This is a six week long project for high school students to learn about computers, hardware specifically.
Each student will be provided with a motherboard, CPU, RAM, hard drive, power supply, video card, monitor, and dvd drive, and every week we'll learn the details of these components and assemble them into a working computer. Throughout the project, we'll tear apart old compenets and do experiments to better understand how they work. By the end of the project, you'll understand how a shiny silver platter can store information and ultimately translate it into a visual display of a photograph of your cat. We'll stop taking things for granted, and we'll start to understand how exactly these incredible machines really work.
Week 1: It starts with electrons in the Power Supply
Before we can start using our computers to discover new prime numbers, they'll need power. And while it might seem like a simple thing to plug a computer into a wall, there's a lot more going on in that power supply than you might think. Computers don't run on 120 volts of AC power, they need something much different, and it's the power supply's job to make the conversion.
We'll be taking apart old power supplies and talking about electricity, ohms law, resistors, capacitors, voltages, power, and more.
Week 2: The mother of all boards
Since all other components connect to the motherboard, it's a good place to begin. This week we'll be going over the various ports on the motherboard, looking at its traces, identifying every last component you can find on the motherboard, and figuring out what each of them does.
Week 3: Speaking Binary
Your computer speaks binary, so you should too. We'll go over the binary number system and how it's used to represent numbers and words in a form we're more familiar with. We'll talk about why computers use the binary system, and we'll demonstrate how, by building circuits that can store information, just like a hard drive.
Week 4: The GPU versus the CPU
The central processing unit performs most of the calculations for your computer. How it does this and why it's needed will be the topic this week. We'll even build our own CPUs and see if yours can add 2+2, giving us more time to use the multimeters and oscilloscopes.
In addition to what goes on inside the CPU, we'll be talking about the outside of the CPU, what that big piece of metal on top of it is and why it's there.
Week 5: The GPU versus the CPU cont.
If you want to play Minecraft, you need a graphics processing unit. There are far too many calculations for the CPU to keep up with. How can this be, and what makes the GPU so special? That's what we'll cover this week as we discuss parallel processes.
Week 6: Memory
Your hard drive stores your data, but it's slow. When you're writing a paper for class, it would be terribly inefficient if the computer had to access the hard drive ever time you typed a new letter into a file. Instead, it's stored in random access memory. We'll be talking about what RAM is, how it works, why it looks the way it does, and what makes it different from a hard drive. We'll also talk about another even faster type of memory called the cache.
As we progress through the weeks, each student will be building a computer using the parts they learn about. We'll finish the project off by installing an operating system, leaving the computers ready for action. These computers will then be used by Vector Space for years to come in serving our community.
This is a six week project, meeting twice per week starting Monday, October 10th and meets every *Tuesday and Thursday night from 7-930 pm through November 16th.
* Note that the schedule was originally Mondays and Thursdays but has changed to Tuesdays and Thursdays as of 9/6.
This project is for high school age students.
Scholarships are available to those looking for financial assistance. Apply under the Scholarship tab.
This project is generously sponsored by Cognizant's Making the Future program.