Intel Education Service Corp in India: The Story of Five Engineers and the Systems

Since the systems would not be arriving until early the next week, we decided to do a session with the students in Hathras on Saturday, and Mainpuri on Sunday. If the systems arrived Monday, we would burn the midnight oil and prep the twenty-four systems we’d need for the two schools. It would be a tough, long day of travel, but we’d drop them off in Hathras and Mainpuri, and leave directly for Hardoi. This would give us just enough time in Hardoi to prep the systems and train the teachers and students there on Wednesday and Thursday. Collectively, we felt a little dizzy at the way our initial timeline was being compressed, wondering if we could still make it work, wondering if we’d been drinking enough water, and wondering just what it was we had for dinner last night.

By Saturday, three members of the team came down ill – likely a mix of the unfamiliar cuisine and the intense heat we’d been living through. The average temperature in May 2010 was around 115 degrees! Breakfasts switched to toast and tea, we bought fresh fruit to snack on, we made sure to watch each other to make sure we were all getting enough fluids, and those already afflicted enjoyed added electrolytes in their water.

The drive to Hathras was more subdued than the previous trip, as we savored the car’s air conditioning and contemplated the heat we’d be facing. One thing we were all looking forward to was the weekly student talent show we’d see that afternoon! The school normally has a Friday evening talent show, but they adjusted their schedule so we could see it and cordially invited us. We gladly accepted!

IESC India venk.jpgThe classes we taught that day seemed to fly by. True, we’d been over this presentation a couple of times, but the students made it fun. They were entranced, incredibly respectful, and paid attention. They warmed up to our team very quickly, and were not afraid to ask “sir?” or “ma’am?” when they had a question. They loved the educational games we showed them, and they loved the built-in cameras! At times, it was like seeing ourselves as we were learning computers many years ago. We recognized those moments of curiosity that lead to discovery. Some of the students were even getting ahead of the class, and would lean over and help a classmate. Some of the girls figured out how to change the text colors and fonts in their document. As a student discovered this, she’d lean over and show her friend how to do it! It was great to see that despite the difference in culture and language and upbringing, sometimes people learn and do in the same ways. This is a great sign that after we leave, they’ll be able to maintain that same curiosity and willingness to share the knowledge with others.

The single computer that they had at the school was infested with all manner of viruses and malware; there was no anti-virus software on the system and they had been using it for around three years. Since my Hindi skills were lacking, I attempted to remove the viruses and malware from their system while the students played with the other computers. I was able to install anti-virus, and was able to remove many viruses and malware, but I am not sure I got it all. At the very least, their computer was running better and not randomly rebooting, so that’s a big step in the right direction.

The talent show was phenomenal! The students were singing and dancing and having a great time! They sang some traditional songs with accompaniment from the music teacher, and Sriram helped by playing a drum on one song! The dancing was incredible – for some of the dances, the girls climbed on each other like acrobats or gymnasts; they made sure to stop the ceiling fans first, which was completely necessary for some of the numbers! The show was rounded out by a couple of comedy acts, a skit on the makeup of Indian culture, and finished with a moving solo – at least, that’s what I’m told. Not knowing Hindi, I don’t know what any of the songs were about, but the look in the soloist’s eyes when she hit the high notes was enough to know the song meant something big.

IESC India MClass.jpgThe next day we went to Mainpuri, to run through our presentation with the students. There was something great happening here – the teachers were sitting with the students, helping them when they were unsure about something we were presenting. Our initial hopes were coming to fruition! As the day went on, we gave the presentation to class after class, with the students getting younger each time. By the end of the lessons, not only were the teachers helping, but the students were helping each other! The principal of the school had come in to get a look at what was going on, and the girls took the opportunity to take pictures of themselves with the principal on the integrated webcams!

On Monday, we discovered that the systems would not be arriving until likely Tuesday night. If we stayed up late Tuesday night preparing systems, then rushed to both Mainpuri and Hathras, then attempted the 150 ish KM to Hardoi, we would still only have Thursday at the school in Hardoi. It seemed doubtful that we’d even be able to think cohesively after a whirlwind such as that. Faced with this reality, the team had a somber discussion and decided with heavy hearts that we would not be able to travel to the third school in Hardoi.

