Education Coordinator Grant Proposal

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Free Geek Community Technology Center is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit corporation powered by hundreds of volunteers who recycle or rebuild older, donated computers that would otherwise end up in landfills as toxic electronic waste. The National Safety Council estimates that 250 million personal computers will become obsolete within the next 5 years, contaminating our landfills with 3.2 million tons of e-waste. The Oregonian recently reported that 32,500 tons of electronics were discarded in 2005 alone. Over the last six years, Free Geek has recycled approximately 1000 tons of computer scrap and rebuilt over 6400 internet-ready computer systems. These systems were given to volunteers in exchange for 24 hours of work in the recycling operation (the 24 Hour Adoption Program), or after they built 5 computers from parts the still worked (The Build Program). Refurbished computers are also donated to other non-profits, or sold in our thrift store.

Free Geek was also founded to bridge the “digital divide” between wealthy and low-income households. The Commerce Department has estimated that low-income households are 20 times less likely to have internet access than those whose income is $75,000 or higher. An essential part of Free Geek's mission is to provide free computer education. Free Geek is uniquely situated for this as we already attract volunteers that have extensive hardware and programming knowledge as well as volunteers with personal initiative and a desire to learn. We also have the benefit of our location in Portland Oregon, an important hub of the Linux/Unix free software community.

We are seeking funding for the first year of an expanded educational program. We will hire an education coordinator who will create teaching materials and facilitate formal classes with an emphasis on topics relevant for the workplace and careers in programming. The education coordinator will also oversee the Computers for Kids program and facilitate ongoing staff training and education. These programs will mostly utilize materials and human resources Free Geek already attracts. An expanded education program will help defray its own costs by attracting more volunteers, which increases our recycling capacity as well as our donation base.

Proposal/Statement of Need

Free Geek’s Build and Recycling programs are designed to reward the initiative of people who lack the resources to buy a computer, but are willing to work for one. Similarly, many people come to Free Geek who have little or no prior computer knowledge, but a desire to learn the basic architecture of a computer system.

Although informal education is embraced in the FREE GEEK culture, there is a high demand for more structured learning. In 2003 the Build program was formalized with manuals and training procedures for builders and volunteer build instructors. Free Geek began offering a command line class (navigation in a non-graphic environment) and a basic use class for 24 adopters. Word spread that Free Geek was a place not only to get a free computer but also free hardware training. Interest in the Build program surged. By 2005 the number of participants increased from 768 to 1400. This in turn greatly increased our productive capacity since builders evaluate whether donated systems will be used or recycled and then harvest working parts.

Soon after the formalization of the Build Program in 2003, financial circumstances forced Free Geek to scale back programs that were not directly generating revenue. These cuts paid off in that Free Geek now funds its own recycling operation (please see included annual report), however the education coordinator position was cut. This was especially difficult since the education coordinator developed the materials for the formalization of the build program, and therefore helped Free Geek achieve sustainability. We are asking for $20,000 to fund an education coordinator for the first year until operations grow enough to cover costs (please see sustainabilty section).

Goals and Measurable Outcomes

Goal 1: The education coordinator will increase both the number and range of our free computer classes.


1.Recruit and train volunteer teachers.

2.Develop curricula , including web-based teaching resources. This will include:

  • An increased number of basic command line and 24 hour adoption classes.
  • A class on basic concepts for computer use; concepts and vocabulary, hardware/software installation, permission and file types.
  • E-mail and internet use class; plug-ins, downloading, how to find resources on-line.
  • Word Processing.
  • Self-sufficiency in a Linux/Unix environment.
  • Programming.
  • Graghic design.
  • "Enterprise" Build. This will be a post-Build Program option for advanced Builders. Classes on high end network hardware will be offered for a fee. The classes will be taught by a paid instructor but the education coordinator will help integrate the teaching materials with the rest of the education program.

3.Organize all classes according to the timetable (see below).

4.Work with teachers and students to evaluate and refine teaching materials in the same way materials in the build program are now refined.


1. The classes will enhance the Build and 24 Hour Adoption programs, which will attract more participants, since some of these classes will be offered as options for volunteers who have completed these Programs. This will significantly increase recycling capacity. Although education is central to Free Geek's mission, success of the program will be partially evaluated by the effect on revenue.

2. More education will take pressure off tech support. Adopters will be more able to solve problems they may have with their new systems. Formal classes will help relieve core staff form education-oriented tasks they are now doing informally.

3. Free Geek will become an even broader resource for computer education for the community at large and our donation base will expand. We expect that students who are able to make a donation will likely do so. The level of donations made by students will help evaluate the program’s success, as well as defray the cost of an education coordinator over time. Voluntary donations made by people dropping off computers now comprise a significant proportion of general operating revenue, so people are likely to chip in for the classes. At the same time, the classes will remain free so that we are sure to reach low-income participants on the wrong end of the digital divide.

Goal 2: The Education Coordinator will will co-facilitate Computers for Kids (CFORK), a modified version of the Build and 24 Hour Adoption programs for elementary students.


1. Conduct outreach with schools and youth organizations. Serve as liason.

2. Help create age appropriate building procedures and training materials.

3. Recruit and train voluteers to lead groups of kids through the programs. This may include the development of a paid internship. Volunteers may also be recruited through the Portland State University Capstone. The Capstone is an opportunity for college seinors to earn credit through community service.


1. Students will receive early exposure to computer hardware and architecture, as well as Linux/Unix language and environments.

2. At least 80% of kids starting the 24 hour adoption program and at least 50% starting the Build program will finish and take home a computer. In most cases volunteers will visit the schools or youth organizations. This has been key to successful completion of the program and eliminates the costs of transporting groups of children. Funds will be aplied for to reimburse volunteers for fuel.

Goal 3: The education coordinator will expand the scope of Build Program.


1. Create materials for Macs and laptops so that these systems can also be refurbished as part of the regular Build Program.

2. Expand optional educational materials for builders. There will be increased opportunities within the Build Program for volunteers to learn more about the hardware and software they are working with.


1. Free Geek will refurbish more Macs and laptops.

2. More volunteers will be attracted to the program.

Goal 4: The education coordinator will facilitate ongoing staff education.


1. Pair students with teachers. The education coordinator will connect staff who need training with staff who can train them. This could include anything from using new software to operating the forklift.

2. Conduct workshops on how to run meetings effectively, concensus building and other organizational and business related skills. Volunteers could also bennifit from training in these areas.

3. Develop staff training resources for new or modified positions.


1. Current extra demands on staff time will be greatly reduced.

2. Organizational training will also increase efficiency.


All 15 FREE GEEK staff are coordinators and all receive the same salary and benefits:

· Salary is based on a rate of $10.38 per hour. · 3.4 weeks paid time off per year (combined vacation and sick time). · Healthcare, dental, and vision plan

Time Table

I think we allso we need time tables for when the classes would start, maybe even a tentative schedule, the number of students we expect to have etc.

(This is sort of a dummy eval section, but I wanted to have something down on paper.)


The success of the education program will be measured by the number of participants with particular attention to the number of new builders and adopters that continue on in computing and programming. We will evaluate how participation rates are matching up to our targets in the included timetable, and how the education program is working with our other expansion plans. In addition, the education coordinator will work with the volunteer trainers to refine classes and materials as we move forward. The financial stability of the position, in terms of the indirect effect it has on revenue and the donation base, will guide us in determining how well we meeting the community's needs.

See Also

Education (PPS)