Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Date: 11:32 AM July 7th 2009

Venue: Our quarters, Sahn Malen

Hello again. It's another wet day here in Sahn, most of the others are away to another village to distribute the malaria nets. Carlos and I(and Clem, who isn't feeling well), have stayed behind to work on OLPC stuff.

It's been a good week for OLPC thus far. Since I last posted, we have:

.Finalized the lists of students who will receive XOs
.Recruited 12 new peer tutors(in addition to the four from the last distribution)
.Had daily, 3-hour(on an average) training sessions with the prospective peer tutors, teachers and team leaders who will carry out the project.

.Had a village meeting to introduce the project and emphasize its importance as one of the two pilot OLPC projects in Sierra Leone. (The feedback has been great. The community members we have talked to were very supportive and excited about the project.)
.Re-flashed/NAND-blasted the 100 XOs. The process worked like a charm. As I said earlier, it really is amazing what cool technology has gone behind the creation of these cuddly machines.(Nand-blasting is an OLPC technology whereby one laptop with a developer key, wirelessly relays the upgrade to any number of XOs in the immediate vicinity. It is significantly faster than plugging in a flash stick and a power cord into each XO and waiting for it to upgrade).

There are two schools in Sahn Malen: The RC School(Catholic) and the National Islamic School. We have decided to saturate Class 5 in both the schools and the numbers come down to 56 in RC and 29 in Islamic. That leaves us 15 for the peer tutors, teachers and adult team leads. The numbers in RC might go down since there was too large a discrepancy between the pass-rate for Class 4th(almost 100%) and the one for Class 5th(less than 10%). If they do go down, we will deploy the remainder at a centre in Pujehun(started by GMin member Ellie Nowak) which provides recreational space for children after school, and which, because of its location, will be a good base for publicizing the project.

The daily training sessions have been very heartening. The kids are fast learners and there have been some impressive projects we have seen in Paint, Scratch and Etoys. Also, wikipedia has been an instant hit here. The teachers, although slower and more deliberate than their students, are nevertheless engaged and happy to have the project come to their schools. In addition, we have identified four adult team leads who will help the peer tutors organize XO sessions after school and in addition, will be providing technical support to the project after we leave.

Another thing: I tried running the Linksys WRT300N routers directly from the solar panels that we got for the XOs, and it works! The only catch is that the router hangs once there isn't enough light so you need to unplug and start again once the sun comes back out. It would be great if I could get this to work because it essentially means that combined with the N-radio wireless distributed system functionality in DD-WRT, the routers could essentially be placed anywhere with enough sunlight.

Otherwise, we're looking forward to finally receiving our solar panels(which were accidentally delivered to Sao Tome) so that we can wean the project off of the expensive gas generator.

Ah! It has started pouring again. I should go get my laundry off the line(which by the way perpetually smells moldy because of the humidity).

Until next time!


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