SHS senior builds computer

Daniel Stusalitus, Shelton High senior, built his own gaming computer for his Capstone project.

Stusalitus’s goal was to have a faster gaming computer without having to pay higher prices for a new computer, he said. After his friends told him stories about how they built their own computers, Stusalitus realized that building his own would be cheaper than buying a prebuilt computer.

“I've always enjoyed playing PC games, but playing modern games requires a high quality computer,” Stusalitus said in an email. “Since I had no idea what I was doing and felt overwhelmed by the project, getting a mentor to help me and doing it as my Capstone seemed like a great idea.”

His final product created a more powerful, faster computer than his previous one, he said.  Despite being larger than most normal computers, the gaming has a higher visual quality than his older, smaller computer.

“A computer screen is a digital display, so it updates what is on the screen as many times as it can in a second,” Stusalitus said. “It may not seem like it, but there is a significant difference between playing a game at 30 frames per second, or at 60 frames per second. This computer is stronger, so I get a higher framerate and overall games feel smoother because it is closer to being a continuous stream of information.

His mentor, Dave Whitham, a web developer, had experience building computers and helped guide Stusalitus through the steps to build his own, he said.

“The first step was research, learning what I would be doing exactly and identifying parts to buy. After that, we had to buy the actual parts and then assemble them inside the computer case,” Stusalitus said. “To be more specific, first we put in the power supply and then the hard drive of the computer. After that, we attached the RAM to the motherboard so we didn’t break it, and attached the motherboard. We then added the CPU (central processing unit) and the graphics card. After that all we had to do was install an operating system(I chose Windows 10).”

Stusalitus said that the biggest challenges to his project were buying the parts and installing Windows 10. The project took 16 hours to complete.

“Bitcoin’s price skyrocketed before we bought the parts, and as a result there was a huge increase in the number of people looking to mine Bitcoin,” Stusalitus said. “Bitcoin mining rigs require high end graphics cards, so this meant almost all the cards in our price range were out of stock. The card we had chosen went out of stock, so we ended up buying a different graphics card which was $60 more expensive, and which took at least a half hour to find.”

The ending cost of Stusalitus’ computer was approximately $900, he said. A similar prebuilt computer would be around $1,100; however, it would not have been exactly what he envisioned.

“It’s difficult to say what the price of a similar prebuilt computer would be. One of the main reasons building your own computer is cheaper is because you get exactly what you need,” Stusalitus said. “When you buy a prebuilt computer you don’t get to pick what parts it has, so to find a computer that has everything you want you typically need to pay for additional parts you don't need. For example, if I look [online] and look at computers that have the same GTX 1060 graphics card that I bought, I can see most don’t have a solid state drive (SSD) like I wanted, or they have a small SSD and a large hard drive that I simply don’t need.”

After graduating from Shelton High later this month, Stusalitus plans to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts to obtain a computer science degree, focusing on coding and software development. His Capstone helped him realize that in future endeavors that he should not be afraid to ask for help, he said.  

“I learned that just because something feels overwhelming that doesn’t mean it’s really difficult. The project felt much easier than I had expected. I realize now in the future I should ask for help more often, because I may find people who are not only willing to help me but would enjoy helping me learn new skills like this,” Stusalitus said. “I am especially happy I decided on this project because my old computer’s hard drive died two days before I was going to build the new computer, effectively turning my $600 old computer into a fancy brick.”