Thanks to the donation of 15 old Facebook servers, Crook County High School has launched a tech club

by: KEVIN SPERL - Carson Porter, (LEFT), Braden Swensen, and Pascalis Maschke, check out computers donated by the local Facebook data center.

Facebook’s trash seems to have become Crook County High School’s treasure.

A donation of 15 outdated servers from Facebook’s local data center has spurred the creation of a computer tech club at the school.

Freshman Carson Porter, sophomore Braden Swensen, and senior foreign exchange student Pascalis Maschke seem right at home in the school’s technology lab.

There’s a pile of older computer displays on a table and that stack of 15 retired data servers on the floor to hold their interest.

Porter admits to liking the hardware side of computers, ever since his great-grandfather got him interested, teaching him how to take things apart.

“I have always been fascinated by how the components of a computer work together to accomplish a task,” he said.

Assistant Principal Joel Hoff refers to a study that predicts over 1 million unfilled technology jobs by the year 2020. In response, Hoff hopes the newly-formed club becomes a precursor to a full-fledged computer science program, which he hopes to introduce, in some fashion, in the fall of 2014.

“In five to 10 years, we hope to have a full Computer Science major,” he said. “It would be great to provide opportunities for our students to be eligible for good, high-paying jobs right out of high school.”

Once Facebook's servers arrived, Hoff needed students interested in technology, so he walked around the cafeteria during lunch to seek them out.

Walking out with a list of over 30 students, Hoff scheduled the tech club’s inaugural meeting for early February.

“Fifteen students showed up, so we just started taking apart the servers,” said Hoff.

With established interest, Hoff next needed local experts to mentor the students, and found Prineville resident Joshua Crass eager to help.

Twenty years ago, Crass, a self-described technology geek, took the initiative to start a club at his own high school.

“It was a good opportunity then and it is now,” said Crass, admitting that his first experience with technology was “breaking every computer my parents ever owned.”

Crass’ resume is impressive. He has worked for high-tech giants Google, Sun Microsystems, and Facebook.

“I got involved with the club because I used to work with interns at the data center here in Prineville,” he explained. “The experience they got was amazing and they took a lot away from that.”

Swensen has a connection to Facebook as well — his dad is the Prineville data center’s facilities manager.

“I’ve been around computer guys my whole life,” he said, admitting to having studied both basic HTML and the Python programming language for the last year and a half.

The club sports an international flair as well.

Maschke is here to complete his senior year as a foreign exchange student, hosted by Scott and Laura Cooper. He arrived last August and, after spring graduation, returns to his hometown of Pottsdam, Germany, to complete another two years of high school.

Maschke’s brother works for a high tech start-up and he was impressed by the youthfulness of the employees.

“It’s cool that his boss is only a year older than he is,” he said. “I want to learn as much as I can about technology as it will play a huge role in our future.”

In addition to tearing apart servers, the club has learned about the history of computing, been introduced to a variety of programming languages, and designed a few web sites. This week, the club will take a tour of the Facebook facility.

The club meets every other Tuesday, offering, what Hoff says is another extracurricular activity for students.

?“It is really nice to see kids that are typically not involved with other activities to have a place of their own,” he said. “It is another niche that we are trying to fill.”

Crass agreed.

“Most computer geeks are introverted and don’t talk much,” he said. “I have seen already that these kids have opened up and started sharing information. It’s been an amazing experience just in the two classes we have had.”

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