Winnetka, Ill. - When a group of amateur computer programmers from New Trier High School started recognizing the advantages of working with technology from a young age, they wanted to find a way to get the same digital tools they use in the hands of underserved youth in Chicago.
The students quickly learned that nearly 1 in 2 American families below the poverty level have no personal way to access the internet, and almost 7 million tons of usable electronics are thrown out in the U.S. each year. With those statistics in mind, they formed BinaryHeart, a student organization dedicated to "empowering the next generation of innovators."
The group collects broken or unneeded devices, repairs them to functioning standards and donates them to families in need through their partnership with Northwestern Settlement, a non-profit organization that provides resources to Chicago's underserved communities. This year, they became an official New Trier High School club.
"We had created BinaryHeart and donated many computers prior to becoming a club," said club president
Marzuk Rashid, a New Trier junior who hopes using the high school's resources will attract more classmates
to help and increase donations. On Jan. 13, the club hosted a donation drive at New Trier's Winnetka Campus, where they collected over 20 computers and spent the day cleaning, repairing and installing operating systems onto the devices.
Club members run diagnostics on donated items, replace parts and reinstall systems, sometimes taking in computers that are decades older than they are. Discarded parts can be swapped out and salvaged to build new, functional computers.
"Through this process, we can provide crucial digital tools to help underprivileged youth, and also save good
devices from rotting away in landfills," states the BinaryHeart website.
BinaryHeart collects desktops, laptops, iPads, keyboards, mice, monitors, and cables (but not printers), and all data is wiped from every device that is donated. Donations can be dropped off at New Trier High School at
385 Winnetka Ave. on Wednesdays between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. and can also be picked up for free near the
New Trier Township area. For more information, visit www.binaryheart.org/donate
New Trier Township High School District 203 serves Chicago's North Shore suburban communities of Glencoe, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka, most of Northfield and parts of Glenview and Northbrook.