Zachary Ware, with protocol 80, refurbishes computers to donate to needy students at Bradford Area School District.

Almost nothing these days means what it used to, and school shopping is no exception.

Pencils, notebooks, lunch pail, some glue in an old film canister, pocket calculator, backpack ... maybe a Trapper-Keeper, if you’re lucky.

Today’s students (and their families) can add a computer to that list. Needless to say, this is virtually impossible for many.

Time marches on, and so does technology.

Computers purchased just seven years ago to help run a refinery established in 1881 are, it’s safe to say, ancient.

ARG Technology Director Tim Dincher and Process Controls Specialist BJ Sayers were tasked with replacing 20 computers used as the human-machine interface (HMI) between ARG’s operators and the process unit controls. The DeltaV control system software was soon to receive an update, as technology often does. These 20 computers running Windows 7, unable to handle an upgrade to Windows 10 and the new DeltaV, were suddenly, effectively, worthless.

Sayers said, “The computers were pretty old and not really good for much. Tim mentioned seeing if the schools would have any use for them instead of just throwing them away.”

To someone with an entrepreneurial spirit like Zachary Ware, there is no such thing as “obsolete.”

Ware has long held a passion for computers, one he shared with his older brother David.

“I think I started back when I was in middle school. All through school I did freelance computer repair as a side hustle,” he recalled.

Ware has made that enviable leap from avocation to vocation, working just down the street from ARG with local tech and inbound marketing agency protocol 80. He specializes in search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.

A lifelong Bradford resident, Ware finished a bachelor’s degree in business management (concentration in finance) from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and went on to earn his MBA from St. Bonaventure University.

During graduate school, Ware served as a substitute teacher for the Bradford Area School District (BASD).

“I began to notice that some students, especially at the middle school where I subbed most days, repeatedly didn’t have their homework completed. It was often assignments that required a computer to complete,” Ware explained.

“It finally came to light that many of the students didn’t have a computer at home to use.”

Having refurbished many old computers destined for the e-recycling bin, Ware’s mental gears had begun to turn. He would fix the machines up with whatever spare parts he could scrape together and give them to people he knew who didn’t have a computer.

“Knowing there were so many students at the middle school, and presumably the high school and elementary schools as well, who didn’t have access to a computer at home, I thought I might be able to build on what I’d already done before, and find students computers.”

Ware reached out to share his idea with faculty and administrators with the district, who began to seek out students who would most benefit from one of the computers.

A donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, soon contributed 16 laptops and four desktops to Ware’s endeavor. Within a few weeks, he was dropping them off at the high school for students to claim.

Given the myriad configurations computers can have, the time it takes to refurbish just one unit can range from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

BASD Superintendent Katy Pude said, “I was so amazed that Zach would do this, taking the time to ensure that students at the high school and middle school would have access to much-needed technology outside of school.”

Realizing the impact his work could have and firmly believing everyone should have access to a computer, Ware has found a way to continue the project.

Discussions with protocol 80 president, CEO and founder Donny Kemick have led to a partnership with the also local Omnis Technologies.

Omnis will handle the machines’ procurement, storage and refurbishment, so that Ware can focus on the strategic side of getting in touch with businesses that may be willing to donate and trying to find good homes for the computers they take in.

Ware said, “They’re never the most powerful or fastest computers, but they get the job done for sure.”

(Sara Furlong is Executive Communications Coordinator at American Refining Group.)