IBM team assembles computers for underprivileged children

One-year-old Mathewson Mohler’s tiny hands moved up and down, smacking his fingers against the keyboard of a computer Saturday at Volunteers for America’s Family Shelter in Reno. Barnyard animal sounds played on the monitor as Mohler’s toddler-sized shoes jumped for joy on a plastic computer chair.

Two IBM KidSmart young explorer computers, designed for kids in preschool and kindergarten, were assembled Saturday by members of the six-person IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team. The team is in Reno for a three-week project to improve economic development in the region. Saturday was one of its community outreach events.

The overall project is part of an $400,000 IBM grant awarded to Reno in August. One hundred cities around the world were chosen.

“Today we are donating a software program with music and basic things to help kids learn different colors, numbers, letters, shapes,” said Linda Wilson Bauer, a member of the IBM Smarter Cities team. “It’s built in a (Little) Tikes desk, virtually indestructible and right down at their level.”

The computers fit perfectly for Mohler, who already likes getting his hands on his mother’s electronic devices. Mohler’s mom, Mekisha, has bounced between jobs the past few years, mainly in the fast-food industry, but also working on a ranch taking care of pigs and chickens, she said.

She has reapplied for a job at Jack in the Box, where she once worked and left on good standing, she said.

Her son was born in the Family Shelter during her previous stay before she started working again and was eventually let go from her job. She named him Mathewson, after the Mathewson Trust Foundation, a charitable trust that has donated to the shelter.

“He really enjoys the keyboard and the reaction that it gives him,” she said. “He is learning his letters and words ... this next generation is going to be all about computers, and I am really happy he is learning to use one.”