Meghan Frick, News-Topic

LENOIR —In a nondescript conference room at the Caldwell Education Center Monday, 23 middle-schoolers were up to their elbows in computer cables.

Over the span of six hours, those kids built six computers.

“The excitement’s pretty clear,” said Brad Bartlett, a teacher at Gamewell Middle School, as the kids started transmitting their first messages over the machines. “It’s so much different from what they normally do on a school day.”

The workshop was sponsored by Google as part of Students@Work Week, an initiative of the N.C. Business Committee on Education. Students from middle schools across the county were selected to participate.

On Monday, the kids were divided into six groups. Led by Enoch Moeller, the operations manager at Google’s Lenoir data center, each group assembled a computer part by part: the processor, the hard drive, the motherboard, the case. Then they booted them up, installed the Linux operating system and connected over a simple network.

For some students, assembly was the highlight of the day.

“My favorite part was – it had to be putting it together,” said Malaysia Lipford, a seventh-grader at William Lenoir Middle. “All the parts and stuff.”

By the end of the afternoon, six computers were assembled. They were shiny new machines, fully operational – loaded up, of course, with Google Chrome. [More]