At the tender age of 8, Garrett Burgwardt had already developed a love for -- and desire to take apart -- computers.
It all started when he took his Mom's brand-new Dell computer out of the box and unscrewed every component. At the time everything looked like a pile of metal. "I really didn't know what I was doing," said Garrett.
However, it was this curiosity about computers that eventually led him to great success. Garrett, who lives in Orchard Park and just finished the eighth grade at Elmwood Franklin School, built his first computer two years ago. After going to LAN parties (sessions devoted to playing computer games with other computer lovers), he thought about using a computer other than his laptop.
After discovering it would be cheaper to build a computer than buy a new one, Garrett put himself up to the challenge. He received computer parts for Christmas and, with the help of a high school mentor from the LAN parties, built his first computer. He says he still uses the computer and continues to upgrade it.
This spring, Garrett decided to offer classes for those interested in learning how to build computers. One is an over-the-phone/Internet class. It costs $100 and takes one to two hours. "I ask what they want the computer for and then teach them what the computer does," said Garrett. Students also learn the parts of the computer and the range of capabilities of parts. The second class is a workshop in which students will purchase parts beforehand and actually build their own computer. This class costs $150 and is four hours long.
Garrett used his computer knowledge to help out at Elmwood Franklin. "We use Mac computers at school and I help anyone having trouble and fix any problems. I've also built computers for friends," said Garrett.
His teachers have nothing but good things to say about him. Judy Gerich, an American History teacher at Elmwood Franklin, said: "Garrett has one of the most fluid minds among the students that I teach. He is a unique kid who sees things in his own way and sees people for who they truly are."
As for the future, Garrett hopes to get into the U.S. Air Force and get an engineering or information technology degree. For now, though, he will move on to ninth grade at Park School and continue to pursue his love of computers. "It's fun to take things apart and put them back together again. You learn how everything works. It's a great feeling," said Garrett.
For information, go to www.garrettsupport.com or call 559-3006.
Allison Sirica will be a senior at Orchard Park High School.