DSU students assemble computers for Habitat

Reprinted with permission from the Madison Daily Leader

By Chuck Clement

Some students at Dakota State University are spending class time this semester combining learning with community service as they work to build computers for Habitat for Humanity families.

Ashley Podhradsky, DSU instructor of computer science and information systems, coordinated the project in which students in her and Mark Moran's classes will assemble and prepare three computers for Madison families. The students, who are learning about computer hardware and networks, will put together the desktop computers for three families that have benefited from Habitat for Humanity.

The college students started installing the separate components inside the cases of the computer towers on Tuesday. Podhradsky instructs two of the classes and Moran teaches the third.

Podhradsky had a couple of students start the assembly with the computer motherboard. While supervising their work, she asked questions about the different components and explained their purpose as part of the machines. Podhradsky also explained how the students could avoid damaging the ICs on the circuit boards with static electricity discharges.

Each member of the class performed part of the assembly work, installing components that included the central processing unit, DVD drive, RAM and hard drive. The completely-assembled computers were built having 2 gigabytes of RAM and 320 gigabytes of memory on the hard drives.

Some of the 15 students in the afternoon class were knowledgeable about personal computer hardware while some other students were having their first, hands-on experience with the machines.

Katie Jones, a junior studying elementary education, said that the work performed on Tuesday was a new experience for her. Jones grew up in a family that wasn't really technology-oriented and she had never seen the inside of a computer before the class started. In fact, her personal experience using computers was limited before she enrolled at DSU.

"It was something that I really hadn't done before, using computers in everyday life," Jones said.

Moran said the computer hardware and network class provided benefits for many DSU students, since employers expect graduates to have a familiarity with computer systems. Jones said that she would gain professionally from learning more about how computers work.

"I think I'll be much better prepared by taking this class to learn about new technology and use it in the classroom," Jones said.

The other beneficiaries of the project are the families who will receive the personal computers.

Susan Nordaune visited the DSU classroom and observed the students doing the assembly work. Nordaune lives with her son and parents in one of the Habitat homes on S.W. 3rd St. since 2007. Although her son Brandon uses a tablet computer for his studies at Madison High School, the family's computer was non-operational for about the past year.

"I really want to show my appreciation," Nordaune said. "It's going to be great, being able to stay in contact with other people (by e-mail) and using it for our finances."

Most of the hardware assembly was completed by the end of Tuesday's class period. Moran said the next step would include installing Microsoft Office and other software to guard against computer viruses and spyware.

Podhradsky said the project was sponsored by the Center of Excellence and the colleges of education and business and information systems. Radio Shack donated printers for the computers and provided the computer components at cost. In addition, Secure Banking Solutions donated security software and Knology contributed six months of Internet service for each family.

Last Updated: 8/12/11