VillageTech Solutions (VTS)

Create technology to better lives in developing countries
Mar 21, 2016

Preparing Looma 2 for launch

A reminder: our goal in this project -- Looma -- is to design, test, and see that this educaitonal tool gets into the hands of teachers and students in the most disadvantaged schools on Earth. (Less disadvantaged schools are welcome too)

The next stage in this all-volunteer effort is to equip one or more committed partners with a working set (20?) of the new model Looma 2. Partners from any country are welcome. At this time we are looking at sites in Nepal, Kenya, Central America and Bangladesh.

Success may be measured in the classroom by improved motivation, learning, participation, and attendence; in partner performance by their contribuion to the sharable open source pool of interactive applications, stimulating content and teaching insights; and by the partner's progress in scaling Looma within their own country.

Looma serves an entire classroom. An A/V classroom can be shared by a whole school. So the investment and maintenance cost per child is minimized.

Looma requires at most 85 watts, so a 12V battery system charged by solar and/or grid power is adequate and affordable.

And Looma can carry in memory all the nations's school books, a vast collection of supplementary content, interactive games, training videos, adult educational it doesn't need the Internet--but can use it if available.

This summer student computer science volunteers will join in a 'summer camp' to improve Looma''s user interface and add new content and functionality.

Want to see how Looma works? Try it. It is now in HTML so works just like yoiur website:

In our next update we will have more details on the partners and funding needs. For now we really need a qualified volunteer to coordinate the assembly of Looma 2 systems this summer. A description of this job is attached below.

Dec 29, 2015

Caution and Hope! Volunteers at work

David, Sabu and Haydi
David, Sabu and Haydi

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.

Sep 28, 2015

Summer volunteers bring Looma closer

Skip reviews Looma with students
Skip reviews Looma with students

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!

Student designers test wand controls
Student designers test wand controls
And in the beginning...
And in the beginning...
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