30 More SolarSPELL libraries delivered to Chuuk, Micronesia!


Thirty additional SolarSPELL libraires have been delivered to Chuuk, FSM!

On November 23rd and 24th a training on the use of these solar powered offline digital libraries was held at Chuuk High School. The training participants included both principals from remote island schools and Chuuk High School staff who will be traveling to remote islands to give training on the SolarSPELL libraries to teachers at these schools—following a training of the trainers model.




The Chuuk Department of Education (DoE) is encouraging these schools to budget for 20 Chromebooks (laptops) to accompany these libraries, which the DoE will help the schools obtain.




The training was led by Dr. Laura Hosman, and the libraries had been built one month prior, by students at California Polytechnic State University. A special thanks to Hiro Mori for his help during the training.


This delivery and training brings the total number of SolarSPELL libraries that have been delivered into the field, across the Pacific Islands to 80!


On a separate but very related note, we returned to Chuuk High School on Nov 25th and were able to observe a trial group of Grade 12 students using an offline library that is being piloted at Chuuk High. It was inspired by the offline intranet server approach demonstrated a few years ago at CHS by the PISCES project. However, this project has taken the idea to a whole different level.





Students access cached educational information over an on-campus intra-net connection, from the schools’ growing digital library/repository. This intra-net connection is very fast. (By contrast, we attempted to connect to the Internet while this class was taking place, and were unable to load a single page.)




We were amazed and impressed as we watched these students take tests, be able to monitor their progress on assignments and outcomes on exams, and watch Khan Academy videos and TED talks, among other things. Kudos to Matt Kosik for the fantastic job he’s doing on this project.



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

30 more SolarSPELL libraries built at Appropriate Technology Workshop and Build Day at Cal Poly


On October 24 2015, students from across Cal Poly’s campus gathered for an interactive workshop on Appropriate Technology for the Developing World and to participate in the hands-on activity of building 30 additional SolarSPELL libraries. The workshop and build were led by Prof. Laura Hosman.



The students, representing a wide variety of majors, participated in a lively discussion about some of the challenges of bringing technology to developing world contexts, when a lack of technology may not have been the problem in the first place. The workshop also highlighted some successes and failures of ICT in developing regions.



The hands-on build activities saw students jumping in to solder, drill, heat-shrink, glue, fasten, cut, splice, affix, and much more…as they enthusiastically built 30 SolarSPELL libraries in approximately 2.5 hours. Feedback received from the event indicated that the students truly enjoyed the experience, and felt they were able to contribute to a real-world project.



Here are some quotes from the students:

The simplicity of the SolarSPELL design made me realize what appropriate technology might look like.



The hands-on project makes you feel like you are making an actual contribution to helping address a problem. The design of the technology reflects the needs of the location.


It was a humbling experience that made me really consider the way technology interplays with social/political/economic situations.


I loved the build aspect because it made me feel a part of something bigger than myself.



Cal Poly’s own Mustang News covered the event and released a video featuring the day’s highlights.

The 30 libraries that were built at this event are heading to Chuuk, which is one of the four Federated States of Micronesia. This will be SolarSPELL’s third in-the-field deployment, bringing the total number of libraries in the field to nearly 80! We’re looking forward to the on-site training in November.





Posted in Cal Poly, Chuuk, Micronesia, Pacific Islands, Solar Digital Library, Solar Power, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SolarSPELL First Field Update from Alexis & Steve in Naviso, Maewo, Vanuatu: A Smashing Success!


We held a training with Peace Corps volunteers in Vanuatu just last month, on how to use the SolarSPELL digital libraries, and provided 25 libraries and tablets to the attendees.

Below is the text of an email from Alexis Cullen. She and her husband Steve are Peace Corps volunteers in Naviso, on Maewo Island, in Vanuatu. They organized a big launch event for the SolarSPELL library’s debut there, to coincide with their community’s annual holiday. I have inserted photos that Alexis shared from the big event. Wow! 3_22049487652_48f4fa4c51_kDear Laura,

The SPELL debut was a smashing success!  When we returned to our village of Naviso after your training in Port-Vila, the community was in the throws of busily preparing for the huge party to celebrate our annual provincial holiday on September 15th (PENAMA day), which the whole island was invited to attend.  Temporary food stalls and kava bars were being built out of bamboo, lights were being strung from the classrooms that would be powered by a generator, and a sound system with huge speakers and a control/sound system board were being carried down the mountain on the backs of villagers.


Everyone was buzzing, and as soon as my husband and I arrived, the chairman of the school committee found me to ask when I was going to show the special thing I had gone to train for.  I popped it out of my bag and showed him the SPELL digital solar library, and after I was done he excitedly told me I needed to join with the first speech so that we could turn it on at the very start of the party so everyone could connect the whole time.


I went and made “Wi-fi” hot spot signs and put one unit in the school library, with the device sitting in the window so people could see it and then another device at the kava bar.  That night, the night before the 3 day party started, I turned it on so that everyone working on setting up could try it out first.  One of our villagers who is from a neighboring island who married into our island found a video in the “geography” section under “local topics” that showed video of his family dancing! He couldn’t believe it.  He promptly downloaded it to his smart phone to take it back to show his wife.  (There are probably 3 smart phones in our village, population 600).  Everyone started referring to it as “kiaman internet” (fake internet).


The next day the party began and people started pouring into our village from all around the island.  This is no feat to be understated, as many people on our island have never visited our village, because the road to get there is so hard – literally our village is referred to by other islanders as being “in a hole”.  The first speech that morning addressed this, as a prominent leader from the other side of the island described how happy he was to see this party happing in Naviso, as often they think of Naviso as its own island, sort of an island within the island.  With no cell phone communication and no truck roads, known for sorcery and tradition, they are unfortunately often labeled as “backward” and “man-bush” by those from the other side of the island.  But during this three day event, everyone joined hands and the islanders from all over, including Naviso villagers themselves, were PROUD of everything they had done to put this party together – including – they were SO proud of the the SPELL unit!



Little groups huddled together over smart phones to watch videos and look up things using offline Wikipedia and no one could believe that the village “in the hole” had a technology so advanced.  Teachers from other schools wanted to know how to get one from their schools. People asked all kinds of questions and explored the content. My little 4 year old host sister, sitting in our kitchen, who has never seen a truck, said “Wi-fi!” proudly as we all looked at her, mouths wide open.


There were just a few glitches with certain smart phones, but other than that the SPELL units ran night and day!  We turned them off at 10 PM each night and turned them on again at 7:30 AM the next day, and they worked!  We sometimes put them in the sun, and sometimes charged them off of our larger solar panel/battery/inverter unit at our house that keeps our satellite phone charged, if we needed a quick fix. But these units are so low power, they just keep going and going and going!



We can’t thank the SPELL team enough for this wonderful innovation!  It really galvanized our remote community! We are so proud, and excited to start using it in the classroom!





Posted in Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Solar Digital Library, Solar Power, Vanuatu, Vanuatu | 1 Comment