Small bytes of the future

Savannah Jacket checks out a motherboard for a computer she was building during class. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Savannah Jacket checks out a motherboard for a computer she was building during class.

Students from the Ute Mountain Ute tribe last week learned the ins and outs of building computers as part of the University of Colorado Indigenous Alliance program.

The training for the 12 students was held at the Ute Mountain Ute Education Center in Towaoc.

David Aragon, office of diversity, equity, and community engagement for the University of Colorado Boulder campus, said the three-day seminar is aimed at increasing students’ interest in science and engineering.

The University of Colorado Boulder Indigenous Alliance program with support from the National Science Foundation and private sources decided to expand its computer build outreach to benefit Native American youth in the southwest corner of Colorado.

The Indigenous Alliance is a consortium of 14 colleges and universities in 10 states. The program has grown since it was started in 1995 with just one student in Alaska.

Aragon said this program was provided in the Denver area, and its success convinced the college to try to implement the same type of program in Southwest Colorado.

Aragon said the alliance program has a good relationship with the higher education department of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and took directors to Anchorage, Alaska to meet members of the alliance.

He said the alliance knew from the very beginning what the tribe was doing for education, so the program seemed like an ideal fit.

He said students sometimes need something tangible, and building computers demonstrates science and engineering, and the hope is that this encourages students to stay enrolled in these types of courses.

In some communities students were allowed to keep the computer they built if they continued to take these classes, but the Ute Mountain Ute tribal students will not be given this option, as the computers will be used to upgrade the tribal labs.

He also said while the students in this program were given some guidance on what to do, the students had to do all the work themselves.

For example, the students on Thursday were installing the materials and the processors for the computers.

In addition to building computers, students were also loading the latest operating system and office software, and Aragon said this project teaches technology skills and insight into technical careers and educational opportunities.

Calvin Pohawpatchoko Jr., a doctorate student at the Boulder campus, was assisting in this program which he will take back to the University of Alaska to run it there.

Student Joseph White said he did not know a lot about computers before being given the opportunity to build one.

“I kind of wanted to know a little about my computer, what’s inside of it and how it works,” he said.

Antino Lang, another student, also said he wanted to see what was inside the computer box and how all the parts worked together.

Lang said he also wanted to see what would happen after taking the computer apart.

“There are all these small different pieces that are crammed into this big box,” he said.

He said the instructors were helping the students step by step and mentioned on Thursday morning that they were in stage 3.

Chantele Manuel, a Montezuma-Cortez High School ninth-grader, said the program helps students learn how to fix things themselves.

She said it was important for students to know what are in computers and how they operate.

Student Kristy Ketchum, who just moved to the area from Denver, said she was just trying to fix the computer while putting all the parts in the right places.

“It will all come together,” she said. “I think it will be OK and will work.”

She said her social worker advised her to take the program to help her with her education.

Reach Michael Maresh at michaelm@cortezjournal.com

Mariah Silas, right, looks inside the frame while Kristy Ketchum opens hers up in a computer building class in Towaoc. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Mariah Silas, right, looks inside the frame while Kristy Ketchum opens hers up in a computer building class in Towaoc.

Matt Calhoun discusses how to put a motherboard in for computers during a class in Towaoc Thursday. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Matt Calhoun discusses how to put a motherboard in for computers during a class in Towaoc Thursday.