Today we visited what will be Nepal’s first pilot schools for OLPC. We have put a lot of work and planning into these pilots and now is it pretty exciting to meet the teachers and kids that will benefit from OLPC. Both pilots will begin on the first day of the Nepali School year, April 14th.
Shree Bashuki Lower Secondary School
Bashuki school has grades 1-8 and roughly 320 total students. It is located roughly 30 km east of Kathmandu at the top of a very steep ridge. Most of the teachers walk over an hour to reach the school. It is a poor school and most of children belong to the Tamang indigenous group, one of the historically disadvantaged groups in Nepal. We will pilot OLPC in grades 2 and 6 at this school.
This is the main building that was built with financial assistance from a German charity.
Here is a view of the older school buildings used for grades 1-3
The School is located high upon a hill ridge roughly 1 hours walk from the main road. There is a coarse gravel road leading to the school that is only accessible by motorcycle or a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Here is a view from the school roof down at the Kathmandu Valley.
Planning out Power distribution and Internet access
Left to Right: Saurav Dev Bhatta, Bryan Berry (me), Rabi Karmacharya, and Ram Krishna Singh
Ram is in charge of power distribution and backup for the school. He has experience connecting solar panels and micro-hydropower generators in rural parts of Nepal. He also is one of the lead developers for E-Paati, a suite of learning activities for Nepali kids.
Josh Seal of Belkin International took these pictures. He is helping OLPC develop power-related products. He was very helpful to us for the week he was here in Nepal. We were very impressed with the Xoctoplug that he showed us.
Here is the room for Class 2. We were happy to see that the desks are relatively close to the ground so there is less distance for the XO’s to fall. We plan to reorient the desks so the desks so that the kids face each other. We thing this will facilitate collaboration and make it less likely for XO’s to fall off the desks. Each desk is roughly 1.5 m X 1.5 m. Saurav told me that these desks are significantly wider than desks at many schools. Kids would have difficulty typing at smaller desks. We expect there to be roughly 37 kids in Class 2 at Bashuki at the start of the school year. The room is roughly 6 meters by 5 meters.
Ram and Rabi decided that we will install a “charging rack” at the back of the classroom. The children will unplug the XO’s and use them at their desks untethered by power cables. There will be a space and charger for each child’s XO in the rack. We do not plan to run power cables to the desks. The chance that kids will trip over power cables is just too high. Further, the power strips available in Nepal are of very low quality, there is high chance that children will shock themselves while removing their plug from the power strips. It is not uncommon to see a spark when you insert a plug into the particular power strip available in Nepal.
We would love to use the Xoctoplug for power distribution should it become available. It is much more elegant and safe manner of distributing power than regular power strips. We would place the Xoctoplug in the middle of 4 desks and the kids would plug into the Xoctoplug. Since the Xoctoplug distributes DC current it is much more efficient and safer than an AC power strip. Additionally we could daisy-chain two Xoctoplugs together so that we would only have live power cable per 8 kids, as opposed to one live power cable for every 3 kids which we would need for power strips.
Here is the room for Class VI. About 37 kids will fit into the room, roughly 4 kids per bench. This room is physically smaller than the Class II room. The classroom measures roughly 3.5 meters by 5 meters. The surface area of the bench is quite narrow and only just wide enough to accommodate the XO. We were concerned that the XO’s would easily fall off the benches. It is very important that we rearrange the benches so the kids are facing each other and it will be less likely for the XO’s to fall forward onto the ground. We will put the charging rack to the left of the blackboard as it is the only space available for it in the room.
We spent a lot of time today with school principal Shiva Hari Dahal (center). These discussions were very productive. We discussed power distribution, classroom arrangement, community involvement, and teacher training.
Here is a rough sketch of the schools layout.
There are only 5 amps of power coming into the school. Josh says that we need at least 7.5 amps to charge 110 laptops. Ram estimates we need 10 – 15 amps because of power loss and distribution inefficiencies.
We would like to thank Josh Seal for the help he gave us in planning for power distribution and safety, and for these photos. He is off to India to meet with Amit Gogna and the OLPC India team there. Happy Trails Josh!
I have create a wiki page with the technical details for the school entitled Bashuki Journal . I will try to keep it updated with details of the implementation.
That’s all for now. Later I will post notes on the 2nd pilot school, Bishwamitra School.