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The ComputerLab is a go-go!

posted Feb 4, 2010, 7:25 AM by Reinoud Vaandrager   [ updated Feb 4, 2010, 7:55 AM ]
Thanks to the donations of Florian, Alex and Oxana as well as the laptop donations from Florian, Alex, Elena, Manuel, Tilek and others we now have enough resources to make the ComputerLab for school children in Belo a reality! :)

So, we kicked off this project early last week starting with:

1) Getting Electricity to the NGO office: done. the electricity company (Sonel) has installed a pole and a meter. Today they activated the current, and tomorrow an electrician will hook up the electricity to the interior of the house. (115.000CFA)

the brand new pole (L) and the meter (R)

2) Plastering the floors and the walls of the computer lab room: We got two builders to come up with a cost estimation and went with the cheapest one (75.000 CFA). We bought and brought over sand (early this week) and 6 bags of cement (today). On saturday the builders will start and they should be done on Monday. The plastering is necessary because the floor is currently a dirt floor, and the walls are plain mudbricks. We also needed to build a wooden frame around the top edges of the walls to ensure straight plastering and for a possible ceiling.

 Getting the sand and wood for the plastering
Installing the wooden frame for the plastering

3) Furniture for the computerlab: Joshua contacted a carpenter to construct a large computer table for the room (12.000CFA). We also got 2 holes in the center for efficient cabling and a shelf below it to support the laptop adapters. The desk was finished yesterday. Now we still need to construct some benches and a bookshelf to hold the (paper) library.

Constructing the table for the computerlab

4) Whiteboards. I brought a roll of whiteboard sheets with me to Cameroon, and with the help of our field assistant (Sabastine) and the local carpenters we were able to create 3 whiteboards (1 large, 2 small) using framed plywood. The whiteboard markers and eraser were kindly donated by Google (okay, I just snagged them from the stationary room ;)). The whiteboard will also double as the projection screen for the projector.

Constructing whiteboards for the computerlab (and schools)

Other things we might do if we get the budget is to paint the walls, create a ceiling, get a door for the room, and get a better window (that can be shut) to keep dust out.

Once the room is finished, it will support 6 laptops (running ubuntu linux), 1 printer, a projector, a sound system, a wifi router, a 1TB external drive, and hopefully a scanner (my scanner broke in transport..). We will be sharing a USB dongle with a GPRS connection through a bridged connection to a squid caching proxy to provide (excruciatingly slow) internet to all laptops and also provide an external uplink to the school down the road by using a nanostation2 antenna attached to the electricity pole outside that can share the LAN services & Internet over 15km distance (nice!).

Local services we can offer over the LAN are the digital library (a collection of 200K books in digital format), Wikipedia for schools, OpenStreetMap, and a bunch of documentaries.

Overall I'm really excited to see this project get started, and will push for completion before I'll leave on March 14. More updates on this project as it develops :)