Old Computers Refurbished For Boulder County Youth

Published: May 25, 2000

In an effort to bridge the digital divide and find a new use for outdated computer equipment, the Colorado Materials Exchange is planning "Computers for Youth," a computer refurbishment pilot project.

The one-day event will be on Saturday, June 3, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 159-A of the University Memorial Center on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. The project will provide each participating at-risk high school student with a used computer, monitor, keyboard and software to assemble and take home. Students will learn to identify the different components that make up computers and how they coordinate to run the machines.

The Colorado Materials Exchange (COMEx) is a statewide "materials reuse" program housed by CU-Boulder’s Recycling Services.

"The Colorado Materials Exchange is very excited about implementing this project," said Kate Callander, COMEx program coordinator. "It builds an effective link between the environmental effort of keeping computers out of landfills and the social justice effort of bridging the digital divide."

With the average life span of a computer rapidly approaching only two years, the ultimate fate of outdated computer equipment is of growing concern. According to a National Safety Council study, only 11 percent of the 24 million desktop PC's deemed obsolete in 1999 were recycled or refurbished.

Toxins such as mercury and lead make certain computer components dangerous additions to the environment, said Callander.

Refurbishing computer equipment by upgrading software and components keeps the machines out of landfills and provides low-cost computers to nonprofits and lower income individuals. As computer networking becomes increasingly

important, efforts like COMEx's "Computers for Youth" project are needed to resist the widening of social divisions based on access to technology, according to Callander.

Reservations are being accepted for members of the public wanting to observe the project, and reports of the proceedings will be available upon request. For more information, contact COMEx at (303) 492-4330. Major funding for "Computers for Youth" has been provided by Roche Colorado. The University of Colorado at Boulder Property Services department provided computers and technical assistance.