Public Computer Lab Opens in University District
The University Area Enrichment Association (UAEA) in cooperation with FreeGeek Columbus are working together to help bridge the technology gap in the campus area. UAEA and FreeGeek have opened a community computer lab at Summit on 16th Church to serve the surrounding community with an emphasis on low-income adult residents and elementary through high school students by offering open hours for access and classes to the public.
“The highest impact thing you can do for a community is to give them a computer lab. Especially in immigrant communities, giving people access to the internet, word processing, and the limitless possibilities of modern computing means more than words can really convey. It empowers whole families at a time and gives people options,” said Miles Curtiss, VISTA volunteer for FreeGeek and University Area Enrichment Association during the project.
Volunteers helped with everything from painting walls to moving furniture. The transformation from planning and selecting the space in the church to the first class took an estimated two years to complete. The goal of the lab was to not only provide a community-focused public computer but also to incorporate environmental responsibility.
Larry Howell served as the technical project manager and designed the network layout, specified the network equipment, solicited the technical volunteers, coordinated the installation of the network cabling and switches and the installation of the software on the computers.
FreeGeek donated 25 computer systems to the University Area Enrichment Association as part of a hardware grant explained Howell. A number of volunteers from FreeGeek set up the lab, including Krik Kimmel, Adam Porr, Steve Lefevre, Lisa Denlinger, and Mar McKenzie, as well as many in the FreeGeek shop who handled the initial assembly of the systems.
“I estimate the volunteers spent 500-700 hours modifying the lab tables, installing and troubleshooting the network, connecting the computer systems and installing the software and doing the necessary administrative task,” Howell said. “So far I’ve invested at least 200 hours in making the lab exist.”
The lab currently offers five days of open lab hours and hosts two long-term classes. Current partnerships for classes include Tech Corps, The Ohio State University, FreeGeek Columbus and the “Gidget” Project. Future plans include offering more classes through partnerships and completing some additional work to the lab to increase its positive community and environmental impact. Further information on classes, open hours and the lab itself can be found at the University Area Enrichment Associations’ website at www.uaea.org.