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Intel Code for Good Hackathon – Day of the Girl, South Sudan

This Hackathon, ongoing now as I write these words,  is focused on the needs of girls in South Sudan.  We are working with Unicef who are running a program now in Juba, the capital of south Sudan, focused on this issue.

Aside from Unicef,  we have two different groups at Intel – Code for Good based here at Intel Software, as well another like-minded effort, Intel for Change.  Learning Equality is here as well, with the their learning platfom, KA Lite.  

We also have two very different schools cooperationg -Contra Costa Community College and Stanford University.

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Sorry for the delay – I got very involved in the hackathon and then essentially passed out after staying awake for most of the weekend.  I am getting a bit too old for these things.

We ended the day with four great projects: 

  • A low cost, hand-cranked radio that can receive text content and could bring educational resources at very little cost to any area of the world.
  • An HTML5 simulation game that illustrates the challenges facing young women and girls attempting to get an education in South Sudan
  • A Teacher’s course creation template designed to work with KA Lite
  • A new Search functionality to be integrated with KA Lite

Stanford Hackathon StudentsWe had approximately 30 students attending both Stanford and Contra Costa College. Agatha Bacilar, a Stanford student helped arrange things from her end.  Intel Academic Blackbelt Professor Tom Murphy of Contra Costa College, an old colleague of mine and a partner with me on many hackathons, was a key leader for both Stanford and Contra Costa Students.  For more on Tom, see here.

Learning Equality was here as well, with the their learning platform, KA Lite, which is designed to bring educational resources to areas of the world poorly served, or not served at all, with internet infra-structure.

We began our day with an introduction to the problem from Stuart Campo, Innovation Lead, at UNICEF South Sudan and his colleague, Kanako Ohara, Education Officer, focusing on data and info management for the education sector. The picture they painted of challenges facing girls, or anyone in South Sudan really, pursuing education are daunting: almost no infra-structure, few qualified teachers, huge distances between towns, problems with corruption, pressure on girls to marry early and leave school (or not enter at all) to name just a few.

After all the statistics the voice of the one young woman from South Sudan – Martha Samuel Paul, came through with even more power.

One thing that made the hackathon as successful as it turned out to be, was this great mix of players. Hackathons are all about creativity and the ability to comprehend different views and ideas and to form those ideas into working projects. We were well served on this front. 

Contra Costa College, a two-year community College serving an all almost entirely minority population in a very stressed area of California could not contrast more with Stanford, one of America’s great elite institutions. Students at Contra Costa College literally take their lives into their hands walking to school as they often have to cross territory held by feuding gangs.  Yet the students cooperated and collaborated very well – the radio projects, arguably the most successful of the day was the fruit of this collaboration with one Stanford student and three Contra costa students working together.

Hackathon RadioThe radio is truly exciting.  I think it is the perfect device to bring basic resources to areas like South Sudan, which are many years away from having a high-speed Internet.  This radio is hand-cranked, no tendency on electrical grid, not at all fragile and chap.  We built it from parts we bought at a local electronics store including the dynamo from an emergency radio, the wireless controller of a cheap toy helicopter and a few dollars worth of computer parts.  Yet it could receive radio signals on any band from Ham radio, to shortwave to AM/FM.  The point of this radio is not to bring audio signals but rather text.  In this way, for instance, a teacher training institute in Juba, could send new lesson plans to teachers operation in remote villages around the country or a teacher could send tests to students.  It also could be used to bring educational resources to students who find them selves removed from school because of marriage or pregnancy.  Instead of having such events be the end o their education path, why not develop technologies that tale account f these life events?

KA Lite was quite excited by this tool as it fits well into their ability to serve remote populations on different devices.  I hope this ends up being as successful as I think it could be!

The Game project, almost entirely carried out be CC students, is designed to bring outsiders, particularly young-people more intimately into the lives of Young South Sudanese girls.  The game follows the journey of the girl and her family as she encounters difficulties, challenges and opportunities relating to her both, circumstances and life experiences.  The artwork of the game is wonderful.  Aside from opening up this unknown world to other young people around the globe, the game could be a vehicle for the South Sudanese diaspora to bring their experience to light as well.

The final two projects were related directly to the KA Lite platform.  To quote from their website, “KA Lite is open-source software that can be downloaded and run on any computer, turning it into a webserver for viewing and interacting with downloaded Khan Academy videos and exercises, even when no internet is available. Students can connect to the server from within the classroom, on a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. “  http://kalite.adhocsync.com/content/kalite/

As mentioned, the first project was a design that would allow teachers to create their own lesson plans using KA Lite.  This basic functionality is not yet part of f the platform and the team was quite excited.  This project was done by CCC students.

The last project was actually created by a KA Lite intern who was present and it brought search functionality to their education tools.

It was truly a great event.  We were able to collaborate across schools, institutions and companies.  I would love to schedule another hackathon with UNICEF, as is usual, now that we know how we can work together, subsequent events could be even more successful.   KA Lite and I have already agreed to join forces for another event. I could not be happier with the outcome.

Some photos of the event.

Stanford and Contra Costa Students Listen to the opening presentation by Unicef’s Stuart Campo calling in from South Sudan

Checking out the awesome Radio!

Those who have followed our hackathons know that we tale pride both in having fun as well as promoting technical excellence.  Lots of things are fun at 2AM that might be considered well . .  dumb any earlier.

Hadouken time!

Not quite sure what to say here.

Are you interested in sponsoring an Intel Code for Good Hackathon at your School or university?  Feel free to contact me – Paul Steinberg at Intel.  leave a comment below and I’ll get back to youto see what is possible.

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Making Parallelism Nifty

It is with the utmost pleasure, I’d like to call your attention to the Dr. David Valentine’s “Making Parallleism Nifty” video series. Dr. Valentine said at SIGCSE 2011 in Dallas that “good instructional materials begin with a brilliant, engaging assignment.” Dr, Valentine received his grant in 2011 for his work applying an investigative model used [...] Read more >