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Laptops for Harvey: OHIO IT helps University of Houston Downtown students get back online

Friday, October 6, 2017
Sean O'Malley  

Shipment of hurricane relief laptops bound for the University of Houston Downtown.When you think of hurricane relief, you probably picture food, clothing, bottled water, and medicine. Electronic devices probably are not high on your list of essentials, but consider this: if you've ever spilled a drink into your laptop or dropped your phone into a puddle, you know just how dependent you are on that device. For the University of Houston Downtown (UHD), located at the confluence of the two largest waterways in Houston, Hurricane Harvey sent hundreds of student and staff computers into the biggest "puddle" the city has ever seen.

Although UHD was able to reopen in September, many students, faculty, and staff continue to feel the effects of the storm. To ease the recovery burden, UHD's president, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz, reached out to our own Dr. Nellis for assistance in procuring laptops. As word of that need spread, OIT answered the call.

Collaborative relief

OIT logistics specialist Kyle Barstow coordinated the relief effort, tracking down available computers in departmental stockpiles and university surplus. "We identified 61 potential candidates in our first go-around," Barstow said. These included a number of laptops from OIT's own parts bin, plus donations from Finance facilitated by Tina Payne, and a group of machines culled from Moving & Surplus. According to Barstow, finding those laptops was just the start of process.

"We had to test each laptop to confirm that they not only still worked but also had enough horsepower to be useful," Barstow said. "We wanted to make sure any computers we sent to Houston would be usable and useful." For laptops that came from Surplus, OIT also had to install cleanly formatted hard drives, since the university removes and destroys those parts as a data security measure. Student workers from OIT’s Desktop Support group did the majority of this testing and setup.

30 laptops made the cut. After verifying that they all had a hard drive and working charger, Barstow boxed them up, strapped them to a pallet, and shipped them off.

"This wasn't just an IT project," Barstow noted. "We couldn't have pulled this off without the help of Finance, Moving & Surplus, and Mail Services."

How you can help

Many students at UHD lost everything in the post-Harvey flooding. UHD's development office has established a relief fund to support students affected by the hurricane. You can donate to this fund by visiting and choosing "Gator Relief Fund" from the dropdown menu.

Related Links

Heroes of Harvey: UHD Community Pulls Together to Restore Campus 
UHD Harvey Information & Resources