OLPCorps UPenn&UChicago Ghana

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Project Overview

Summary

Our group is composed of three juniors well-versed in technology and teaching: Arjun Gopalratnam (Chemical Engineering) and Abhi Hendi (Systems Engineering) from The University of Pennsylvania, and Shahzad Ahsan (Political Science) from The University of Chicago. We will work in a rural village (with electricity, but no Internet) in Southeastern Ghana called Kwawu-Daa to reach English-speaking elementary school children in grades 3-6. We are partnering with the Community Services Foundation (CSF), an NGO we have deployed computers with previously. Beyond teaching the children how to use computers, which many never have used before, we will guide them towards: (1) creating their own voices in storytelling via text, audio, and video (2) sharing their creations with their peers, families, and community (3) crafting their own challenges to overcome, so they continue honing their skills

Background

During summer 2008, our team members Arjun and Abhi led a computer installation trip to Accra, Ghana and also surveyed Kwawu-Daa for future work. This experience gives our group a special understanding of some of the cultural and geographical concerns, and we are confident that we are now well suited to reach Ghanaian children. We developed strong bonds with our hosts at CSF and have since discussed how OLPCorps could improve the lives of children in Kwawu-Daa. Our main contact with CSF, Dr. Kwame Obeng, has a strong relationship with Penn Engineering, and his brother, Abraham Asante-Obeng, is the head of CSF. This relationship with Kwame and Abraham has enabled the success of two University-funded trips to Ghana over the past few years. With the XO's unique strengths, we hope to reach out to Ghanaian students left out by previous efforts.

Proposal

Over the course of two months, we will empower students to become storytellers, programmers, and business managers via a set of unique challenges that are practical to their lifestyles. The students attend school until noon and we will work with groups of 20 children in two-hour shifts every weekday afternoon, with "office hours" on weekends. In order to reach that many students at once, we will use a projector and an XO emulator through a personal laptop to display the OLPC screen onto a classroom wall so students can follow along. After teaching laptop basics, we will split students into 3-5 person teams to work on one of three community-centered projects. The younger children will create a community newsletter, documenting their activities in a medium accessible to the whole village. We will guide the older children in developing mock businesses, using the more advanced document creation and programming tools. The oldest students will create a community news outlet - a weekly "podcast" that incorporates elements of the other children's projects, using the XO's mesh networking in place of Internet access. This effectively creates a community news radio station. By working with their younger peers, the older children will learn to be mentors and pass on their newfound technical and teamwork skills after our team has departed. We envision that the students will hone these skills to meet the challenge of creating compelling content to broadcast between themselves and their families.

We are confident that we have the technical aptitude and teaching abilities to inspire the children of Kwawu-Daa. As President of Communitech, Arjun refurbished and donated 300 computers to inner-city kids last year and conducted classes to teach them the basics of Alice (a graphical programming language) which allowed them to express themselves in multimedia projects. Abhi leads a weekly science education seminar for inner city middle schoolers who would otherwise miss out on developing these skills. Shahzad is passionate about storytelling, which he has practiced as a communications consultant and photojournalist, at a daily newspaper in New York and at his college paper. To transform Ghanaian children into agents of change, it will be critical for us to help make them comfortable with interviewing community members, documenting practical information, collaborating in small groups, and sharing their creations.

We will also allot time to train the school teachers to ensure continuity after we leave. More importantly, we will use our one-on-one time to help integrate the OLPC into their lesson plans. Upon our departure, we will maintain contact with CSF to ensure the children have the latest software and capabilities on their XOs. We intend to return within two years through funding from our universities. The OLPC grant of $10,000 will be invaluable to us, and we will seek funding through university and corporate donations in order to maximize our impact on the children.

Budget

$3800 for 2 members' flights from JFK to Kigali, Rwanda
$2000 for 2 members' flights from Kigali to Accra
$1700 for third member to fly from JFK to Accra
$1680 housing and food allowance, based on $10/day in Kwawu-Daa.
We will be living in Kwame Obeng's house and will only have to pay for food and a helper to cook.
$500 bus transportation
$800 for projector
Printer - donated by Univ. of Pennsylvania
$400 for 100 x 1GB Flash Drives
Total: $10880

In addition to the OLPCorps, funding will also be sought from University and Corporate donors

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