Computer Networking Project Decoy

Posted on Categories Project-based Learning, Student Engagement

At a Glance

At Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center, Computer Networking students build a computer in an object that is not an ordinary computer case.


Computer Networking students are assigned Project Decoy, for which they are required to work in a small group of two to three students to design and create an original computer case by redesigning a common object. The Computer Networking program provides students with all the necessary computer components to complete the project.

The project requires students to use a household object that:

  • is big enough to house the computer components,
  • has a way to access ports for connections,
  • has airflow so that the computer can be cooled, and
  • can be transported.

The Computer Networking instructor assigns Project Decoy during the third grading period because at that point most of the students have had an opportunity to work through the majority of the PC hardware sections of the course. Two weeks prior to assigning the project, he explains it to students. They then use those two weeks to start gathering ideas and looking around their houses for an object to use. The instructor sets aside approximately three days for the projects to be completed, but does allow students who are creating more artistic projects to use a little more time if needed. Students work on the project in class, although if they need to drill or use power saws, they must do that at home.

Students submit their completed projects to the instructor who then checks to make sure the computer turns on and all of its parts work. The projects are displayed in the classroom, and the academic teachers vote on the top three projects. Students of the top two projects receive gift cards.

During the 2015-16 school year, students designed cases in cardboard boxes, fans, hamster cages, and many other objects. 

Origin / Implementation

“Project Decoy” has been a component of the Computer Networking program since the 2013-14 school year. The project provides students a relevant and engaging opportunity to apply engineering and creative thinking skills.

The instructor notes three positive outcomes of Project Decoy:

  • Students engage in and develop skills related to teamwork and communication as they collaborate to explain, share, and combine their ideas to create the computer case.
  • It provides a creative outlet for students.
  • It creates a relevant opportunity for students to apply the skills and knowledge they have obtained in the course. They work with their group members to determine if all the components will fit in the case, fully understanding how to connect all the different cables and parts of a computer. They are more likely to ask their group members “How is this going to fit?” rather than, “Where does this cable go?” – a sign that they understand the idea of piecing together a computer.

Results / Impact

Most of the students find the project fun to complete. Some really enjoy the creativity and the competition components of the project. The instructor plans to continue using Project Decoy.

Supporting Resources

Project Decoy


Connellsville Area CTC
Patrick Mullaney, Computer Networking Instructor