CSC News

October 02, 2007

NC State Sponsors Geek-A-Thon® to Help Less-advantaged Middle School Students Cross the Digital Divide

As part of its 40th Year Celebration, the NC State Department of Computer Science, and student organizations – the Association for Computing Machinery/Association for Information Technology Professionals (ACM/AITP) and the Women in Computer Science (WiCS), are partnering with the Kramden Institute, Inc. and Centennial Campus Middle School to host a Geek-A-Thon® the weekend of October 5-7, 2007.
A Geek-A-Thon is Kramden Institute’s trademarked weekend-long event where computers are refurbished and then donated to help high-achieving, but less-advantaged, middle school students in Wake County cross the digital divide. A large portion of the 250 refurbished PCs will go to families of students from Centennial Campus Middle School, a partner and host for the event.

According to Ken Tate, director of development & external relations for the department of computer science, the effort has received strong support from industry.  The primary sponsors of the event include  the NC chapter of the Society for Information Management (NC-SIM) which is providing substantial financial support and the majority of the PCs to be refurbished, plus The Pantry / Kangaroo Express, Cisco Systems, and the Raleigh Chapter of Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). 

“Because of their strong commitment to diversity, this is an event that industry can really get its arms around,” says Tate.  “Bringing together members of the ‘geek’ community to help less-fortunate students in our community, especially during their middle school years when career interests are being formulated, could have a significantly positive impact on these kid’s lives and the community at large.  This initiative represents the values that the NC State Department of Computer Sciences has fostered for 40 years.”

The Kramden Institute, under the direction of Dr. Mark D. Dibner, created the Geek-A-Thon concept in 2005.  Since its creation, more than 650 volunteers and generous donors have resulted in the refurbishment and distribution of approximately 1,650 computers to less-advantaged kids and their families.  Dibner adds, “This is our 11th Geek-a-thon, but the first to be coordinated entirely by a group outside our Research Triangle Park-based organization.  As we grow, we hope to bring the Geek-A-Thon process to other communities around North Carolina and throughout the United States—building computers for local kids, similar to how Habitat for Humanity builds homes for local citizens.  We are one or two corporate sponsors away from making this dream a reality.”

Volunteer support for this event is a blend of students and faculty at NC State, and Kramden’s industry and community volunteers.  They will work in four-hour shifts, repairing computers and eating pizza, and wearing their ‘geek’ T-shirts – a symbol for each volunteer who has worked a full shift at a Kramden Geek-A-Thon. 

“Some of our volunteers have collected all ten shirts from previous Geek-A-Thons,” says Kramden’s Dibner, “but this shirt from NC State will be he most coveted.  There aren’t many outlets where computer geeks can practice what they know with such direct impact on their own communities.”

Associated with this Geek-A-Thon will be a “Give-A-Thon” on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, where  deserving middle school students will receive newly-refurbished PCs, each with a monitor and keyboard and mouse, plus a special mousepad commemorating the NC State Computer Science 40th Anniversary.

“About 40 of the computers will go to students from Centennial Campus Middle School,” says Elwood Peters, the magnet school’s outreach coordinator.  He adds, “The thing that has impressed me the most has been the gratitude of the parents and the excitement of the students.” 

For Peters and Centennial Campus Middle School, the partnership with the NC State Department of Computer Science has been a positive one.  According to Peters, “One outgrowth of the Geek-a-thon partnership with NC State, we are beginning a STARS (Students and Technology in Academics, Research, and Service) outreach at Centennial in October.  Three computer science students from NC State and three students from St. Augustine’s College will be mentoring 12 of our students in a Saturday mentorship once a month for the remainder of the school year.”

A limited number of volunteer shifts are still available for the Geek-a-thon event, both technical and non-technical. 

For more information, consult or to volunteer go to and see the Geek-A-Thon page..


The Geek-A-Thon will be held 9AM to 5PM on Friday October 5 through Sunday October 7 at the Centennial Campus Middle School.  For further information, email or call Ken Tate, Director of Development & External Relations at 919-513-4292.

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