PCs and it all started when Joyce Royster, the church’s youth director, noticed her children often said that they couldn’t do certain schoolwork because they didn’t have easy access to a computer at home. “I was working with our children on their end-of-grade testing, and I was trying to tell them that they could go online to study the test. ‘I don’t have a computer at home,’ they would tell me,” Royster said.

So Royster contacted Kramden Institute in Durham to see if they could help. Kramden Institute is an organization that was started more than a decade ago by a father and son duo who wanted to help deserving students have more readily available access to computers in their homes. Over the history of the organization, more than 24,000 refurbished home computers have been given out to students across 78 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Royster said that when she contacted Kramden to see if they could help the children in her church, Kramden was more than open to the idea. “They said yes. So I had to go through a training process at Kramden to get started with our church,” Royster said. “The day that I went to the training they weren’t supposed to send the computers then, but they already had them packed up and ready to send them back with me.”

Families that wanted to receive one of the computers had to first go through an application process and be approved by Kramden. The students needed to be in good academic standing and be in grades three through 12. The computers that Kramden distributes to students are completely refurbished with new parts and come with more than 60 programs like word processors and programs to help with skills such as reading and math. Also, Kramden will replace any defective parts in the computer for as long as the student that received it is in school.

Martynetta Hargrove is an assistant pastor at Woodsworth and was present at the church’s giveaway. She talked about how thankful she was that Royster decided to take on such an important cause. “I’m very thankful for Mrs. Royster as our youth director because not every child can have a computer in their home,” Hargrove said. “This is helping a lot of families not just in this church but in the community, and we are so thankful that they will have the chance to have their own computers.”

Melvin Hanks was at Woodsworth on Saturday afternoon picking up one of the computers for his grandson who is in ninth grade at Henderson Collegiate. “It will help him do homework and stuff like that,” Hanks said. “This day and time all kids need a computer, don’t they?” Hanks also mentioned that before now whenever his grandson was at home and needed to access the internet for school work, he would have to do so using Hanks’ cellphone. “I would be looking around and wouldn’t know where my cellphone was and he would have it,” Hanks said with a chuckle. “At least now at night I’ll have my phone.” Royster said that she has already started planning another round of computer giveaways and is taking applications from families that need them.



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.

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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.