ASU SolarSPELL Samoa Peace Corps Volunteer Site Visits Part I: Savai’i Island

In May 2017, the ASU SolarSPELL team traveled to Samoa to carry out a training on the SolarSPELL digital libraries with both Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterpart teachers. Before this training took place, however, the team had the opportunity to visit some volunteers who had received SolarSPELL libraries (and training) one year prior, in their local schools and communities. We had the chance to catch up with these volunteers, receive feedback on some of the challenges and victories they’ve had vis-à-vis using the SolarSPELL in their schools and communities, and got a much better idea of what their lives are like as Peace Corps volunteers.


On May 27, the team had the opportunity to travel to Savai’i Island and visit two Peace Corps volunteers at their schools. The day began with a ferry ride across the ocean, from Upolu Island to Savai’i Island, which was breathtakingly beautiful.

Once arriving at Savai’i, we headed to Kiana’s school, where students were still in class. Kiana showed us her library, and we talked further about the SolarSPELL, while also providing her with an updated SD card with all of the new content we’ve been collecting over the past year.

The team was so fortunate to be able to interact with the students at this school, once class let out. A number of the SolarSPELL university students got to read to the primary schoolchildren, as well as play some games, including playing hide-and-seek, and dancing.

Other heretofore-unknown talents were demonstrated, as well!

Next, after a quick barbeque lunch along the side of the road, the team visited Patrick’s school, where we learned about how he is in the early stages of incorporating use of the SolarSPELL into recently launched computer courses. We also updated the content on Patrick’s SolarSPELL.

The team had many other amazing experiences on beautiful Savai’i Island, and some of the more breathtaking photos are below.

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ASU SolarSPELL Team at ICT Days Conference in Vanuatu

The ASU SolarSPELL team’s final two days in Vanuatu were spent at the national ICT Days conference, May 17-18.

The conference proved to be a fantastic opportunity for the team to explain, demonstrate, and all around talk about the SolarSPELL and the Library Lab.

The team never would have imagined such a level of interest! I do believe our table was consistently the busiest one there! There was regularly a crowd of people around it, excited to learn about it, eager to use the tablets we provided, to surf the library’s content.

We had an eager audience in the Smart Sistas ICT Camp for girls, when the whole group came over to visit us.

We had a few groupies who spent quite a bit of time with us.

Longtime collaborator and friend of SolarSPELL, Ian Thomson, from the University of the South Pacific, took some time to talk with the team.

There was even an opportunity to demonstrate the SolarSPELL to the Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Jenny Da Rin!

The team so greatly enjoyed being able to talk with so many ni-Vanuatu people about the SolarSPELL.

The team wondered many times whether there was a language barrier, as we explained everything in English, and there are a number of technical terms. However, the rate at which people returned to the table, after listening to the explanation once, and then explained to their friends and relatives how SolarSPELL worked, and how to surf the library’s website, showed us that language was no real barrier.

There are so many great pictures from this fun event!

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SolarSPELL Team works with SMART Sistas Vanuatu to develop Robot for FIRST Global Competition

The ASU SolarSPELL team had the opportunity to work with the SMART Sistas Vanuatu team on Sunday May 14. These amazing young women will be the first ever team from Vanuatu representing the country at the upcoming FIRST Global robotics competition in Washington DC in July 2017.

For this competition, the SMART Sistas will need to develop a robot from the same parts that are provided to every team in this global competition—what they do with these parts, and what they can make the robot do—is what will distinguish them from the other teams at the competition.

The SolarSPELL team arrived early and discovered that Lana and Lilia were already hard at work.

Shortly after this, team leaders/teachers/mentors Rodney and Grace from the US Peace Corps arrived and all of the team members introduced themselves.

Our team described how the SolarSPELL digital library works, and the SMART Sistas were quite taken with it.

Then, it was time for the hard work of the remainder of the afternoon. Good thing there was a robotics major among the ASU students! Even so, all of the ASU students were engineering majors, allowing them to contribute their valuable skills to the effort.

The short term goal for the day was to make sure the robot could be driven up a ramp. The longer term work included a great deal of brainstorming ideas about how to make this robot do what it’s supposed to do. The ASU students had plenty of ideas, but also indicated that they were just blown away by Lana’s and Lilia’s ideas.

A few days later, the SolarSPELL team was fortunate enough to see the SMART Sistas give a presentation at the ICT Days conference in Port Vila (May 17). Not only were the girls all poised, well-spoken and confident, their robot was a star, too! They drove it out in front of them on-stage at the beginning, and at the end, they drove it up the ramp effortlessly.

We are happy that we had the chance to get to know these amazing young women, proud that we had the chance to work with them, and we wish them all the best at the FIRST Global competition in Washington DC next month! You are AWESOME!!!


Posted in Arizona State University, Peace Corps, Solar Digital Library, SolarSPELL, Vanuatu, Women and Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment