Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What We've Been Up To: October 2008-May 2009

It was immediately apparent when our team returned to the US in 2008 that we wanted to work with XO laptops again in the future. We knew that our project had a major impact on the lives of children in Haenertsburg, but we also knew that there was much more to be done. (You can visit our 2008 blog at www.iuohot.blogspot.com to read about last year's deployment.) The prospect of raising enough money to buy 100 more laptops and accompanying equipment seemed daunting, especially in the midst of such a widespread economic downturn, so we were overjoyed when we found out that OLPC was starting a new internship program for university students called OLPCorps (largely due to the hard work of Paul Commons and Bryan Stuart, we love you guys!). OLPCorps gives teams of university students 100 XO laptops and up to a $10,000 stipend for equipment and operating costs.

We went to work immediately on drafting the required 750 word proposal and accompanying wiki page that explains project details. You can view our wiki and project proposal at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPCorps_IU_South_Africa. Being accepted into OLPCorps was no piece of cake- the application process was strenuous and the competition was tough- but on April 18th, we found out that we were 1 of 30 teams chosen out of more than 220 applications to participate in the 2009 OLPCorps.

We have spent the last few months planning and fundraising for our return to Haenertsburg. We will once again be partnering with Thusanang Trust and working in the same three local primary schools with the new 5th grade class. This summer will be different because our team will spend a total of 13 weeks implementing this project, rather than only 3 weeks like last summer. The extra time will give us the opportunity to document our project in the way that it should be documented, to work on larger projects such as a South Africa wide XO workshop weekend, and to spend more time teaching the students about educational programs on the laptops. Joe Delehany, Joe Peoni, and Joey Shikany are currently in South Africa evaluating the effectiveness of last summer's deployment. We want to know what worked for the students, what problems they faced after we left, and what we can do to strengthen our deployment this summer. We will also spend 11 days in Kigali, Rwanda (from June 7th-June 17th) for an all expenses paid training workshop for all of the 30 OLPCorps teams.

We are all very excited about what we can accomplish this summer so be sure to check back for regular updates!

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