My Eagle Project: Repurposing Old Laptops into Chromebooks for Harbor House

In Boy Scouts, the highest rank is known as Eagle. To achieve this rank, a scout must lead his very own service project that is beneficial to an organization other than Boy Scouts. To fulfill this requirement, I decided to combine my passion for technology and volunteering to benefit an organization in Oakland that helps out in their local community.

From my previous experiences of playing around with technology, I stumbled upon Cloudready, which is a tool that can help repurpose old computers into Chromebooks, created by a company called Neverware. I contacted them regarding my project and they were very happy with the idea of using their software to help empower kids with reliable laptops. They sent over some USB flash drives with their software preloaded so I could use them in my project, which was a huge help. The CEO also wrote me a very nice letter, motivating me even further.

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I talked to my scoutmaster (Mike Dubrall) about the idea of going door to door and dropping off flyers in order to collect old laptops, but he wasn’t too convinced at first. I then explained the software that I was using and how I would refurbish them. Once he heard all the information and felt that it was a good idea, I created a more detailed plan that would soon become my Eagle Binder. This held all the dates and planning documents for each of my work days.

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Following the creation of the binders, I had an internal review with my scoutmaster and two other adults to help fix any mistakes before I went to the real thing. Their feedback regarding changes to make in my binders were very insightful and I am very thankful as it helped me catch a lot of errors that I would have overlooked. They also asked many questions that forced me to think deeply before answering as they would usually be crucial to the project’s success. Once they told me what to fix, I spent a couple hours to go through all the suggestions and create 3 identical binders. This was a challenge due to the numerous revisions and reprinting I had to do.

I then went to an Eagle Project Proposal in Danville to get my project approved by the district. At first, similar to my scoutmaster, they were a bit skeptical as most common projects usually involve building or something similar. I also convinced them that it was a good idea due to how unique it was and the lasting impact that it could leave on the community. They seemed very impressed by the idea as it helped keep old computers out of landfills while helping a greater cause.  This surprisingly went very smoothly and I was scheduled to start my project a week later.

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The first day of the project mainly consisted of the scouts going door to door and dropping off flyers. We went to houses that were surrounding two different parks and dropped off about 850 flyers. It was a group of 9 scouts so I made sure to split it up evenly so we could cover the area quickly. According to my previous calculations, it was supposed to take us a few hours after lunch to finish, but we managed to actually finish ahead of schedule, which was a pleasant surprise. One challenge we faced was a lack of communication between the groups at times, but it did not hinder us too much.

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The second day consisted of us mainly picking up the computers, cleaning them physically and digitally, and installing the new OS. We set up two tables with power strips and were working simultaneously on the various computers. I had about 8-10 scouts also helping this day. We managed to convert about 10-15 computers that day, which was pretty good considering the time we had. We had a bit of trouble with one of the large desktops as it was taking a long time to wipe and it had no touchscreen drivers for Chrome OS, so we reinstalled Windows and used a different disk utility software to clean up the old data. Some other issues were that the USB drives we used did not work due to 32 bit vs 64 bit incompatibilities, so we ended up having to download different versions online to use on some older computers.

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The third day was the most difficult as we had to convert 15 more computers that we picked up and also individually box them up. This created a problem because we had a shortage of outlets so all of them could not be converted at the same time. We also needed to update some of the other laptops which were stuck on an older version. To fix this we had to pull out another table and try to strategically use the power outlets. I had only 8 scouts this day, so it took a bit longer as well. In the end however, we managed to box up 30+ computers and one large all in one desktop.

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The last day, two of my scout friends (Aman and Anuj) joined me in delivering the laptops to the high schoolers at Harbor House. It felt very rewarding to see them using the computers and to see the impact that the project had on them. We taught them all how to set up the computers, do basic tasks and explain what my project’s goal was. Not all of the high school interns were present at the time, but those who were, got priority in choosing their laptops.

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Harbor House also wrote a very nice post regarding my project and its outcome, which I greatly appreciated. It is linked above if you would like to see it.

Also, I just wanted to mention some of the people I am thankful for:

  • My scoutmaster, Mr. Dubrall, for his mentorship throughout
  • The adult leaders who helped during my proposal and work days
  • Harbor House for being a great beneficiary
  • My community for their generosity and laptop donations
  • My parents who took pictures and brought food

Overall, I was very humbled by the opportunity to carry out this project for Harbor House and I am very pleased with the outcome. The next step on my path to achieving the rank of Eagle is to finish up the remaining requirements and filling out an Eagle Application (5 Letters of Recommendation and a personal reflection) which I am eagerly looking forward to finishing this summer.

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