Mountainland Technical College and Micron came together on Friday to give out computers to children in need from the Alpine School District at MTECH’s Lehi campus.
The organization providing the computers, Computers for Kids, is based out of Boise but has been partnering with Micron for about 20 years to take old computers, refurbish them and then give them back to children in the Boise area.
The program is now making its way to Utah.
The computers come with Microsoft Office already installed, and if the students are on any type of free lunch program, health and welfare program or food stamps, they receive the devices for free. If not, the children can get the devices for $65.
The organization also offers devices with higher processors and more storage, which are available at an added cost unless students are scholars.
The devices come with a keyboard, mouse, cables and monitors as well as receiving a year of tech support for free with every computer.
“What we’re trying to do is keep the price low but get all the kids systems,” said Molli Wingert, Computers for Kids president. “Our goal is that every child has a computer system in their home.”
A large number of the devices that were donated to Computers for Kids are from Micron. The company gives its workers a new laptop every four years as well as a new desktop every six years, leading to a large amount of electronic surplus.
The company instead donates the devices, has them wiped clean to avoid any security concerns and then the computers are given to children in need.
Of the roughly 50,000 devices that Computers for Kids has given to children, Wingert estimated that about 35,000 of them have come from Micron. The donations also keep computers out of landfills, where they would have ended up if not for the donation.
“It’s amazing,” said Dave Cheffings, vice president of Micron’s Utah facility. “We were a joint venture before, we were IM Flash, and now that we are Micron, we are able to do this and contribute. It makes me feel good, it makes all of the team members feel good that we are giving back to the community. Particularly right now with the COVID situation and remote learning it’s even more important to get those computers out to kids.”
On Thursday, MTECH students laid out all of the devices, made sure they all turned on, ensured that the monitors worked and then cleaned up the machines before organizing them for the event.
Then in a drive-in style, cars began pulling up to receive the devices they applied for on the Computers for Kids website.
When the application for the Utah event first opened, there had only been one application in the first three weeks. That changed once the largest school district in the state got involved.
The Alpine School District sent out the application to the computers and it blew up.
“We are so appreciative of Computers for Kids and this partnership with MTECH and Micron technologies and what they’re offering for students in the Alpine School District,” Alpine School District spokesperson David Stephenson said. “Currently we have 4,400 students that are fully at home online and this is just going to make some of their lives easier.”
Student engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big question for school districts due to the mixed learning, both in-person and online. Without a device at home, or maybe only one device and multiple children, students are having an even tougher time.
Computers for Kids offers an opportunity to help solve this problem locally.
“We’re excited for the future with this partnership and the opportunity to really provide access for all students whether they’re at home or at school,” Stephenson said. “For them to be able to benefit from nice computers that are otherwise just sitting around, this company is amazing to where they can clean them up and get them out to our students either free or at a really reduced rate. It’s going to make a difference for so many students who are at home for whatever reason, to be able to still access curriculum and progress with their academic studies.”
The next step for Computers for Kids and Micron, as they expand into Utah from Idaho, is to get other companies involved with the program.
Cheffings added that many companies are worried about donating old devices due to the security risks that come with it. Has all of the old data been wiped? what about the software the company previously had on the device?
He said that other companies go through devices like Micron does and he hopes they will join the program to help more kids.
“We just don’t have enough devices but what we’re hoping is that Micron can lead the way and we can get other companies to join,” Cheffings said. “I think we need to get other companies to understand that the IP is protected, it’s wiped and everything is secure so they shouldn’t have to worry about that.”
With more companies flooding into Utah County, the hope is to expand the operation to benefit more children in need locally.