As part of our Extreme Futures open research project, we have been thinking of how to promote the application and use of prototyping technology, science and making in developing countries, within low income individuals and in segments with high potential like students and kids.
This idea came up due to our interest in social, environmental, health and economic development. Then, after visiting very inspiring projects like Stanford’s D.School and low cost technology projects in their course Design for Extreme Affordability. We also took a tour of Berkeley’s Impact Lab to see what students at UC Berkeley are creating, like a low cost electronic microscope. And finally we checked out very innovative projects at the San Mateo Maker Faire.
At the Maker Faire 2014 Intel had a very large booth to inspire students showing their educational controllers based on Intel’s Galileo platform. Galileo is an Intel made board compatible with Arduino based on a x86 low power embedded system on a chip. The main advantage is that it features more memory and in the future more horse power to run more advanced and larger computing applications, it can even run operating systems like Linux. This means that thru their educational kits students can learn coding, using sensors, manipulating servos and robotics. Intel will also launch new kits and products reducing the size of the boards, increasing memory, embedding other functionality into their chips, reducing the amount of battery power needed, etc. which could make their platforms a standard for learning, experimenting and even producing professional smart devices.
We would love to see their kits being used for development and educational purposes, so thru a good friend we got in touch with Carlos Montesinos from Intel Labs (Carlos is one of Intel’s main promoters of the maker movement) and we contacted Universidad Catolica San Pablo in Arequipa (Peru), which runs the most successful Computer Science program at the undergrad and graduate level and have been running a hackerspace (Laboratorio de robotica) with free materials and free courses offered to university and high school students. It’s a very powerful social initiative since all the kids study at low budget public schools and many come from extremely low income families who don’t even have running water at home. But these kids are taking robotics, programming and making as their main incentive, learning more by playing, by engaging with technology and creating new possibilities. Making can become and very powerful tool to change their mindset, their environment, imagine a different reality and future for themselves.
Using Lego Mindstorms and Roborobo kits they will compete in a robotics worldcup in Brazil. To reach their travel budget they have been doing everything from fundraising activities and school raffles, contacting donors and even selling out special movie shows, since of the parents works at a local movie theater. It’s inspiring to see how much effort they have put into creating their robots and fund raise their projects. Parents have been convinced by the university robotics lab volunteer staff that this will change their kid’s lifes for the better and they are making all the efforts to have them come to the university on weekends and covering part of their travel expenses. This is a very promising project that will inspire more people, more schools, more teachers to learn more about science, coding, robotics, and hopefully will bread a new generation of students interested in studying computer science or follow any other creative career and hopefully expand the concept of maker spaces and hacker labs to use open technologies in solving local development and humanity problems thru low cost, affordable solutions.