Sussex Central senior’s project adds technology links to Puerto Rico’s recovery

GEORGETOWN — Sussex Central High School junior Adam Bobak has never been to Puerto Rico.

“But I hope to go, with my aunt,” he said.

Until then, his connection to the hurricane-ravaged United States territory is a technological/communications care package linked to a school project.

Refurbished computers, monitors and cellphones are slated to be shipped sometime in early March to Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in late September several weeks after Hurricane Irma skirted the Caribbean island.

Sussex Central junior Adam Bobak shows some of the refurbished computers and devices bound for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico in his International Baccalaureate Diploma project.

It’s all part of Adam’s CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) project for Sussex Central’s International Baccalaureate Diploma program.

“It’s a requirement for any IBD student.” Adam said. “It has to have global impact and you must learn from it. You must benefit the people you are doing it for. And it must include the community and a supervisor.”

Five months later, Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which destroyed most of the island’s electric grid.

“I have always revered computer sciences. I wanted to make our local community aware of the computer sciences,” said Adam. “I then heard of the effects that Hurricanes Irma and Maria had on Puerto Rico. So, I thought I could help them in the process. That is where this idea kind of originated.”

“I just knew they were in dire need. Many of their airports were clogged with people sending food and water so I wanted to wait until the initial wave died down to support this project,” Adam said. “I didn’t want to do something like with water because I wanted to give them something that would more or less last a longer time and kind of make up for the belongings lost.”

So, with the help of Elias Timmons, his classmate and good friend, SCHS business teacher Jeffrey Peet, library/media specialist Kelly DeLeon and others the collection drive for donations began in late October.

A shipment weighing in at 230 pounds was being finalized last week for shipment to The Salvation Army’s Puerto Rico branch. It will likely include two, possibly three PC’s, seven functional monitors, three functional printers, six cassette tape recorders, 10 phones (three are cracked but still are functional) and assorted computer cables.

“The problem is we do not have very many cell phone chargers, not as many as we are sending phones, so that could be problematic,” Adam said.

The Salvation Army will disperse the devices to individuals in need, Adam said.

Thus far, donations have mostly come from students and teachers at SCHS. “Students have provided most of the cellphones. A few teachers have provided their old computers.  We put this project on social media, so we’ve gotten a few devices from locals,” said Adam.

Informally, the collection drive was to have ended recently. “With this recent publicity we are opening the collection back up,” Adam said.

Mr. Peet, supervisor for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), has made shelf space in his classroom. Ms. DeLeon, the CAS coordinator, is helping Adam network with some state officers and with a few companies “that are giving me the ability to package and cellophane all of our devices after they have been refurbished.”

Repairs for the most part are undertaken by Adam and Elias as Elias’ home between Bridgeville and Georgetown.

“Elias is phenomenal in terms of computer sciences and electrical engineering,” said Adam. “Going into this I didn’t know as much as I do now on how to fix computers, like what to look for if something is wrong. Some of the problems are very simple, such as some ports with the computer just being unplugged. But others are more complex. There are some that I admittedly don’t know how to solve. But the more I work on computers the better I become.”

Adam said he has received support from elected officials, including State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn. He is also working with a logistics company — Trinity Logistics.

Not surprising, Adam is looking to pursue a career in technology. He’d love to go to prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If not, then hopefully Virginia Tech.

He says the project has exceeded initial expectation.

“It has become a lot more popular. I’d say the only real problems we’ve had are with the iPhones because they are so hard to clear when somebody has a password on them. It is possible though,” Adam said. “I have received a lot of support from the school, from the state, from friends and from family. I definitely recommend that if somebody wants to do something like this, they should give it a shot because people will support them one way or another.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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