As people continue to become more reliant on technology one local student is working to get computers into the hands of people who wouldn't otherwise be able to own one.
Neighbors Enabling Technology was founded by Darien resident Alex Mauboussin and his brother, Andrew, as a way to give needy people computers after both brothers realized how much they relied on their own computers for daily tasks. Alex, who is now a junior at St. Luke's, said it was easy to take for granted how much computers make certain aspects of life easier and how much harder it would be to do school work without one.
"About two years ago my brother and I were talking about how much we relied on our computers and that's when we came up with the idea to find old computers and refurbish them for other kids," he said.
In order to begin refurbishing the computers, the Mauboussins first had to acquire computers and parts, which they did through donations. Some computers required more work than others.
"The time it takes to refurbish a computer depends on how many problems there are to fix. Sometimes there are hardware issues and that can take more time because you have to get the right parts to fix it," Mauboussin said.
Since forming NET, Mauboussin estimated, he and his brother refurbished about 24 computers over a two year period. Since Andrew graduated from high school, Alex has been working by himself to fix the computers and spends about one to two hours a week on the project. Mauboussin said he has a younger brother who may take on the responsibilities of running NET when he is older, but Mauboussin intends to keep refurbishing computers for a while. Despite the challenges of working alone, Mauboussin said he hasn't tried to bring in any more help even though a few friends expressed some interest in learning how to fix computers.
"It isn't too complicated to fix the computers because all you need to do is build up your knowledge about how to handle any issues you might run into," he said. "I'll probably continue to do this because it's a good thing to do."
Since it can be difficult at times to acquire computers and the parts needed to fix them, Mauboussin has been working with Person-to-Person in Darien and Horizons Student Enrichment Program in New Canaan and both organizations are grateful for the service he provides.
"When people give us computers, we give them to (Mauboussin). It's important to have somebody like Alex because we can't give out a computer that we aren't sure is working or not," said Ceci Maher, director of Person-to-Person. "It's a great project and it's nice to have him to clean up and fix the computers."
Besides the chance to help out the community, Mauboussin said he really enjoys the problem solving aspect of fixing computers which can be challenging at times. One of the biggest challenges for Mauboussin is acquiring the parts he needs to refurbish the computers.
"I don't get many donations and right now I need computers and monitors," he said. "I am also short a few chargers for laptops."
Horizons Student Enrichment Program is grateful for Mauboussin's work because it enables the organization to put computers into the hands of kids who need them.
"It's really vital because his work gives us the opportunity to gives kids a leg up and be connected," said Elisabeth Evans, co-director of the high school program. "For some kids it makes a huge difference because we're finding more and more that students aren't always allowed to take their textbooks out of the schools."
When looking for potential recipients of the computers, Mauboussin said Horizons makes sure the computers go to someone who will use it and not just let it collect dust. However, one of the challenges for some families is finding a way to get Internet access in their homes.
"We will give a computer to a family and they will say they will find a way to get Internet because they realize how important it is," Evans said.
For those considering donating their computers, Evans said it helps if they are newer models because it can be difficult to get older models working properly.
Computers aren't the only things that can be refurbished. Mauboussin said he could probably find a way to fix iPads and other devices if he received any.
"I have never refurbished any tablets or other devices because no one has donated any since they are relatively new devices. If someone were to donate some, I am sure I would be able to refurbish them with some of research," he said.
Despite some of the challenges Mauboussin has faced as he works to refurbish computers, his technological savvy has also earned him a reputation as the go-to guy for computer-related problems
"I'm the one who handles any problems with our computers at home and I've helped a few people build their own computers," he said.