IESC India JHath.jpgWe decided to travel to Hathras on Monday empty-handed, since they were expecting us and we had not worked with all of the students yet. This time, there were reporters from two local newspapers that took pictures and asked questions about us, about CARE, and about the work we were doing in Hathras. We gave our presentation, and let them know we would be back on Thursday with the classmate PCs in hand. Jyoti even found time to play handball with the students at the end of the day!

Tuesday was our first day off since we arrived in Agra, and we made good use of it by sleeping in and taking it easy (along with some sight-seeing as well as afternoon naps) The PCs finally did arrive late that evening. As we fired them up, eager to kick the tires of the core of why we were here, we noticed that these were newer models than we had been using. This was understandable, since the borrowed systems had been in use for awhile for software development. There was a special piece of software on the new systems that was a windows manager/different interface that we weren’t familiar with. It took us a little bit of time to figure out how to make it do what we needed it to do, but we managed to get the twelve systems configured and made it off to bed by 1 AM.

Excited to finally have systems to give, we made for Mainpuri Wednesday morning. Once there, we set the systems up and proudly showed off our previous night’s hard work. We showed off the new and slightly different interface, and the students and teachers caught on very quickly. By this point, the teachers and earlier classes we taught seemed like naturals with the systems!

While the rest of the team was working with the students, I once again attempted to tackle the viruses on the one computer the school had. This system also had no anti-virus software. Unfortunately, this system did not turn out as well as the system in Hathras; the CD drive was not functional, so I was unable to use the recovery disc to restore some of the corrupted files. Luckily, they still had a support contract for the system, so they would be calling that in to have the system repaired.

We had also decided we wanted to get some sort of gift for the students; between naps on Tuesday we went to the store and picked up Connect Four, Jenga, and badminton sets. We presented the students with these tokens of our gratitude for their hospitality, and the girls loved them! Sandeep took the lead in showing them the finer points of playing Jenga and Connect Four – something tells me that those games will be the favorite things in the school (besides the classmate PCs, of course) I think that the heat that day was the worst on the entire trip – the power had gone out in the school, and one could feel the temperature rise as the ceiling fans stopped. Afraid of getting sick, I excused myself early and made for the air-conditioned relief of the car.

Wednesday night found us once again configuring systems, but not nearly as late as the night before. There weren’t the same surprises we’d faced previously, so we were able to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

IESC India Jenga.jpgThursday morning came, and our excitement was mixed with a bit of relief and just a touch of sadness. This was to be the final day of the project, and probably the last time we’d visit these schools and all the wonderful people there. Once we arrived at the school, the excitement was palpable. By that point, it seemed everyone knew that we would be back and knew what we’d be bringing with us! This day, they presented us with big “thank you” cards that they had made! We showed them their classmate PCs, and they gave us the newspapers that had our pictures in them! We presented the students with the gifts we’d purchased, and they loved the games! Once again, Sandeep demonstrated a winning strategy at Jenga – to the best of my knowledge, he’s undefeated in India!

As we left Hathras on Thursday, someone made the comment that “well, it’s over”. My thought was “I sure hope not”; I like to believe that with the systems we gave and the work we did, we touched those lives for the better. This trip has been an experience that none of us will soon forget, and I think the students and teachers at both schools will think of us fondly. Maybe they will start new computer classes by telling the story of the five engineers that brought the systems!

3 thoughts on “Intel Education Service Corp in India: The Story of Five Engineers and the Systems

  1. What a wonderful undertaking! And how smart and eager to learn are those children?! And the five of you learned a few things yourselves. Yes? Will you be doing this elsewhere?

  2. Thanks for your comment, @T Reynolds. The next projects are being planned for October 2010 and will likely include Egypt, India, Kenya, Uganda and Vietnam.

  3. if we are talking about the education system in our country we should be talking about initiatives such as the Quiz.. i guess that such initiatives can change the education system

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