STEM Activity Computer Design Challenge

Dustin Meltzer '05
Prior to Winter Break, STEM activity began an exciting design challenge. “We had 11 students who separated into 4 teams of 2 or 3,” remarks Sean McDonough, Faculty Advisor of STEM Activity. He continues, “Each group learned about what goes into a computer, what each part does, what’s good, what’s bad – basically how to design a computer from scratch.”

“Building computers is my hobby and passion,” McDonough explains, “and I wanted to present my students with real-world experience, not just a class project. They learn throughout the whole process and get to actually use the outcome. There is a lot of logical problem-solving, which is one of my priorities.”
With their designs prepared, each group made a presentation to a panel of KUA Faculty judges. “It was really challenging,” explains Ellen ’20, “because most of us were very inexperienced in computer building. It was hard and I learned several research techniques throughout the process.” In the end, the judges chose elements of each design. “No student can point to any one of these machines and claim full responsibly for the design. It’s a blend,” explains McDonough, proudly.
Over Winter break, McDonough ordered all the parts for the machines and during the first two weeks back, STEM Activity assembled them in the Orange and Black towers they proposed. “The idea is that these computers are for anyone in the KUA community to use for classwork or recreation, while also being powerful enough for intensive design work,” says, McDonough. “Adobe, Video Editing, Rendering, etc. We wanted to optimize the machines to be as versatile as possible for broad content creation.” And in the short time that the computers have been live, Ellen reports, “People have been rendering pictures, 3d modeling, running codes, video editing, and gaming in downtime.”
Thank you, Ellen and Mr. McDonough for sharing your story, and stay tuned for more news from The Hilltop.


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Founded in 1813, Kimball Union Academy is one of the oldest private boarding high schools in New Hampshire and the country. KUA blends the best of the New England boarding tradition with an innovative, modern educational program for a diverse group of day and boarding students from across the country and around the world. Located in Meriden, New Hampshire in the heart of the Upper Valley, Kimball Union is minutes from Dartmouth College and has direct access to Boston and New York.