George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

The Rocket Boys: What Students Can Accomplish When You Let Them

    My class has about fifty computers in it, mostly older Apple G3s, but I am in the process of getting some newer ones. A few of my students decided that they would like to experiment with networked gaming, so they asked me if they could bring in a couple of their own computers and set them up. I said, "Sure."

    Rocket Boys

    A few weeks later, I noticed that "a couple" was now six computers commanding an entire table off to the side of my class, and that the two or three boys that started this activity had turned into about fifteen boys in my room at every possible spare moment. They had set up an elaborate network among the six computers and were attracting kids from all over the campus to play games against each other.

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    These boys then came to me and asked me if they could start a computer club. I didn't have a problem with that, so again I said, "Sure." A few days later, they approached me with some paperwork and asked me to sign on as the sponsor. "What do I have to do?" I asked. "Oh nothing," they replied. "We just need a faculty signature."

    I soon became responsible for this club, but I didn't mind. These were smart kids who spent their time building and rebuilding the computers. I then noticed that the core group of two or three were no longer playing the games, but rather sitting back and watching others enjoy them with the quiet satisfaction of knowing they had made it possible.

    Later, when I needed help setting up a computer lab at a school in another district (for my doctoral studies), these boys volunteered to help. They formatted thirty-six computers at a school they had never been to for people they would never meet. While we were at the school working in the lab, one of them brought out a small radio-controlled helicopter and began flying it around the room. We all got a big kick out it, and I told them about a book (and then a movie) called October Sky, in which a group of high school boys got interested in amateur rocket building. Their teacher called them the Rocket Boys, and, after this day, that is what I would call my computer whizzes.