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February 28, 2014

Boy offers low-cost computers to those in need

NEWBURYPORT — Newburyport resident Ryan Gendron does not see the world like most other 11-year-olds.

“Ryan goes to the library,” said his father, Robert Gendron. “He sees people going in and waiting to use the computers and such and recognized that not all families have computers. We are middle- to upper-middle-class; Ryan has a laptop and has a lot of other luxuries, but he recognizes that others don’t have that sort of thing.”

The Gendrons started The Ryan Project two months ago with a mission to sell low-cost computer bundles — including the computer, monitor, printer, ink and paper — to families that need them, all for under $150.

“The genesis kind of came out of the two of us asking what we can do for other people,” Robert Gendron said. “But it really became the goal to see how cheap we can offer a computer.”

Both father and son stress that their endeavor is not a business. They do not expect or hope to make a profit. Ryan, a seventh-grader at St. Ann’s School in Methuen, is able to keep the costs low with a combination of knowledge and cunning.

The computers use the free operating system Ubuntu, and Ryan makes use of various retail websites, some resellers of used goods and some items straight out of the box for the hardware piece of the puzzle.

“It’s really about comparing different online retailers,” said Ryan, who is currently offering a bundle for $137.86. “I just really enjoy computers, and I thought it would be really cool if I could do something with my love for computers that was helping other people.

“We are looking for families who don’t have enough money to afford a regular computer,” he said. “Some towers go for $500 and up.”

“He’s an expert shopper,” Robert Gendron said. “The challenge now is to get (the bundle price) under $100.”

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