By Ryan Patterson
The Sheridan Press
Via Wyoming News Exchange
SHERIDAN — Two computer science classes offer Sheridan High School students the chance to receive practical skills and aid the school district they attend.
SHS business education teacher Shirley Coulter teaches the yearlong electives — A+ computer repair and Networking — that give students the chance to learn more about computers while also repairing all of the Chromebooks used by Sheridan County School District 2.
Coulter said the courses began around 2010 as a way to help the school district’s employees with technology fixes, but now the students handle all the repairs. As SCSD2 moved to a one-to-one ratio of students and computers — the school district has about 3,500 students — more and more devices needed fixing.
Coulter said the overall goal of the two courses — both of which can be taken for college credit — is to provide students with future job skills, even if they don’t go into a career directly related to computers right away.
The classes are structured so students can somewhat work at their own pace, with weekly assignments and quizzes based on video tutorials. If students finish assignments early, they can work ChromeBooks that need to be repaired.
All of the students said repairing computers is the best because of the hands-on aspect. Most of the fixes only take a few minutes to complete and are fairly straightforward, like a cracked screen or faulty trackpad. Other problems involve more work, like when a battery is damaged or the pointer cursor moves on the screen without anyone touching the mouse.
“You have some special cases with computers [that] come in with wacky damage,” SHS junior Stephen Leonard said.
“Some of them had wires that caught on fire, or we had one case where a kid bit a computer.”
Students also said replacing the “enter” key on a keyboard is one of the more challenging tasks because of the key’s small size and fragility.
The repairs are not strictly limited to Chromebooks, either. Students sometimes clean out dust filters on projectors or help teachers with iPad issues.
The high-schoolers can also receive certification through Dell — the company that makes the Chromebooks used by SCSD2 — which allows them to order parts for laptops and record repairs in a database.
The courses also strengthen students’ chances of a computer science internship. That is exactly what happened for Leonard, who secured a summer job with the school district technology support services this year to work on various tasks in different schools.
Leonard took a thought-provoking computer course in seventh grade and wanted to keep learning.
“I like computers and how they work, and it just seems really interesting to me,” Leonard said.
SHS senior Nathan Petzold is considering a career in computer engineering. Petzold took the class under the impression that he knew a fair amount about computers but soon found out he didn’t. Despite the learning curve, Petzold said the course has helped him with computer repairs at home and said he might do something related to computer repairs as a side business in the future.
SHS junior Dawson Morris wants to pursue a career related to information technology or networking. He called the courses fun and applicable.
“This class actually gives me an idea of what I want to do whenever I get out of high school (and) college,” Morris said. “… I’ve always wanted to build my own computer, and because of this class, I’ve actually gained the knowledge to know how to build my computer.”
Morris said it surprised him how complex computers are. They contain more aspects than he anticipated but he now has a better sense of how they work.
“There was so much more to computers than I originally thought,” Morris said. “The computer itself, it seems so simple. It just seems like a few components put together to make something that you use on a regular basis. But whenever you go into the settings on a computer, there’s so much more, and before I actually took this class, I had no idea what any of it meant. It’s actually kind of amazing how much detail is in these types of things.”
As computers become more and more common in classrooms, local high-schoolers are keeping the district’s devices up and running.