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Twelve-year-old Aydan Beavers, right, a 6th grader from San Leandro, Calif., shows his mother Danvy Vu some of the tricks he's learned on the computer, at their home, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Aydan, who built his own desktop gaming computer from scratch, was recently named the "Next Great American Tech Hero" in a national contest. He wants to use his prize money to buy a 3-D printer. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

HAYWARD -- After Aydan Beavers' grandmother asked him to help figure out why her laptop had stopped working, he couldn't see what was wrong.

"I made sure it was plugged in and tried to turn it on. I was looking at all sides, and then I saw what looked like an outline of an iron on the top," the 12-year-old said.

It turned out, his grandmother had set a hot iron on top of the computer, melting the plastic down to the metal. When she asked for Aydan's assistance, as she frequently does, she didn't mention that.

"Who puts an iron on their laptop?" Aydan asked.

It's his willingness to repeatedly and cheerfully troubleshoot for both of his technology-challenged grandmothers that won him the national Next American Tech Hero award. Aydan was among 3,000 entrants in the contest sponsored by Lookout, a security software company.

"A lot of 12-year-olds use technology; it's not that unusual," said his mother, DanVy Vu, who nominated him for the award. "But Aydan is so patient with his grandmothers."

The contest was set up to find the person everyone depends on to help them use technology, said a company spokeswoman. His nomination received the most votes on a contest set up on Facebook.

After Aydan's grandmother fried her laptop -- the third computer she had gone through in less than a year -- he offered to let her use his. Later that week, he found the laptop opened; when he tried to close it, he couldn't.

"She broke the hinge," he said. "I was kinda mad."

"'It just broke,'" she told him, Aydan said, laughing.

"You have to laugh at it, because it's your grandma," his mother said.

The Tech Hero award brings with it a $2,000 prize that Aydan and his mother will split.

The youngster lives with his parents, a 5-year-old sister and his two grandmothers, both of whom often call on their one-boy, live-in tech support department. One regularly loses her passwords and asks for his help.

"She likes to have lots of different passwords, which is good, but then she forgets them," he said.

He and his mother created a computer file where his grandmother can look up her passwords, but he said that hasn't helped much; Aydan suspects she's not writing them correctly. So he verifies the list, trying each password to make sure it works.

"Once she asked me to log her into an account for a new gadget. But after I tried every password, it turns out she didn't even have an account!" he said.

Aydan is in the sixth grade at Bay Area Technology School in Oakland, a sixth- through 12th-grade school that emphasizes math, science and technology. An A student, he likes to read, play sports and use the computer, especially video games. He has to earn points for computer time, and he's only allowed to play video games on the weekend. Despite those limitations, he saved his allowance and birthday money to buy parts to build his own gaming computer.

His mother said she had her doubts when he proposed the idea.

"I said, 'Aydan, it's not like Legos. If you break a part, it's expensive,'" Vu said.

After the parts arrived, he worked nonstop assembling the computer, which worked the first time he turned it on.

"It's not exactly like Legos, but it's pretty darn close," he said.

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473. Follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.