Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mindtriggerz Lab at Cardinal Valley Park - 12/27/08 (blog by "Juice")

Hello everyone! It's Joyce here reporting in (late). I can't even begin to explain how exciting this Winter with the Mindtriggerz Project has been for me. The first couple of meetings I spent listening to stories of Jesse while cleaning up old keyboards and dusting off monitors. Occasionally James would even try to teach me something about the computers. The people I've met continue to amaze me with their knowledge of computer parts, and the relationships I've formed have become dear to me.

The first Saturday training session one the 20th was a big success. After getting a good feel of how the sessions would go, the group decided to split up for the second session on the 27th. "The boys" stayed at Bekki's house to work on more computers, while Jerome, April and I went to the lab to work with the families.

It was a great session to say the least. All the kids who were there last Saturday came back, and more importantly, they were excited to be back! A few fathers showed up this time, and even played some games. One man told me, "This will be great for my whole family. We can all learn from this!"

A little girl I had helped last week came back ready to roll. After learning how to use a mouse just last week, she was already perfecting the drag and drop playing a puzzle game. Every time she finished a puzzle, a triumphant noise would sound from the speakers, and she would look up at me with one of those ridiculously happy smiles you can only see on child's face.

Another boy who hadn't shown much interest in the computers last time showed up again to give it another shot. His hand was so small he could barely manipulate the mouse properly, but after some practice on a colorful underwater game, he was clicking away like a pro. His father laughed and smiled and encouraged him the entire time they were there.

When I started working on this project, I wanted to hang out and talk to my friends. Actually working with the kids and watching their eyes light up has made even the smallest task like cleaning a keyboard seem so important. Every correct answer, every puzzle finished, and every new key memorized is a step towards a brighter future. It is Jesse's dream coming true. Everything these kids learn, they will take with them wherever they go. And that makes Jesse live forever.



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lazy Productiveness, Sparring, and Families

Hi all!
James Richardson here. It's December 20th. The day finally came, and it was a blast. We've all been looking forward to the "launch" of the project, and here it was! Jerome started work fairly early this morning (well, moderately early, probably around 7:30). Becky picked me up about twenty minutes later and we went over to Jerome's place. He and Becky loaded the three ghetto tables/workbenches (hollow core doors and saw horses) into Becky's truck while I managed to finish my bagel. Between Jerome and myself, we loaded up the nine computers we'd be using in the lab into the truck he's using, then sat around until about 8:45, when we drove (slowly) to Valley Park. Becky beat us there, where the guy who was letting us into the building was. We went on into the main room, which has (real) restrooms off of it, and several other rooms. There were three tables with chairs already set up in the middle of the room, and we set up the workbenches in places around the edge of the room. Suzy arrived in time to help with the basic setup and table clothing of each of the ghetto workbenches and regular tablez . Jerome was able to bring the truck he was using up almost to the doors, and they unloaded them while I hooked them up. Sometime during that time, Joyce and April arrived, and helped with set up of keyboards, mice, and speakers, which were attached to five of the computers. The other four got sets of headphones. About ten-ish, Jon drifted in and started doing his thing. Sarah also arrived about that time. As the morning went on, we had several families join us, filling out the required documents (which there really aren't that many of) and testing the computers. Becky, Sarah, Joyce, and April assisted in teaching the kids how to use the computers. Personally, I'm amazed with these kids- most of them learned how to use the mice and keyboards quickly.

Sometime during the morning, Mr. Jim Adams dropped by and made a proposal to Becky, Jerome, and myself. Several people have come to him with questions about installing memory and software on their home computers, so he has asked if there is the possibility of expanding the Mindtriggerz project to include instructional sessions some Saturday mornings at the Valley park. I've been asked to head up this project, so I'm currently in the planning stages of it. Hopefully it'll be able to launch fairly soon as a sub project of Mindtriggerz - the instructional branch. As it is, we've got somewhat of an "instructional" branch with Becky, Sarah, Joyce, and April teaching the kids how to use their computers. Also in that would probably count my video last week on how to crimp an ethernet cable, which is on Google video now. How embarrassing. There's a link in the post before this one. Either way, it might be an interesting way of expanding on the project.

