During our time in Nepal a Peace Corps volunteer asked us if we would take responsibility for Sabu, a bright young girl from western Nepal who was destined by caste to a blighted life. At her mother's request and with help from our friends we supported her in Kathmandu through school and a business degree.
Now years later, we needed help with Looma's content--getting the chapter titles of the Nepalese textbooks re-typed in modern Devanagari unicode script. She stepped in, and that part of Looma's content structure was quickly completed.
This is one of many generous actions from our volunteers and donors. Others designed the first versions of Looma, tested and assembled the electronics, drafted the initial software, created a simple user interface, designed the first and several ever-better versions of the wand (Looma's aerial mouse), searched the internet for appropriate photos, videos and other material to embed in Nepal's Grade 1-8 curriculum, contributed to Looma's glossary--translations of all the English vocabulary, used the Looma I prototype in their classrooms and provided valuable feedback...
By the end of February the hardware and software of several new Looma II systems will be ready to resume field trials. Nepal's current political and economic storm does not make it easy to work there, but we will find a way. We also hope to begin field work in Kenya, Central America and elsewher--sites to be determined.
We will enlist a temporary volunteer coordinator for each field trial. Global Giving donations help to cover the travel and living expenses of these volunteers.
On schedule a swarm of code-friendly students from Menlo School gathered for long hours this summer in the VTS garage/workshop. Over the past winter Skip Stritter, Looma's technical lead, completely re-wrote the Looma software creating a new version. The new code addresses all the comments from field trials, making it extensible so that now it is easy for them to add new types of activities and experiences.
Remember--Looma is an interactive audio-visual projector/sound system that can bring the best educational material from the world--the Internet--to any school, anywhere. As one system for an entire classroom--it is affordable, can run on solar power, and doesn't need an Internet connection.
One team built an accessible, interactive English<>Nepali dictionary, allowing the user/teacher to click (on the wall) on words that appear in projected text (schoolbooks...)--and then reveal the translation, definition, pronunciation, and possibly linked media.
Another team created an interactive map of Nepal, annotated with points of interest, selectable layers for various interests: cities, rivers, mountains, ethnic groups, earthquake data... This can be expanded easily.
A third team added media files to the textbook chapters to provide interesting depth and diversity to the lessons.
A fourth addressed the UX (look and feel) of the user interface, making the icons and buttons mor modern, fresh and beautiful.
And a fifth build some basic vocabulary/spelling activities--for quizes and games.
Meanwhile other volunteers completely revamped Looma's infrared camera interface so that the 'Harry Potter-like' wand-with-a-button now smoothly controls the system.
With a much faster Odroid computer, smooth wand system, and maturing applications, Looma II is coming closer to its potential--exciting access to the world of knowledge for students in any school, anywhere.
We at VillageTech Solutions are all volunteers -- if you or a friend want to get involved in this adventure -- join us!
In your travels, have you paused a few moments in one of the almost-countless resource-starved schools of our world?
If not, it's hard to imagine how difficult it is for a child to emerge from that well of poverty.
This summer's team of volunteers is bringing Looma a small step closer to opening a window of knowledge and hope for those schools and those children--as an interactive computer/projector used collaboratively by the entire classroom.
For six weeks the volunteers will
improve the flexibility and accuracy of Looma's wand-controlled 'user interface'
create a multi-level, interactive GIS map of Nepal to greatly expand students' knowledge
explore many options to improve the 'user interface' for the teachers and students
assemble a multi-element dictionary as a basis for reference, team games...
organize the data structure and game format for teaching vocabulary
develop the options and an example for annotating textbooks with e.g. tooltips, pop-ups, text-to-speech
further refine and expand the Looma software application
The original six Looma prototypes are being updated with a much faster Odroid computer, better power supply, simpler wand/camera (pixy-cam) interface, and greatly expanded supplementary 'content' (videos, photos, PDFs...).
Depending on conditions in Nepal (post earthquake) and elsewhere, some Looma will be deployed for further field trials.