Project GEITs experiment with Low Cost Hardware and Open Source Softwares
IT Infrastructure was one of the major bottlenecks with GEITs Pilot Schools (incidentally the situation is more or less similar in most schools in Goa). As we planned to conduct hands-on sessions with students in the schools it was absolutely necessary to fix this hurdle to move forward with the project.
We made an appeal to the community for old hardware as well as funds to procure hardware. The response was positive but not enough to get us started working with the schools in a full fledged manner. In one of our schools with 200 plus students only one computer was working and that too would hang after some time. Due to all this, at one point in time the future of the project itself was in jeopardy as infrastructure was the backbone of our sessions.
After considerable brainstorming with group members the solution of procuring Raspberry Pi’s was proposed. As many of us from the project had only theoretical know how of RP we were not very sure of the effectiveness of the solution. But since there was no other alternative we decided to take the plunge.
Raspberry Pi 2 Kits were ordered from a supplier in Kerala for the most competitive prize. We used the existing usable hardware in the schools such as monitors, keyboards, mouse etc. And lo and behold! In almost as low as Rs 45,000 we had 10 systems running in the lab which had no working computers.
Anay Kamat was one of the key persons in getting the systems up and working and proving our fear about RP2s false.
We used NOOBs with Scratch preinstalled on the RP2s and could conduct a hands on Diwali Camp with the students in SCRATCH programming. We considered this as an achievement in its own right.
Now, Ubuntu Mate is installed on the Raspberry Pi’s along with Open Office due to which students can do their syllabus based exercises hands on in the labs. The Goa Board Syllabus talks in terms of Microsoft office but since the look and feel as well operation of Open Office is similar, students have been able to study through actual hands on lab sessions.
Most importantly, this is an easily replicable solution and can be deployed in all the other schools is Goa where infrastructure is an issue. We hope the authorities rise to the occasion and start thinking in these terms at the earliest.