“We built a technology playground for kids,” says Navneet Grewal as he describes Yellow Circle, the nonprofit he founded with several friends where kids can let their imaginations loose without worry about messing up the family computer.
The story of Yellow Circle begins in the summer of 2014, when Navneet’s son and his friends expressed frustration about their inability to explore the technology concepts they’d been learning in school.
Too many restrictions
While many schools provide students access to computer labs, this access comes with lots of restrictions.
“Many high school computer labs are high quality,” notes Navneet, “but don’t permit anything to be installed or removed. Yet innovation happens when people can tinker with things.”
Buying access to a computer lab was not an option, though. “Students,” says Navneet, “can’t afford access to either a physical or virtual computer lab.”
Beginning in a garage
Initially, Navneet, an IT professional himself, built a small computer lab in his garage with spare equipment, making it remotely accessible via the internet. Over the summer, word spread beyond the neighborhood, and soon nearly 200 kids were on board.
By September, Navneet and eight friends had pitched in to start Yellow Circle. In six months, donations and sponsorships made the project self-sustaining. Most gratifying has been the growth in active users, which has reached 2,000.
According to Navneet, acquiring equipment has been made easier by the continuing generosity of business partners. Finding the right place to host Yellow Circle’s burgeoning student user base, however, proved more of a challenge.
The lunch that changed everything
“The data center we were using didn’t meet our needs,” Navneet recalls. “Its overall infrastructure wasn’t very business-focused or commercialized, and it was not designed to handle the uptime or redundancy we needed. Worse, power was always an issue, with regularly occurring outages.”
All that changed after a lunch with Quest Vice President of Sales Adam Burke.
“Adam was very enthusiastic about what we were trying to do,” recalls Navneet. “We’d been told Quest was a community-oriented company, but we were surprised that within a week, Adam had secured a commitment from Quest to provide us with a cabinet and internet service in their data center.”
Roseville — not just any data center
“We got to tour Quest’s Roseville Service Delivery Center and were really impressed,” says Navneet. “I’ve seen many data centers in my career, and this one is truly a state-of-the-art facility. The security is compelling. People are on site twenty-four seven, always ready to help. And power is never an issue.”
According to Navneet, Adam and the Quest team continue to be very supportive of Yellow Circle’s mission.
“For example, if a server dies in the middle of night, Quest always provides us with support and will have their technician help us. I get a report every month, and if they notice something happening in our cabinet that doesn’t look right, they get in touch with us. They are so proactive. It’s very satisfying to know Quest is watching out for us.”
Helping students imagine the future
In less than four years, more than 65,000 students from over 180 countries ranging in age from middle to graduate school have made use of the Yellow Circle platform. Hundreds of volunteers provide support, including tutorials.
“We see Yellow Circle as a social good,” says Navneet. “That’s why we made it a nonprofit. The possibilities are endless. And we’re committed to adding new platforms and applications for students to explore.”
Without support from sponsors like Quest, however, Yellow Circle’s success would not be possible.
“We’re very grateful for all the help we’ve received,” says Navneet. “And we hope other organizations will be inspired to support YellowCircle.net’s efforts to help students imagine the future.”