The visionary PASTA program: serving up portions of computers and technology support...
In 1999, Computer Science faculty member Jerry Sayers began assisting his wife, a 5th grade teacher in Carter County, when she had difficulty with her classroom computers. He quickly realized that her difficulties were replicated in schools across the region. Public school teachers were often on their own when faced with computer malfunctions.
Sayers enlisted two East Tennessee State University students to act as trouble shooters, going out to schools and offering assistance.
After Sayers' death in 2002, Dr. Terry Countermine, chair of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, stepped in to continue the project, which has evolved into a program called PASTA - Providing Area Schools with Technical Assistance.
Now in cooperation with a capstone service learning course for seniors, PASTA pairs students with public schools, non profits and ETSU faculty. Each student spends 5 hours a week, for a total of 75 hours per semester, providing technical assistance. They learn real world skills while providing service to the University and the local community.
PASTA offers better computers to local area schools. The student computers at ETSU are replaced every 3 years and faculty /staff computes are replaced 4 years. Department of Computing students wipe the hard drives clean, reconfigure the computers, and then offer them to local schools to replace the much older computers that are being used.
Approximately 400-500 computers are processed each year in the PASTA workshop, located in room 101 of Wilson-Wallis Hall. The recycling project has gained momentum as the Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) has implemented a plan to systematically update faculty and staff computers.
Schools apply for the computers, with those in greatest need served first. Since the equipment was purchased with state funds, state and municipal agencies are the only applicants considered. Generally, schools come to campus to pick up the "trickle down" computers. During the normal school year, our students can help with the installation and setup of the donated equipment.
The PASTA program is based in the College of Business and Technology but the entire university community has joined together enthusiastically to assist this visionary program. ETSU administrators, the Office of Information Technology, the College of Education, and Physical Plant staff have all worked in cooperation to help PASTA flourish.
The director of the program. David Robinson, one of those ETSU students who assisted Dr. Sayers back in 1999, has returned to accept the challenge of "expanding the scope and range of PASTA."
The community involvement aspects of PASTA appeal most to Robinson. ETSU students receive training before they are sent to area schools. They are encouraged to remember that they are representatives of the university and able to offer encouragement to students who may not have considered the possibility of higher education or turning a love of computers and technology into a profession.
In addition, better computers in K-12 schools mean a better trained, more employable workforce for the region.
Robinson thoroughly enjoys working for a program that brings happiness to school children and enjoys universal support. He notes, "It's wonderful to have a job where I'm paid to do something that makes a difference."
For more information, please contact David Robinson at 423-439-7412