SolarSPELL Field Report from Kelly, Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanua Lava, Vanuatu

Hi SolarSPELL team,

First, thank you for the opportunity for me to present such a cool device to a remote village in Vanuatu!

 

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I really enjoyed delivering the SPELL unit to the village of Vetimboso near my site here on the island of Vanua Lava. To date it has been the most rewarding project that I have encountered during my service. The Head Mistress and her teaching staff were elated to receive such a cool device. Internet is rare in this part of the world, as you know. Those who are lucky enough to have a smartphone and are geographically situated to receive data find that the service is too slow for any serious browsing. Because the SPELL system provides fast and reliable access to information without reliance on an external network it was more than well received. It’s always good to see happy customers.

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The trip to the school in Vetimboso by four wheel drive truck took about and hour and a half from the Provincial Center here in Sola. I was greeted at the school with a custom greeting of fresh mats covered with fresh flower pedals, and refreshments of fresh fruit and a fruit drink. Very welcoming.

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After introductions and refreshments I demonstrated the unit. I followed with a training session that included both a session on finding content, and a session on the workings and maintenance of the unit. All of the staff remained fully engaged and were truly engrossed in learning about the device. A hands on session was also given to assure their full understanding of the system.

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I see great value in this system for developing countries like Vanuatu. I see a huge “bang for the buck” advantage of distributing more of these systems throughout the islands. Although we do have Internet available, it is unlikely that the Internet will be able to serve most of the population in the remote areas of the county. Although the local Service Provider is expanding its network, there is still the issue of affordability. Further, most remote villages are without electricity, so usage is very limited even for those who can afford a data plan.

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I have received some feedback about the system, mostly regarding requests to update the digital library with custom content as needed by the schools in addition to what is already there. At their request, I have helped the school in Vetimboso with the purchase of a projector for use with the system. They will use a small generator to power it and use it for the classroom.

Thanks again for the opportunity and continue the good work.

Kelly B.
Peace Corps Volunteer
Republic of Vanuatu

 

The Village of Vetimboso. The village is one of the largest all custom villages in Vanuatu. All structures have been hand made with local natural materials. The village is very clean and the residents obviously have great pride in their community.

The Village of Vetimboso. The village is one of the largest all custom villages in Vanuatu. All structures have been hand made with local natural materials. The village is very clean and the residents obviously have great pride in their community.

Local children and likely recipients of access to the SPELL system. Photo taken near Solang School.

Local children and likely recipients of access to the SPELL system. Photo taken near Solang School.

Headmistress Atina was very happy to receive the SPELL system.

Headmistress Atina was very happy to receive the SPELL system.

The teachers reassemble the SPELL system that was completely disassembled by me as part of their training. They successfully and enthusiastically completed the task without my help.

The teachers reassemble the SPELL system that was completely disassembled by me as part of their training. They successfully and enthusiastically completed the task without my help.

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Posted in Pacific Islands, Peace Corps, Solar Digital Library, Solar Power, Teacher Technology Training, Vanuatu, Vanuatu, Women and Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

30 More SolarSPELL libraries delivered to Chuuk, Micronesia!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

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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.)

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here are some quotes from the students:

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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