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SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Brandon Ferris has always been interested in how electronics work, and his middle school is giving him a chance to put that curiosity to use.

Ferris is a member of Tech Team Junior, a program started at Oliver W. Winch Middle School in South Glens Falls where he and other students volunteer to fix malfunctioning computers every student is now issued.

“I’m very hands-on and I like to take things apart and fix them,” Ferris said. “Like on my computer at home, I’ll take it all apart and do all the cleaning, so when I heard about this, I jumped the chance to apply.”

Team members repair cracked screens, replace missing keys, change batteries and troubleshoot software for other students, a role Computer Aide Colleen McCoy said helps her tremendously. She said the school has a little over 700 students, and when every child has their own computer, things can get hectic.

“I can be pretty swamped down here,” McCoy said. “I mean, they come at left and right with issues, so having the kids in here to handle some that has been a big help.”

Last school year, students who demonstrated an interest in technology were recommended by faculty to pilot the program that fosters an interest in technology while also contributing to keeping the school running smoothly, according to the district’s Technology Integration Specialist Jerilyn Stellato.

Cameron Cardinale and Zachary Taylor, two members of the tech team, said their expertise goes beyond what they do with individual computers as well, because many teachers and students seek out their advice during class time.

“Our teachers know we’re a part of it,” Cardinale said, “So if they ever need help, they come to us.”

Taylor added that often there will be little troubleshooting problems in class that could trip up or delay instruction, but he is often able to solve it quickly and keep the class rolling. Taylor also recently led a workshop on battery replacement in which he taught other students on the team how to do a more in-depth task.

In addition to learning the basics of computer maintenance and repair, the team also has the opportunity to work on interpersonal skills when they manage the help desk other students use to drop off their computers for repairs.

Stellato and McCoy agreed this part was equally important because it requires the students to develop communication skills with others to more effectively identify and solve problems.

Stellato said the program has gone a long way in empowering the students with new skills and piquing their interest in a field that is always growing.

“They’re also being taught not to be afraid of it;” Stellato said, “That everything has moving parts that work in certain ways.”

She said with the middle school program being a success, she would like to see it expand into the high school next year, since it recently started providing a computer for every student as well. Many of the current members of the middle school team are 8th graders, which means they could transition and continue their work for the next four years.

Cardinale, Ferris and Taylor all said without hesitating they would enroll in a similar program at the high school if it was created. They also said joining this team had been a great decision.

“How to take apart and fix screens and other things is not stuff normal people know, and it’s cool we’ve learned about it at such a young age,” Cardinale said.

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Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.

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