Ohio State University, College of Engineering
Engineers for Community Service (ECOS) Project
Computers and Computer Training for
Centro de Adopciones, Casa de Maria y El Niño Orphanage
Medellín, Colombia, South America
July 29, 31, 2004
- Los Ninos International Adoption Center, in the Woodlands TX (an agency that coordinates for people from the US to adopt from Casa de Maria), and in particular Andrea Fortner, helped coordinate to have ECOS learn the needs of the orphanage and to coordinate the times of the project.
- We called the director of Casa de Maria to learn their needs, clarify what was needed to set up, and to coordinate the set-up and training times with the children.
Computer Equipment and Transport:
- Surplus computers from OSU (all formally approved by OSU):
- Equipment: Four P3 PCs, HD, zip, floppy
- Team: Cedric Sze, Matt Mulyana, Jorge Finke, Nicanor Quijano, Kevin Passino
- Activites: Set up and tested computers at OSU, prepared them for transport. Travelling together Jorge, Nicanor, and Kevin put 4 computers inside their luggage to transport them. We decided against carrying monitors since they are big and heavy, and would put us over the weight limit for luggage (and perhaps the size limit). Also, we were quite concerned with rough treatment of monitors by baggage handlers and did not want to deliver them only to find on the other end that they would not work.
- Purchase of additional equipment in Medellin (July 29):
- Pre-trip planning: Marisol Osorio, a professor at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB) in Medellin, helped by lining up places for us to shop, and to know what the prices and availability of equipment was.
- On-Site Team: Camilo Chamorro and Hernán Patarroyo, graduate students from UPB, Jorge Finke and Nicanor Quijano, OSU graduate students, and Kevin Passino
- Activities: We went to a nearby computer mall and purchased (out-of-pocket donations, anonymous donor), four 15" monitors, four sets of speakers, four Spanish keyboards (important for the kids), four voltage regulators (needed to ensure clean power signals to computers, more than a surge protector), one laser writer, and a variety of software (mostly educational for reading, math, music but also one "Barbie Rapunzel" and a "NASCAR" racing game; the reason for this fun software is that we wanted them to have fun with the computers so that they would have a very positive view and besides even some of that software has nice educational components). All software was in Spanish, some in English also.
- Evening set-up (8-10:30pm, July 29), after the kids were in bed. Nicanor, Jorge, and Kevin set up the computers. Once did not function that night - we thought the motherboard was damaged during the trip (for some reason on Sat. is started working). It was definitely good to set up the computers before getting the kids involved.
- The orphanage made sure that we had space, power for the computers, and tables to put the computers on.
- Team: Luis Benigno Gutierrez and Mauricio Vanegas, professors in engineering from Univ. Pontificia Bolivariana, and Jorge, Nicanor, and Kevin
- Activities/approach: We let the kids just start using the computers and helped as they ran into problems. Some of the children had some classes before on computers and hence knew some things; others were new to computer use. We spent from 8am-12pm on July 31 with the children and they took turns.
What we would do different next time:
- Team: Luis Benigno Gutierrez, Mauricio Vanegas, Marisol Osorio, Camilo Chamorro, and Hernán Patarroyo from UPB
- Activities: Several of these colleagues from UPB gave their phone numbers to the administrators at the orphanage and told them to call if they have problems. In fact, as we left they already had planned visits for some software and printer issues. We feel that this maintenance issue is critical to fully realize the long-term benefits of computer education for the children.
This is a learning process; hence, it is best to identify how we could have done a better job to serve the orphanage. Some issues:
- Set up the computers on a network so that you could print from all four, rather than just one.
- Set up more (or all) of the software before the training session (kids impatient to wait for installation), and indeed even before transport of the computers.
- It would have been nice to have more time with the kids during training, especially via multiple visits (however, this may be achieved via our colleagues at UPB). In fact, it would perhaps be useful, after they had some initial exposure, to have them sit in a circle and have someone explain to them overall how a computer works and some rules to make sure that things do not get damaged. In our current approach, the team did this with groups at each computer and that seemed effective; however, a later review seems useful if there is enough time. Keep in mind that these computers enhance the children's education, and can have real consequences for their future.