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" The work you guys have been doing is absolutely inspirational: I suspect that at this point you may have managed to deliver more computing devices to families in our area than DfE's much-heralded laptop program has managed across the whole of the UK."
- Eben Upton OBE [inventor of the Raspberry Pi]
This video shows you our pocket sized 1.5ghz, 2gig RAM, 16 gig SD, homework device running homework websites 'Edulink' and 'Show My Homework', plus a little bit of YouTube.
These are really impressive, exciting little devices!
Since the 23rd of March 2020 a lot has changed. Schools across the country have closed and the way in which children and young people are educated is not heavily dependent on access to computer equipment, the right software, and an internet connection.
To begin with we simply bought as many Chromebook devices as we possibly could (29 of them) and we loaned them for free to the people who needed them the most.
We followed this up with a further trench of funding that allowed us to buy 66 more Windows 10 laptops from HP - and likewise those have been placed with families and young people who need them urgently.
As it has become harder to secure funding we have looked for a more economical and affordable way to make computers available to everyone. We recognise that not all families need a free device - even if buying a laptop or Chromebook is not realistically affordable.
There is not much help available to the squeezed middle income family.
So we will continue to fund raise so that we can give devices out for free on loan to those who cannot afford to buy.
In addition we are offering computers for £55 (£50 if you have your own keyboard and mouse) to those who can afford them. The £55 device is a simple - but impressive solution from Raspberry Pi, an innovative Cambridge based company. It's a device that our young people build for you to keep the purchase cost as low as possible. This is a not for profit venture - and the only goal is to supply as many computers as we possibly can during the COVID-19 crisis.
We hope that by taking this approach we are giving people as many options as possible - and that fewer and fewer young people in our region will miss out online.
A £15 donation send a child to online school for a week.
A £3 donation send a child to online school for the day.
"I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Priestley and the Cambs Youth Panel for their work to provide IT equipment to disadvantaged pupils in Cambridgeshire."
- Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP (Minister of State for School Standards)
Phil talks about the Computers4Covid-19 compaign.
Mimie (15) talks about why this is so important.
Hannah (14) on getting Chromebooks to disadvantaged students...
Unboxing the first batch of Chromebooks! (exciting!!)
Our first online meeting on 16th of March was dominated by talk about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the effects it would have on the local area and schools.
On the 18th Phil suggested using the fund for ‘Arms Around the World’ to buy laptops and distribute them to vulnerable and disadvantaged students so they could have access to online work while their schools where shut.
It wasn’t long after that when the schools shut - later that week 23rd of March 2020.
A vote was suggested to carry Phil’s proposal. To be fair, the members were unsure due to there being a large portion of risk involved – the logistics of distributing the computers and the fact that we might lose all the money we had been saving for ‘Arms Around the World’.
Despite this – and accepting the possibility that we might lose the money – the vote was carried unanimously.
We then introduced our crowd funder (which has currently raised £1085). Go fund me page is set up to help us raise £5000.
We received a good deal of support from the Police media team, helping us to raise publicity.
We created an online applications process that was led through our website (www.cambsyouthpanel.co.uk).
We started receiving media interest almost immediately – including from the BBC radio and the press (Cambridge independent) and our members started creating video content for the website, social media and YouTube.
On the 21st March we ordered 29 Google Chromebooks!
The ‘GoFundMe’ me page started growing gradually and by this point was at £160
On 24th March we had another meeting via Zoom, and by now all our meetings were being conducted virtually.
Applications where discussed and we talked about the delivery schedule for the machines (noted to arrive between the 24th and 25th).
Newsnight approached us via Twitter on 23rd March but they never called us back!
We ran into Problems with Survey Monkey around this time – they capped our free responses to 100. They wanted to charge us £20 to release 10 replies!
On the 27th march we made our decisions for the first loan machines.
The Police stepped up and helped with distributing the machines – which was brilliant – the Neighbourhood Policing Team agreed to drop the machines at houses as they were on patrol.
Caritas – the Roman Catholic charity - then granted us £2500 to aid our cause, and this gave our fund raising a huge boost!
Shortly afterwards the Cambridgeshire Community Foundations approved our application for the award of £5000.
Amazon spiked the price of their Chromebooks – the model we have previously paid £169 for was now £200! They were sold out anyway – so we needed to find a new supplier. We managed to reach a deal with HP for 66 computers for £9900.
This means that we will have distributed 95 computers – but we want to do more. We’ve had applications from more than 360 families in need.
The project began on the 18th of March, after our first online meeting. It was whilst we were discussing the impact of Coronavirus, Phil suggested buying laptops and other electronic devices to help those who are not fortunate to have their own online platforms for schoolwork, during the crisis if schools were to be shut.
Unfortunately, the schools were closed later that Friday on the 22nd of March.
After a short time of debating via our group chat a vote was announced and was carried through so the project could go ahead.
Initially some members still had some doubts about protection of the laptops against damage and theft, but we reached a full agreement and the group pushed onwards and carried on with making progress with the funding (which included setting up the crowd funder and also organising and creating applications so public could apply for a laptop).
Before we could publish the application process, we had to order our first batch of Chromebooks (which where to arrive between the 24thand 25th). However, with the quick progress we had made we also had to quickly decide how we were going to decide who we would award computers to.
This is where we had the biggest struggle due to so many applicants with good reasons, but we only had a limited number of Chromebooks, so we had big decisions ahead of us. After a long time thinking of a reasonable solution, we decided to all choose the applicant we thought would best suit a computer and then Phil would analyse and collaborate everyone selections to see where the common agreement was.
This was not an easy task and each member spent a considerable amount of time reading the applications before deciding their final 29 selections. Once we had all submitted our selections the list was created and finalised.
The nicest part was telling the 29 chosen applicants – but turning other people down was hard.
After that all we had to do was drop the machines off at the selected locations and we did this with help from Cambridgeshire police, but after that they were in action and being used. As I write that I know that the first allocation of 29 machines is already out there.
This activity lead to a sudden increase in media interest and our success with the last batch of laptops we were now becoming more widely known. We secured a grant from the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation emergency COVID-19 fund - which awarded us £5000. Caritas, the charitable arm of the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia, donated £2500. A major computer brand - HP – stepped in to give us a lot of support and a very preferential deal was agreed for 66 Windows laptop for £9900.
Phases two and three of our project have then rolled forward – we mark our stages in £5000 increments.
This weekend we were in the tricky situation when more applications started coming in for the next batch of computers (at the time of writing we have about 360 online applications) and with the more application we had, the more tricky decision we had to make. We kept with the same principle we used last time, but just on a bigger scale due to there being other so many more applicants. So, we changed it ever so slightly by creating a short-list process to begin with - however no application went unread or unnoticed by doing so. This way we would have the list read for when the laptops came so they could be sent of straight away to the people who need them most.
Looking forward, we hope to rise more money so that we can make sure every home that needs a computer can have one and so that no child is totally isolated and can still learn and socialise at home with their friends whilst we are in lock down.
We would all like to say a massive thank you to everyone that has helped us - such as the police - because what we are doing couldn’t have been done without them, and if you would like to help out or donate to this cause you can do so via our website.
[Alex is 14 years old and attends Linton Village College]