3) Build a Really Cool Computer
One of my most prized possessions is my see-through computer. Assembled from a kit by a group of my students, the case is not a black steel monolith but rather a totally transparent box made of plexiglass. When I was in high school, I built plastic body models that allowed me to understand and learn anatomy. My students and teachers alike marvel at the collection of wires, fans, and other components that they can observe with a see-through computer.
To make my computer especially interesting, I installed a programmable set of lights that displays messages with the temperature, my name, and “EHS Computer Club.” While this is a great attention-getter, students are even more impressed by the fact that we built the entire system for about $350.
It may sound intimidating, but building a computer really involves little more than a screwdriver and the right collection of parts. A simple bare bones system can be assembled and running in under an hour. My students really enjoy hands-on activities, and this type of work can engage students who think that computer science just involves writing code.
I have seen students in a variety of disciplines become inspired to build their own computer to fill a particular need. Artists may want a system to manipulate digital images and musicians can mix their own compositions. One of my former students wanted a computer to help with a bioinformatics project he was doing for a science fair.