JOPLIN — Andrew Riachi is pretty typical when it comes to being a self-described technology geek. His conversation is sprinkled with words such as "peripherals" and "processor," and he can easily explain to an amateur how a graphics card works and what a motherboard is.
And, like other computer enthusiasts, he participates in online chat threads in an attempt to find the best parts for the least amount of money. A few weeks ago, those efforts paid off when he turned what he learned into a hand-built desktop computer.
Which would be no big deal, until you consider that just a few years ago he still was riding in a car booster seat. Andrew turned 11 three months ago and is in the fifth grade at Lakeside Elementary.
His mom, Cindy, says she is all thumbs when it comes to even simple technology, such as using a CD player (Andrew showed her that at age 1). But his dad, Elie Riachi, a physicist, has long had an interest in electrical engineering.
"Ten years ago when I worked at Eagle Picher, I had the added duty as the informal IT person to work on the network," Elie Riachi said. "In addition to my job of X-raying crystals and making lenses and optics."
He dabbled in computer repair at home when it was necessary and allowed Andrew at the age of 4 to begin assisting him. By age 6, Andrew had helped his dad build a desktop computer.
"I let him put the screws and things in," said the elder Riachi.
Only Andrew can claim the latest creation.
"This one, he built all on his own. He did his own research on the best graphic cards, the performance charts, the CPUs, which chip is better," his dad said. "And newer doesn't mean better for what he's trying to do."
What Andrew is trying to do is play his favorite game, "Minecraft," faster and more smoothly.
"When I first got 'Minecraft,' I saw that it lagged, which means it stuttered from frame to frame and wasn't very fast," Andrew said. "I was using a desktop PC that was so old, and the processor and RAM were way outdated."
So he turned to the "Minecraft" forums in the computer science and technology section.
"I found it really interesting," he said. "They were talking about this new core i5 CPU, with lots of memory, lots of space and great technology," he said. "I was thinking, 'I need a new computer.' I was scared to ask my mom and dad to buy a new one. They'd just say, 'No.'"
So he began posting on threads: "What parts do I get?" ''What would fit my budget, which is $300?"
He soon found out he didn't have enough money, so he kept researching and kept saving, eventually socking away about $700.
"I did chores, and my granny is one of my biggest supporters, other than my dad," Andrew said. "Whenever she has a computer problem I'll go over there to fix it, and she'll give me a dollar. She calls that my 'geek pay.'"
His goal was to get a computer that would run fast and would be good at multitasking, that could run two or even three programs at one time and still run smoothly, he said. He ordered parts on various sites, paid for them himself, had them shipped to the house and began building.
He achieved his goal — he now plays "Minecraft" with no lag and a fast load time.
"I liked the way it turned out," he said. "I may replace the video card later, when I'm older and able to play hard-core games, which are games that take up a lot of resources on your computer."
His parents try to ensure he's well-rounded in other pursuits and do limit his daily computer time. He has several close buddies who have diverse interests, and he enjoys reading.
"I also have piano lessons, and I like to make paper crafts and build with Legos," Andrew said.
His childhood hobby may lead to a career — he said he wants to be a computer scientist, allowing him to code and design parts and build computers for other people.
His mom suggested he might enjoy the Kansas Technology Center at Pittsburg State University.
"Wait, right now?" he asked eagerly.
Despite his adultlike approach to identifying a goal, researching what he needed, then making it happen, Andrew admitted he might need reminding to pick up his dirty socks and make his bed.
"He's still a kid, and I like that," his mom said.