Anyways, back to what happened. Munch (Lunch, same thing) was ordered and hauled in by Joyce and April (unfortunately not a fresh kill, instead Pizza Hut), and we all ate, having some very interesting conversations during that little time in the back room where we had set up our "break room". We had the fourth and fifth families in during the afternoon, and once they were gone, nobody else visited our little happy festival with a large banner and balloons out front. About 1:50, we started break down, storing everything away. We got lucky in that there are places to store this stuff and not have to worry. The rooms are heated, so we didn't have to haul really anything back to Jerome's or Becky's. After that we pretty much broke up, everybody heading their separate ways. All in all, an extremely productive session. We'll be back doing this again next weekend, same day, same time, and hopefully with more families showing up. The only difference next week: We'll probably end up splitting into two crews, one at the park and one at Becky's house.

Not much else to say, except that I'm truly amazed at how far we've come with this. I hope that Jesse is happy with our progress, wherever he is. I think he'd be pleased with where we've gotten to, even though he can't be here to contribute physically. Of course, he's always here in soul and in our hearts, whether we're religious or not.

Mean time, have fun celebrating whatever it is you might celebrate (if you don't celebrate, then just enjoy some time off during the hollow days). See ya around the bend! We're waiting here, ready to pounce on you the moment you come 'round to where we are....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crimping cables, hakuna frittata's and windex without windows

The Mindtriggerz work session yesterday was probably one of the best yet. We were thrilled to have a nice crowd with a lot of laughter and glad to see one of Jesse's friends back from college on winter break. Oh and a lot of work got done too!
While Jennifer and I gave a thorough cleaning to a stack of old keyboards and mice, one of our favorite techies, James Richardson, recorded an instructional video on how to crimp ethernet cable. We posted it on google videos here. This was a totally spontaneous idea - I had just asked James if he would teach us how to "crimp" when the notion to record it hit. It's a really fun video too - with random appearances and interruptions from Jesse's dad and our other techies - I couldn't bring myself to edit out the laughter and fun.

On Friday afternoon a wonderful donor delivered an additional 12 cpu's as well as a monitor, keyboards and a couple of printers. All the machines tested good so several were sent to Jesse's dads house for loading of Ubuntu as well as the educational software GCompris and Childs Play. Both these "suites" are perfect for our project as they are designed for kids in the 2 to 10 year old age group. They are also pretty randomly fun for older kids too - Joyce and I spent a couple of hours earlier this week teaching ourselves how to play them so we can demonstrate to the kids at our training session on the 20th. We laughed a lot and learned a few things too - like that TuxType can be challenging!

We've been working out of my basement where a lab has been set up using saw horses and hollow core doors. To say that the area has grown a bit crowded and chaotic would be an understatement. Several of the guys spent a lot of time doing some organizing and arranging - thankfully Jon and Matt hung out all afternoon and made the space much more "user-friendly."

I talked to several of our volunteers and am going to randomly turn over blogging days to them. Hopefully that will provide an insiders' look at what we are doing from a point of view other than my own. These are incredible young people - they restore hope in us. We are eternally grateful to them - and to everyone out there who has donated old technology for us to use!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Catching Up

I've been meaning to start a blog on the Mindtriggerz Project for a long time now. This will be the first post and hopefully will kind of catch everyone up on where we are, what we've been up to and where we are headed next.

First, about the project. Our goal is to give donated used computers a "second life" by installing Ubuntu then loading the machines with open-source educational software. We will then place the computers in the homes of elementary-aged kids in the Lexington area who could not otherwise afford them. We placed three "beta" machines last summer and have approximately 30 machines ready to roll out of here!

On December 18th we will be meeting with the wonderful folks at our local Community Action Council to discuss our project with their clients. On December 20th from 10am until 2pm we'll conduct a training session at the Cardinal Valley Park Shelter to demonstrate the machines and give the children some hands-on time with the computers.

We've had an incredible success rate with the donated equipment. Great thing about the open-source operating system and software - it doesn't demand much in the way of RAM or hard drive space. We're hopeful that a few articles being posted in local neighborhood association newsletters will refill the space that will be left when this batch of computers go to new homes.

We meet every Saturday at Jesse's house to work on computers. I'm going to start posting each Saturday to keep everyone up to date - and will likely backtrack a lot to fill in for all the time that we've not been posting!