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Students develop One Laptop per Child initiative in Rwanda

Credit: Meela Dudley/Pillbox Editor Credit: Meela Dudley/Pillbox Editor

Carnegie Mellon students have collaborated to spread educational opportunities from the Pittsburgh and Qatar campuses, across the globe, to Rwanda — developing a two-week summit for elementary school children.

Four students from Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus are responsible for the creation of the summit: Amy Badiani, a junior international relations and policy and management double major; Sruthi Reddy Chintakunta, a junior electrical and computer engineering major; Joshua Debner, a junior electrical and computer engineering major; and Ariel Solomon, a sophomore business administration major.

The summit is scheduled to take place this summer from May 11 to May 22 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The initiative will be in line with the work of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Association, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children. The organization is currently based in the United States and is set up to oversee the creation of an affordable educational device for use in developing countries. In their efforts to do so, the company decided to focus on the development, construction, and deployment of an innovative laptop called the XO-1.

Previously known as the “$100 laptop,” the computers are rugged, low-cost, low power, and pre-installed with software designed to foster collaborative, self-empowered learning. OLPC will assign the group of Carnegie Mellon students to an elementary school in the Rwandan capital where the students have already been given laptops.

The project team was formed due to the efforts of senior business administration major Sasha Urquidi and junior electrical and computer engineering major Rohith Salim through their work for Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE).

The two upperclassmen connected with the other four students to initiate a dialogue concerning the creation of a service project in Rwanda, eventually creating an interdisciplinary project that hopes to make education for Rwandan children more than just a luxury.

The project has received a positive reaction from many students. “Rwanda is in dire need of innovative educational policy,” said Aderinsola Akintilo, a first-year information systems major from Nigeria. “Many children will not even have access to books, so if the program can teach children how to use computers, then I think it is fantastic.”

“For us, inspiration and empowerment are key,” explained Badiani, who is heavily involved in the initiative.

“We would like to unleash the creativity and spark we know these children have, whether that be through art projects, class discussions, presentations, or team building and leadership workshops.”

The group of four will be joined by six students from Carnegie Mellon’s campus in Qatar for the summit in Kigali. Badiani emphasized that one of the projects goals was to “strengthen ties between both campuses.”

The group also welcomed other passionate students to join the team for their trip to Kigali. Students who were interested in the project were encouraged to complete an application process that involved an interview.

The project has room for two more students and decisions will be sent out on Wednesday.

“While we have developed this project, we would like for our new selected team members to contribute to, further develop, and help refine it, so we are definitely still open to fresh ideas,” said Solomon, speaking about her excitement at the prospect of adding to the group.

One of the long-term goals of the project is sustainability. The team has often stressed their desire to be able to contribute beyond just the summit.

“We are trying to make the project sustainable by keeping contact with the students in Rwanda through video conferences and letter writing. This way, you don’t have to go on the trip; you can act locally,” Chintakunta said.