LHS STUDENT HELPDESK members, from left, junior Colin McCormick, junior Gavin Fair, sophomore Ryan Michalski and sophomore Charlie Kane proudly display a new computer they built for the Maker Space. Missing from photo is freshman Walter Radulski. (Dan Tomasello Photo)
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Five tech savvy Lynnfield High students built a computer for the school’s Maker Space last month.
Junior Colin McCormick, junior Gavin Fair, sophomore Ryan Michalski, sophomore Charlie Kane and freshman Walter Radulski are members of the high school’s Student HelpDesk program. Fair said the students recently decided to build a new personal computer for the Maker Space, which is located in the LHS Media Center, in order to connect it to the new Dremmel 3D printer that was purchased this year.
“We got a new 3D printer for the Maker Space and in order to make the projects, it needs 3D modeling software,” said Fair. “The old computer wasn’t fast enough to run the software.”
McCormick recalled that the HelpDesk students were trying to use a computer from 2012 in the Maker Space.
“It couldn’t do what we wanted it to do because it was outdated,” said McCormick. “We needed a new computer in order to have the 3D printer make complicated projects.”
LHS Media Specialist Janice Alpert said the students inquired if there were any funds available to purchase a new computer. She told the students there was $1,500 available that could be used to buy a new PC.
“The students were getting really frustrated, which they normally don’t, because the computer we had was old, not fast enough and didn’t work with the 3D printer,” said Alpert. “It was clear that we needed a better computer.”
Michalski said the HelpDesk students proposed that they build a computer from scratch instead of ordering one from a company.
“All five of us have built our own computer before,” said Michalski. “We all knew we could just order one online, but we thought it would be more fun if we built our own.”
“We wanted to get students interested in building computers,” said McCormick. “We could have gone with a prebuilt PC, but it wouldn’t have been interesting.”
Alpert was thrilled with the proposed project.
“I loved the idea of having the HelpDesk students build it themselves,” said Alpert.
McCormick said the HelpDesk students proposed going to Micro Center in Cambridge in order to buy the different parts needed in order to build the computer.
“It’s a great place to get whatever computer part you want,” said McCormick. “The store is also friendly to people who want to build their own computer instead of ordering a prebuilt one.”
Alpert said the HelpDesk students were excited about undertaking the project.
“There was a lot of excitement driving to Micro Center and shopping,” said Alpert.
In order to make sure the computer project did not go over budget, Michalski said the HelpDesk students got cost estimates for the different parts. Michalski said the HelpDesk students decided to purchase an Asus Prime B550-Plus motherboard, an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X central processing unit, an AMD Hellhound RX 6600 graphics card, Samsung 980 Evo NVME drive for storage and a Lian-Li case. Michalski noted that the case has doors.
“We wanted the computer to be specific,” said Michalski. “We got everything we wanted and assembled it ourselves. We customized it so we wouldn’t have to make any compromises.”
McCormick said it cost $1,390 to build the computer.
“We put a little bit more money into RAM because we are using it for 3D modeling and we also put a little bit more money into the computer’s graphics card,” said McCormick.
After the HelpDesk students got back to LHS from the Micro Center trip, all five students spent the afternoon building the Maker Space’s new computer.
“It took two hours to build it,” said Michalski.
Kane said the HelpDesk students debated whether the Windows 10 or Windows 11 software should be installed on the new PC.
“Ryan wanted to install Windows 11, but the rest of us wanted to install Windows 10,” said Kane.
Michalski said he wanted to install Windows 11 because the software is brand new.
“I wanted the computer to be a showpiece for the high school,” said Michalski. “Everybody else said we have been using Windows 10 for six years and we know how it works. I have been using Windows 11 for a few months and I am familiar with it.”
Alpert told the HelpDesk students to take a break from building the computer in order to debate which software program should be installed.
“I had Ryan outline his reasons why Windows 11 should be installed and the rest of the group explained their reasons why Windows 10 should be installed,” said Alpert.
“It was quite a debate,” added Michalski.
The HelpDesk students ultimately decided to install Windows 10, but Michalski said the computer will be upgraded to Windows 11 in the future.
McCormick said the debate and the process of building the PC taught the students the importance of working together as a team.
“We all have different areas of expertise,” said McCormick. “It’s important to know your own strengths and weaknesses. There are times when you have to admit you are not the most experienced in the room, which is really hard because we are all tech savvy. We learned how to work together and why it’s important to work together. It was a good experience.”
Fair concurred with McCormick’s viewpoint.
“We all knew what we wanted to do, but we were used to doing things differently from our own personal experiences,” said Fair. “We learned that it’s important to work together.”
After the HelpDesk students built the computer, Alpert said they wrote a blog post about the experience for the LHS HelpDesk website. She also noted the students gave an overview of the project to students enrolled in Computer Science courses this week.
“We are trying to incorporate the Maker Space materials into the curriculum across all the disciplines,” said Alpert.
McCormick said the HelpDesk students will be hosting a jewelry making class where students from other classes will learn how to use the new computer and 3D printer to make customized jewelry.
“Instead of just making a regular necklace, we can make a necklace with a message engraved on it,” said McCormick. “The great thing about 3D printing is it’s a customizable form of manufacturing.”
High School Assistant Principal Brian Bates commended the HelpDesk students for building the Maker Space’s new computer.
“I am really proud of the students,” said Bates. “They did a great job.”
Alpert concurred with Bates’ sentiment.
“This was a great example of where the kids knew more than the teacher,” said Alpert. “It was passion-driven learning. The students were really excited about it.”