Pittsburgh-based non-profit Computer Reach envisions “a computer literate world where the benefits of technology are shared by all.” Through computer literacy courses, Computer Reach provides low-income and elderly residents in the Pittsburgh region with basic skills in computer operation, communication, and technology. Upon passing course exams, students are provided with a certificate of literacy, elevating their prospects for job placement and economic mobility.
REACH is a mass-produced, mobile classroom designed to increase access to Computer Reach’s computer literacy courses by bringing classes directly to constituent populations. The carts are deployed to Carnegie Library locations throughout the greater Pittsburgh region where the classes are held. Essentially a classroom in a box, the REACH cart allows any space larger than 9 feet by 18 feet to be quickly turned into a learning center for eight students.
The design of the cart is predicated on requirements of function, accessibility, and aesthetics. Each REACH cart is designed to allow the storage of all equipment needed for Computer Reach’s outreach courses, including eight computer kits—each consisting of a computer tower, monitor, keyboard, mouse, power cord, and VGA cord—, four folding tables, one projector, one collapsible projector screen, and one power strip. Four computer kits are stored in the core of the box, while the other four are stored in cardboard boxes resting on top. The folding tables are hung vertically along the flanks of the cart using custom steel clips to allow a potentially elderly instructor to easily remove them during the classroom set-up. Three item-specific holsters line the front of the cart for secure storage of the projector screen, projector, and power strip. When all equipment has been removed from the cart, the top of the cart itself is used as the teacher’s table. Branding was developed for the carts in order to create a unified identity and greater visual presence for Computer Reach’s outreach initiative. The system is designed to allow an elderly instructor to set up the classroom in less than 20 minutes.
The REACH carts are designed for future mass-production in mind. The MDO panels that make up the cart boxes are CNC-milled to allow each panel to be produced at scale, rapidly, and with a high degree of mechanical precision. During the milling process, dados and rabbets were routed into the panels at all joint locations, which allowed for alignments to be made quickly during the assembly process while also yielding a more rigid and durable final construction. Holes for all screw locations were pre-drilled during milling, allowing the carpenters to simply drive the screws at each hole location. Each cart box can be assembled by one carpenter in under 50 minutes.
The total budget for this project was $50,000 and includes all aspects of the scope, including all computer equipment, all classroom equipment, education expenses, cart design, cart prototyping, fabrication of 12 carts, and branding. Currently deployed at twelve locations throughout Western Pennsylvania, there are aspirations to expand the REACH of this initiative regionally, nationally, and potentially even globally.
John Folan, UDBS Director
Garrett Rauck, UDBS Fellow
Alise Kuwahara Day, UDBS Fellow