Saturday, March 29, 2008

Initial Project Development Thoughts

First pilot program established under DSIL/Supsattana foundation. In March 2007, 30 XOs were given to a school in Samkha village located in the suburbs of northern Thailand. In this particular pilot, general feedback was provided from their basic interactions with Sugar and a few of the applications. Ban Samkha's challenge will be the structure of a constructionist curriculum that can integrate the XO effectively.

Two pilot programs initiated under the support of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. As per the Princess's request, 100 XOs were deployed to two non-constructionist schools in Nakhon Nayok (suburbs of Bangkok). Students from Grades 4 and 5 participated and discussion of out-of-classroom activities began. Instructors and students would like to study the conditions of their local rivers.

Both sites would be excellent candidates to launch our preliminary prototypes. The primary focus on these pilots would be education rather than social impact. Given the age range of these pilots it would be a steep learning curve, but we can re-evaluate the situation once the children vest their interests.

Bangkok - Ashoka Youth Venture
A partnership with Ashoka could provide an excellent opportunity to see the merits of the XO platform with an older student group. Also with Youth Venture's focus on youth and the community we can inspire youth to think about entrepreneurship in the context of creating social benefit. With the XO's mobility and intuitive interfaces, we can create a level playing field, both an easy ability to access the environment and low barriers to participation. Access which is a key element of the OLPC project meshes resonates well with the goals of Youth Venture. Ashoka also has a wealth of Fellow mentorship resources, specifically in the field of Health.

"Health Ashoka Fellows will not be the scientists seeking cures in the laboratories, or
even the clinical practitioners seeking to deliver inoculations and care. Rather, Ashoka Fellows will identify and develop low-cost yet high-impact strategies to deliver health care, educate populations to prevent the spread of disease, and incorporate into society populations previously excluded by the shame associated with their disability. The overlap between poverty and poor public health is well-established. Many Ashoka Fellows have not only recognized that their region cannot afford an individual-care models, but have launched alternative models of self- and community-care."
Youth Venture has a structured process that includes project selection panels, seed funding allocations, continual fellow mentorship, and workshops for the youth. We must initiate discussions with the Health fellows and perform some needs assessments to develop specific applications that can address some of the health-related issues.

We also need to identify a local school partner to introduce our activity and get preliminary Human Computer Interaction feedback.

Monday, March 10, 2008


... Thank Goodness for G1G1.
My co-worker donated his G1G1 laptop for our HW development efforts. Big thanks to M. Koop for his generosity.

G1G1 Playtime: Setup network. Constructed sample probes for Mic input to investigate Measure activity's fidelity. Setup root and OLPC user passwords. Mounted USB drive.
Peripheral Development: Gary is re-creating an old Pulse Oximetry circuit. Jake has completed his 9V prototype. All final prototypes will be driven with the 5V 500mA source from the left USB port. Currently all parts procurement is covered by our generosity, but I will investigate alternate sources of funding (donations?) that does not involve filing for 501C3 tax-exempt status.
Lab Access: As recruitment efforts gain more traction on the Berkeley and Stanford campus, we hope to gain more access to HW development labs with new membership. Our current lab has restricted access which bars everyone but Gary and myself from contributing to the effort in the Bay Area.

"Sugar" Learning Curve

We've submitted applications for the official Developer's Program to receive a few machines, but the lead time is unknown. It seems there are a few issues with power management and battery life on the latest factory builds that have tied up the Cambridge team. While hardware development relies heavily on a quick response, back-end GUI development will have to rely on the Sugar Emulation in the interim.

Emulation setup: I've installed QEMU with the latest image. Jake installed the Sugar build on Ubuntu. We've both had no problems in the installation process. I've also collected all the necessary utilities and libraries to create a Developer's Tools CD for distribution to Gary and others. For ease, I've incorporated a few batch scripts to simplify the installation and run process. Hopefully this lowers the learning curve for environment setup and brings people quicker into development.

Python and GUI designer tutorials: With Alex Keybl's permission, I'd like to distribute his powerpoint tutorials to other team members that are not as familiar with Python. My familiarity with Perl has helped me out with Python but there's still much needed time to be spent getting familiar with all of the GTK libraries. I usually love to leverage GUI designers like NetBeans back in the Swing days but I've already developed a hate for Glade. I'll enclose Glade tutorials with the Tools CD but I'll still recommend brute-force construction for the time-being.

Hello World ECG: Our simple Hello World code for the ECG interface. I've constructed a little GUI and sugarized some Activity code to integrate one of Jake's beat detector methods. The code currently reads from dummy data files, but will soon be integrated with the ADC interface after our hardware development gains more traction.

Icon artwork courtesy of the wonderful Diane.

Other local SW-driven efforts: So far I've made contact with two other groups; Charles Merriam heads weekend Silicon Valley jam sessions and Sameer Verma heads an awareness group in San Francisco. I'll need to follow-up with them later to see if they'd like to get involved and understand their current objectives.

OLPC Thailand

So why choose OLPC Thailand as the target for the health pilot? Due to my relationship with the Thai Physicians Association of America (TPAA), I have a few physician contacts throughout Thailand . Also, Thailand was one of the first countries to vest in OLPC pilot programs so they've established a pretty supportive ecosystem. Currently, there are 3 major working groups:

1. The policy team, led by Dr. Djitt Laowattana, as an advisor to the Minister of ICT, works on the government support system and budgetary provision

2. Lampang Province Non-Formal Education Department let by Dr.Suchin Phetcharak
3. DSIL is another coordinator involved in XO deployment

4. National Electronics and Computer Technology Center, NECTEC is the local tech contact point
5. King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, KMUTT is also assisting NECTEC
6. OLPC Cambridge offers basic deployment support

According to DSIL, this is how it all started...

DSIL, Darunsikkhalai School for Innovative Learning ( is a participant in the OLPC Thailand effort. It is a K-12 school, located in southwestern Bangkok on the main campus of a technology-focused university, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT). DSIL is based on the constructionist theory of learning (invented by Prof.Seymour Papert of MIT's Media Lab), which focuses on concepts such as learner-centered learning, project-based learning, learning-by-doing, which aim to develop the students into life-long learners. (More info on Constructionism here) There are three multi-age classes that periodically work on projects that extend over 10-week cycles.

The school was established in 2001 through funding by two major foundations: Suksapattana Foundation (started by MIT alums in Thailand) and Thaicom Foundation. Both founders of the school were also MIT alumni. One of the founders, Khun Paron Israsena, was the CEO of the Siam Cement Group and had a close relationship with MIT Media Lab. As a result, he was invited to participate in the OLPC effort by MIT Prof. Negroponte. Khun Paron then introduced Negroponte to ex-PM, Dr. Thaksin. After a few demos, Dr. Thaksin was very impressed and decided to join the effort. Pending the success of the pilot programs, Thaksin made the diplomatic promise that Thailand would buy the first lot of at least 250,000 units. At the time, Negroponte aimed to secure at least 4 million units sold since such volume would allow the XO to be sold at USD $100. Dr. Thanksin also reassured Negroponte that he could convince neighboring countries to buy; however, Thaksin's promises soon materialized after the coup-de-tat in December 2006. After the coup, the project was immediately rejected by the provisional military government due to Thaksin's affiliation despite the merits.

Despite these political barriers, there are 3 pilot programs in progress. DSIL distributed the first 30 units to one of its school-members in the northern part of Bangkok. Reports are occasionally fed back to Cambridge to alert them of any technical issues and to shape further application development.

More details later...

Links to OLPC Thailand: