Bruce Buckelew, is the retired IBM systems engineer who founded the Oakland Technology Exchange. With a volunteer and student based work force, this computer recycling center provides donated, recycled computers to the Oakland Unified School District. The program is designed to provide mass computer access to urban, disadvantaged students, who otherwise would have no access to computers. The objective is to improve educational and technological skills and keep students involved and interested in school, while reducing inequality in education.
Mr. Buckelew started the program in 1992, by soliciting donations from local companies, friends and former colleagues. He was given space in the basement of Oakland Technical High School to work on donated computers. Since then, the program has expanded to about 10 volunteer retired professionals and several paid part-time students, who repair old computers and distribute them to schools across the district. By working on the computers, students can earn credits toward a computer of their own, as well as technical experience. Mr. Buckelew volunteers 40 hours a week to supervise and train students.
The program is funded by the Oakland Unified School District and the Marcus Foster Education Foundation. The district pays for one employee and basic expenses. The foundation funds the part-time student employee program. A local non-profit organization, funded by the Private Industry Council, provides free payroll services and worker's compensation.
Each recycled computer is used an average of five hours a day; more than 100 students have earned computers for home or college use. The program has provided jobs for students, and kept old computers out of landfills. The school district benefits by saving over $1,500 per computer, by recycling donated machines, instead of purchasing new ones. 1,000 computers are placed in schools each year. The district has since developed the Oakland Tech Computer Academy, to further the efforts of the program's objective of increasing technological skills of students.
Mr. Buckelew still volunteers 40 hours a week and also serves on several technical advisory boards, while training other school districts on how to establish a program similar to his model.