The Solar SPELL team from Cal Poly carried out a two-day training session with the incoming class of Peace Corps volunteers in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The training took place in Madolenihmw, Pohnpei in on August 4 & 5, 2015.
Cal Poly Professor Laura Hosman and student Drew Balthazor led the training, which included an overview of the library’s hardware, content, and the tablet that the team included for each Peace Corps volunteer to be able to access the library’s content once in the field. Raymond Norte, also from Cal Poly, documented the training digitally, as he served as the team’s videographer and photographer.
This training was the first of two this summer that will be carried out by Prof. Hosman and the team of students in the Liberal Arts and Engineering Program who worked on designing, developing, and deploying the library over the past few months.
The Peace Corps volunteers in FSM, and indeed across the Pacific Islands, commit to two years of volunteer service, and are stationed at schools. Most of these schools will not have reliable electricity/power or Internet connectivity, so these libraries are designed to provide relevant educational content in these challenging environmental conditions. The Peace Corps volunteers’ responsibilities include teaching English, using technology where possible, and working together with the community and the school to help improve the education available at the schools where they are serving.
The Solar SPELL library was designed to help meet the needs of the Peace Corps volunteers, vis-à-vis enabling and improving education, in the field. It includes open access content, much of which is localized for the Federated States of Micronesia and for the Pacific Islands. The offline library’s content can also be found in on-line version here: http://pacificschoolserver.org
The library’s hardware is designed to be as simple to use as possible, with no moving parts in order to avoid overheating. The solar panel and plastic case are waterproof, providing an extra level of protection against the salt air and humidity that is ever-present in the Islands.
A number of the Peace Corps volunteers expressed their gratitude to the SPELL team, for creating the library, for its relevance to their mission, and for giving the training session. The sentiment of gratitude was echoed by the Peace Corps staff as well. We heard so many expressions of “Thank you so much,” “This is so perfect for us,” “This is amazing,” “I can’t believe your students did this in such a limited time,” and that felt pretty wonderful.
The team is extremely grateful to the Peace Corps staff in FSM, particularly including to Rodney Salas and James Ramon, who facilitated the successful training on-site, as well as to Peace Corps librarian Elizabeth Karr, who provided valuable input and feedback on the training materials prior to the workshop in Pohnpei.
After the training in Pohnpei was completed, the team traveled to Chuuk, another of the four Federated States of Micronesia, to jump-start two new projects, and to check in on multiple other projects that Dr. Hosman has initiated or assisted with, there.
The SPELL Solar Digital Libraries project was made financially possible through a grant from the Pacific Telecommunications Council, an in-kind donation (of Banana Pis) from LeMaker, as well as an in-kind donation (of Nexus 7 Tablets) from Inveneo.