The computer lab at Superior's Lew Martin Senior Center has been equipped to soar into the future thanks to Eagle Scout Matt Janicki.
The 15-year-old has spent hours upgrading security, adding memory, installing cameras and arranging the cable closet at the senior center. Janicki will cap off the project by leading a free cybersecurity class for seniors from 3-4 p.m. Aug. 13 and 15 at the center, followed by one-on-one time teaching seniors how to use their electronic devices.
“I think it’s great,” center manager Jenny Van Sickle said. “Something we get all the time is robocalls, security calls. We have people here who have had close calls. This scamming is prevalent and it’s serious.”
Janicki, a Superior High School sophomore, said protecting yourself from scams online is a skill that’s essential when using computers, especially public computers. It can include remembering to log out of email accounts, watching site names closely and not saving items to a computer's desktop.
“There’s tons of ways scammers can get money out of you, but it’s actually really easy to combat that using some simple browsing tips,” the scout said.
Participants are encouraged to bring their cell phone, tablet, computer or other device for one-on-one help with Janicki and four of his fellow scouts.
“I was also thinking of teaching them to use Google and YouTube,” he said.
Van Sickle often fields questions from seniors about connecting to wireless internet, downloading voicemails and using email.
“Some of just these basic, everyday tasks, but because everyone has a different phone … it can be challenging, so we want to make sure people aren’t left behind,” she said.
As part of the project, Van Sickle suggested adding web cameras to the computer center to allow seniors to video chat with relatives.
“I really wanted to make sure that for seniors having family living in different communities, they might have another way of communicating with grandkids and siblings, family members,” she said.
Janicki reached out to local businesses, and discoverpc.NET Computer Solutions Center donated two cameras for him to install. But they ran into a problem.
“The software was so old, it couldn’t support the updates it desperately needed,” Van Sickle said.
In fact, Janicki found the Windows 7 software was about to become obsolete.
Part of that, he said, stemmed from a lack of software updates.
“They turn off their computers during the nighttime and these computers were scheduled to get updates during the nighttime,” Janicki said. “So they were years behind with their updates.”
That translated into holes in the code, making users more vulnerable.
A Superior business a few blocks away, A Plus Computer Services, stepped up to donate a dozen memory cards for the project, one for each machine. Janicki and a fellow scout installed them and downloaded the needed updates. The additional memory has prepped the machines for an eventual upgrade to Windows 9.
“These computers are going to last a very long time,” Janicki said.
He was looking for a computer-based Eagle Scout project, but what Janicki found was a way to make a difference.
“It’s to give knowledge to the seniors, like teach them how to use computers safely because if you know how to go on websites, send emails, you need to learn how to protect yourself as well because there are many threats,” Janicki said. “It’s becoming such an essential thing to know how to use computers.”
Sign up for the free class at the center, 1527 Tower Ave., call 715-394-3644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Van Sickle stressed that seniors don’t have to be members to participate in the class or other center programming.
“I really at the heart of it want senior citizens in Douglas County to know about us and learn about us, but most importantly recognize that this is their building, this is their senior center,” she said.
Information on programs, including bingo, classes, exercise options and the supplemental food program, is available on the website or Facebook page.