Pieces of the Pi

Pieces of the Pi

Geeking out is a universal constant. And Matt Jones, Crotched Mountain School teacher, is going to prove it.

There’s just something about Matt Jones’ room. Every class at Crotched Mountain School is thoroughly, gloriously unique, but spending a few moments in Matt’s enclave leaves you with one indelible take-away — this place is filled with some characters.

And that’s “character” in a good way. Matt’s group is made up of some absolute legends, students whose reputations precede them and whose present day successes will one day be etched into Crotched Mountain mythology.

Though every student is, of course, his own man, there are common traits that bind them together: 1) they are adolescent boys, some of the oldest at Crotched Mountain School, 2) they have a primary diagnosis of profound autism in conjunction with some communication and (occasional) behavioral challenges, and 3) they love movies and music and video games.

That’s where the similarities end and their personalities—and multimedia tastes—diverge:

LIAM, with his moppy blonde hair and legs the size of steel caissons, may be one of the strongest humans to ever set foot on Crotched Mountain. He has made enormous progress since first enrolling (when he arrived with a four-staff-to-one ratio); but when Liam gets to know you and, most importantly, gets to trust you, you won’t find a more affectionate guy, or a gentler giant. He’s a music lover. “Liam loves classic rock,” Matt says, “And he also likes Justin Bieber’s newer stuff, though he’s not a fan of his older stuff.”

If it’s Star Wars-related, then COLIN is into it. When he’s not out in the community working at one of his jobs or racing down the ski slope with Crotched Mountain Accessible Recreation and Sports, he’s curling up with an iPad watching his favorite Jedi hijinks. “Canon, non-canon, it doesn’t matter,” Matt says. “If someone’s holding a lightsaber and using The Force, Colin is interested.”

“If someone’s holding a lightsaber and using The Force, Colin is interested.”

KURT is a man in almost perpetual motion, but when the moment calls for just kicking back and unwinding, listening to music his outlet. Good luck finding someone with more polar opposite tastes. “For Kurt, it’s either brand new top 20 pop music or death metal,” Matt says. “It’s Adele or it’s Slayer and there’s nothing in between.”

For RYAN, causing mischief with (and often to) his pal Liam may be one of his favorite pursuits but taking in a movie is a strong runner-up. He is particular, however. It’s pretty much 90s and early 2000s Disney movies for him. “He loves The Lion King,” Matt says. “Though lately he’s been into Dumbo.


It’s Thursday and a nondescript package from Amazon just arrived. Matt sits at his desk and unboxes it. To the uninitiated, it looks like a cardboard receptacle of miscellaneous Radio Shack cast-offs — plastic, circuity, wires, and more plastic.

But Matt’s eyes are lit up like road flares — the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B-plus 16GB starter kit had finally arrived. For the layperson, a Raspberry Pi is an all-in-one multimedia device that can play movies, music, and retro video games, and send the audio and video signal to a screen.

It’s the perfect addition for his classroom, a way to unify the digital entertainment each student tends to engage with alone to create a more communal approach to content consumption. And just as the endgame is for all the students to enjoy the new device together, they will, in turn, each contribute to the actual creation of the device. It’s entry-level engineering the Crotched Mountain way and everyone’s getting a chance to bring this slick new tech to life.

Matt has a complete punchlist worked out, with specific tasks assigned to each of the boys in his class — from snapping together plastic pieces to formatting the SD card to hitting ENTER on the keyboard to trigger the operating system installation.

And, like that, the Raspberry Pi is fully-armed and operational. All that’s left is the content upload, when Obi-Wan and Mufasa join Tom Araya and Taylor Swift to find a new home with a legion of other avatars from the world of entertainment. Each byte of data represents a small slice of personality from a group of incredibly unique young men, all of it coming together in a brand new way for them to share in each other’s lives.

There’s only one more question left to answer — what to listen to first?

Probably Bieber.

But not the older stuff.

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