50 Solar Digital Libraries Ready for Vanuatu and Micronesia!

Cal Poly LAES 411 students posing with the completed solar digital libraries

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This was the final week of classes at Cal Poly, and it was a busy one for the students in this Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies (LAES) project-based course, with the students completing the build of 50 solar digital libraries.

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Four of these students will be traveling with me to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Vanuatu later this summer. We are partnering with the US Peace Corps in both countries, to provide these 50 libraries to Peace Corps Volunteers stationed at remote, rural schools with no electricity or connectivity. The Cal Poly students will be leading trainings for the Peace Corps Volunteers in the use, maintenance, and troubleshooting of the libraries.

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The dates have been set for the travels: August for FSM and September for Vanuatu.

Posted in Cal Poly, Chuuk, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Solar Digital Library, Solar Power, Teacher Technology Training, Vanuatu | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building 50+ Solar Digital Libraries

We have reached the production stage for our Solar Digital Libraries! We’ve built 50 and counting….

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The hands-on work involved drilling, wire-cutting and wire-stripping, soldering, heat-shrinking, gluing, and Velcro-ing.

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The students were energetic, and showed up for four separate build meetings, which flew by, as someone would volunteer to play deejay, and then the music would play and the conversations would start. I’d like to thank these Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies students for their enthusiasm and perseverance—not just on this build, but for the entire quarter of hard work on all the various aspects of this project.

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There were many opportunities for Learn-By-Doing in this initiative/adventure, which was my first of building a product at a larger, assembly-line scale. Some of the challenges included ordering items in bulk, the unavailability of certain items, and various shipping challenges (What? The box has been sitting in Van Nuys for 10 days? Are you kidding?).

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I also discovered—the hard way—how extremely difficult it is to glue polypropylene plastics—which our waterproof box is made of! (Thank you 3M for saving the day!) This learning was in addition to what we learned earlier in the quarter about 3D printing, prototyping, and pricing. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of the things we learned once we jumped feet-first in to this endeavor and figured things out as we went along. By the way, this iteration is about our 4th or 5th version of the solar digital library. And there will be more to come, for sure…

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We’re very happy with how the libraries turned out, and look forward to bringing them to Peace Corps Volunteers in Vanuatu and the Federated States of Micronesia this summer.

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The library consists of:

Banana Pi Microcomputer with WiFi Dongle and 32 GB SD Card
10W Eco-Worthy Solar Panel
Voltage Regulator
10,000 mAh Rechargeable Battery
Micro USB Connector Cords

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I also couldn’t resist adding this lovely photo of our team presenting our work at the Cal Poly Engineering Expo on May 29th  2015.

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SPELL Solar Digital Library Prototype Debuts at SLO MakerFaire

The students in Cal Poly’s Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies (LAES) 411 proudly debuted the SPELL solar powered digital library prototype at the San Luis Obispo MakerSpace Expo on May 9, 2015.

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The Solar Powered Educational Learning Library (SPELL) is designed for remote, rural schools with no electricity or Internet access. It provides an offline digital library, yet through a WiFi hotspot, simulates an online experience for any web-enabled device.

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The team has partnered with the US Peace Corps in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Vanuatu, to distribute 50 of these libraries to remote Pacific Island schools in August/September 2015. Team members will travel to FSM and Vanuatu to introduce the libraries and provide trainings to the Peace Corps volunteers, who in turn will be using them at the schools where they are stationed as part of their mission to teach English and use technology, where possible.

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The library is designed to be a plug-and-play, all-in-one kit, taking advantage of the miniaturization and decreasing costs of computers and related technology. The technology used in the SPELL library is entirely off-the-shelf, which makes it open access, as well as affordable. The educational content is also entirely open access.

The goal for the library was that it be as simple and straightforward as possible. The team will meet its target price of less than $150 per unit with this first production run of 50 units.

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The library consists of:

Banana Pi Microcomputer with WiFi Dongle and 32 GB SD Card
10W Eco-Worthy Solar Panel
Voltage Regulator
10,000 mAh Rechargeable Battery
Micro USB Connector Cords

Stay tuned for project updates and developments!

Posted in Cal Poly, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Solar Computer Lab in a Box, Solar Digital Library, Solar Power | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment