Is it collecting dust? Laptops for Benito Juárez

April is wrapping up quickly which means that our trip to Mexico is drawing closer and closer! Our trip dates are June 18 – July 2, 2016 and we are getting everything ready to set up two new labs in Oaxaca City at the following schools:

  • Escuela Primaria Vespertina “Benito Juárez”, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca, México
  • José Vasconcelos school in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca, México

We are setting up the Benito Juárez elementary school with donated laptops. Please contact us at donations@kidsoncomputers.org if you have working laptops with at least 1 GB RAM that need a new home. We are also looking for other peripherals such as keyboards and mice. To see the full list of what we need, head over here.

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We are excited to get these labs set up and welcome volunteers to join us. There are also other ways you can help:

  • Join us. We invite volunteers to join us on site so if you are looking to roll up your sleeves and help us get the labs up and running, let us know! We also offer travel sponsorship for volunteers who would like to join us on our trip. Learn how to apply here.
  • Donate cash. We are a small 501(c)(3) non-profit organization fueled by volunteers and donations. Every dollar counts! Rest assured that your contributions will go towards providing children with technology access which otherwise they would not have had. To make a donation, head over here or contact us for for information.

We appreciate the support from our volunteers and donors – we live by it. We’ve had an awesome start to the year so far with new partnerships, exposure, collaborations, and donations. Let’s keep the ball rolling!

Categorized in Donations, Equipment, Mexico, Oaxaca, Setup.

This week in KOC: Working with Unleash Kids – April 20, 2016

The mission of Kids on Computers is to provide technology and access to educational content to kids who do not otherwise have access with the hopes that our work will provide them with more opportunities and allow communities to improve themselves.  We are always excited to hear of other organizations whose mission is in line with ours. Unleash Kids is one such organization.

 

Unleash-Kids-LOGO-120We met Unleash Kids at SCALE 2016. Unleash Kids’ primary work is in Haiti though they partner with educational communities which show the most need and capability around the world.
Unleash Kids enables global volunteers who work with kids  via direct exploration of their electronic/outdoor worlds with Internet-in-a-Box community kits and more.  They do this by catalyzing volunteer professionals taking the One Laptop Per Child movement into a new decade, enabling quality learning among the world’s poorest children.

 

Adam Holtxo-adam of Unleash Kids had coordinated a set of 360+ (yes, you read that right – over 360) XO laptops which were no longer being used in Philadelphia and Hartford. Most of these laptops are not working, but can be salvaged for necessary parts for XO’s which are functional. A very necessary set of equipment as the original XO’s are no longer being manufactured.

 

I offered to help Adam get the laptops to Boston. We were going to try fit as many of the laptops we could into my Honda Fit but thankfully, longtime Kids on Computers supporter, Philip Greenspun, came to the rescue and offered us his van, which has much greater cargo room and load capacity, to transport the laptops.

 

xo3So this past weekend, Adam and I drove the van down from Boston to Philadelphia and back up through Hartford collecting laptops along the way making for an extremely successful trip. Unleash Kids is planning a refurbishing fest later this spring to work on these laptops and parts.

 

KOC is excited to work with an organization such as Unleash Kids towards our common goal of improving access to education and technology for underprivileged kids and thereby hopefully improving their lives and communities.

 

There were a lot of folks who helped us on the way. Many thanks go to Kim and Dan Wilson, Heidi and Howard Ellis, Philip Greenspun, and Olga Sokolova for housing and feeding us on this adventure.

 

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Categorized in Equipment, Partnerships, This Week in KOC, Unleash Kids, Volunteers.

This week in KOC – April 7, 2016

Here’s what KOC is currently working on:

  • The Linux Foundation has partnered with Kids on Computers – we are incredibly excited about this partnership and the potential it has to help KOC grow. We thank the Linux Foundation for their support and look forward to working closely with them. Read the full Press Release and the Blog Post about the partnership published on The Linux Foundation Web site. 
  • The KOC Web site is undergoing a big overhaul. The Web site team (Bill M, Ritvik P, Sastry P, Jeff P, and myself) has been meeting regularly to work on the new site and review new themes, structure, and content. We are excited about the new site and this long overdue change.
  • We had 21 Raspberry Pi 3s donated or purchased for the new Jose Vasconcelos Lab we are setting up in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico. Volunteers are currently testing the Pis and determining the best distribution and applications for them.
  • The Mexico subcommittee is planning our trip to Mexico this coming June. We are excited to set up two new labs in Oaxaca City this year and visit as many of our 10 other labs as we can. Our trip dates are June 18-July 2, 2016. We are always looking for more volunteers to join us on trips. Join us!

Thank you to our volunteers, donors, and partners for your efforts and support! Kids on Computers is successful because of you.

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Categorized in Mexico, Oaxaca, Partnerships, Raspberry Pis, The Linux Foundation, This Week in KOC, Trips.

An Auction for KOC

At SCALE14x, KOC received a generous donation from Pogo Linux and Micron – a beast of a workstation with the following specs:

  • s-l1600Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0 GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • 16GB DDR3 Memory
  • Micron 480GB SATA SSD
  • Western Digital 6TB SATA Hard Drive
  • Nvidia GTX 960 4GB PCI-E DVI/HDMI DisplayPort
  • 12x Blu-Ray Burner / 16x DVD+R
  • Mid-Tower Chassis with 665W Power Supply
  • Intel Z87 Express Chipset
  • 3 year warranty


The box is valued at $2600 retail.

We discussed utilizing the workstation in one of our labs, but decided it would be more than what our schools need. In lieu of that, we have set up an eBay auction to sell the workstation to the highest bidder with all of the proceeds going to Kids on Computers.

Bid here

The winner will get credit with a blog posting. If the box sells for the “Buy it Now” price of $10,000 or higher, the donation will fund a new computer lab and the winner can name it after the person of their choice. They will also get a plaque in the school and permanent credit on http://kidsoncomputers.org/labs.

A huge thank you to SCALE, Pogo Linux, and Micron for the donation.

Kids on Computers is a small 501(c)(3) non-profit and we appreciate your support. Thank you!

 

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Categorized in Donations, Equipment, Fundraising.

This week in KOC – Happy Pi Day and Thank you – 3/14/16

Happy Pi Day everyone!

In honor of Pi Day, we are happy to announce that we had 21 volunteers purchase or donate a Raspberry Pi 3 Kit for our new lab at José Vasconcelos in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca, México!! A big thank you to everyone who purchased a kit. This fundraiser goes a long way towards us having the necessary equipment for the lab.

A big thank you also goes to to Philip Greenspun for posting about the fundraiser on his blog – 6 kits were donated as a result of his blog post along with 2 pledged cash donations.

If you haven’t had a chance to purchase a kit yet, but would like to do so, please go ahead. We are setting up a second lab at the Benito Juárez Elementary School also in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán on our next Mexico trip, and can always use more.

Don’t forget to eat pie to celebrate today!

Thank you for supporting Kids on Computers!

 

kids_logoHappy Pi Day

Categorized in Donations, Equipment, Fundraising, This Week in KOC.

This week in KOC – February 29, 2016 – Raspberry Pi 3 Fundraiser

This week in KOC we are full speed ahead on our plans for 2016. The KOC board has approved a new lab at the José Vasconcelos school in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca, México. This lab will be built with Raspberry Pis.

In honor of Raspberry Pi’s 4th birthday, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released the Raspberry Pi 3.

The new Raspberry Pis can only be purchased one at a time. If you are willing to donate one to a school in Mexico, please buy a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Starter Kit ($59.99 + shipping) and send it to Avni Khatri (email avni at kidsoncomputers dot org for the shipping address). Kids on Computers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and will provide you a receipt for your donation.

Thank you for supporting Kids on Computers!

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

 

 

 

Categorized in Donations, Equipment, Fundraising, This Week in KOC.

¿Es esta Tlaxiaco? – Rebuilding CAM 27

A group of us spent a week in Mexico in June 2015 installing and upgrading computer labs for kids in Oaxaca. This post is about one day during that trip.

For this Kids on Computers Mexico trip, we brought 21 laptops and 2 Mac Minis into Mexico from the US. We used 15 of the laptops for our new lab at the primary school, Emiliano Zapata, in Oaxaca City.

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The CAM 27 schoolhouse

We had six laptops left and decided to use them for a school we had set up many years ago (~2009) – CAM 27. CAM 27 is a school for disabled kids in the town of Tlaxiaco. The school had changed locations and only had 2-3 working computers left.

Tuesday of the week we were there, I took the van from Huajuapan to Tlaxiaco to visit CAM 27 for the first time. This was my first trip alone within Mexico and I was a bit nervous as I am not a fluent Spanish speaker. My nervousness stemmed from making sure I got on the right van and got off at the right place! On Monday night, Young and a UTM professor had accompanied me to the van stand so I would know where to catch the van.  While on the van, I asked different passengers “¿Es esta Tlaxiaco?” at each stop.  After a while, someone explained to me Tlaxiaco was the last stop so I didn’t need to worry. 🙂

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Hermes, Fernando, and Laura came from Oaxaca City to Tliaxco and met me at the school. Tlaxiaco is ~3 hours away by van from both Haujuapan and Oaxaca. The principal, a teacher who is a colleague of Laura’s, and the school custodian were also there.  This adventure highlighted how much one needs to learn the native language of a location in order to function. After the trip, I began rigorous Duolingo training.

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I had given my big bag containing 6 laptops and 1 mac mini to Hermes on Sunday so I didn’t have to carry them from Huajuapan when traveling by myself. Hermes had also bought a wireless router to allow the laptops to connect to the RACHEL content server housed on the Mac Mini.

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The school is a one-room school house. They had a partition between the computer area and the classroom area. The one thing that struck me about the school is how much they care about each kid. Each kid’s photo and life story starting from pre-birth was on the wall. They had pictures of their moms during pregnancy as well. This is a very small school serving about 30 or so disabled kids with about 10 teachers.

The lab installation was straightforward. We had Ubermix installed already on the laptops and the Mac Mini ready thanks to the hard work of Javier, Randy, and others on the trip. All we had to do was configure the layout of the lab, connect the computers to the router and start them. We then begin the training portion. For about two hours, Hermes taught the 3 adults who were there that day basic computer functions, using GCompris, the TuxSuite, offline Wikipedia and Khan Academy, and much more.  Fernando and I provided assistance one-on-one as the ‘students’ were going through the applications and content. Hermes did a fantastic job teaching them. To watch him in action was a real treat. Everyone was extremely appreciative of everything they learned.

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We took a van back to Oaxaca City and went to Campos late at night for dinner. Yum!

It is great to have CAM 27 up and running again. I am hopeful these computers will last the school for 4-5 years if not longer. It was also great to hang out with the Oaxaca branch of KOC for the day and learn to travel on my own in-country. KOC is an adventure of a lifetime and I am very grateful to be a volunteer.

Interested in being a part of this amazing group? Volunteer here.

Categorized in Equipment, Installing, Mexico, School, Setup, Trips, Ubermix, Volunteers.

How to smuggle laptops out of Cabo

During my last family vacation, I decided that all 7 of us could carry a laptop into Mexico (Brilliant Idea #1) and that’s where the adventure started because nothing dealing with getting computers to Mexico is ever as easy as it sounds.

One of Kids on Computers’ main problems is getting used equipment to the schools. Most countries like Mexico charge expensive import taxes on equipment and often much of the equipment goes missing in the mail. However, each traveler to Mexico can carry one laptop in. So the best solution we’ve found is to send a laptop per person. So when my family planned a vacation to Cabo, Mexico, I had the great idea that all 7 of us on the trip should carry a laptop with us. I even checked ahead and found a FedEx store about a 30 minute drive from where we were staying and using the online calculator, figured out that it would be about $45 to ship all 7 laptops to Oaxaca where our new school is going in. What an awesome way to get 7 donated laptops to the our new school!

So we packed for our vacation and added 7 laptops wrapped in bubble wrap to our bags. We had no problem getting into Mexico with them.

Suitcases with laptops

Suitcases with laptops

Take #1: The guys

The second day in Mexico, the guys decided to run to town to get fishing poles. (We discovered we could fish from the beach near our house.) At my insistence, they reluctantly took the laptops with them.

Problem #1: Where is FedEx?

When the guys came home 4-5 hours later, they insisted there was no FedEx where Google Maps showed it. I asked if they’d asked anyone and they said yes, they’d asked at the hotel at the site where Google Maps claimed it was and nobody knew anything about it.

I called the FedEx in San Jose de Cabo and nobody answered. I called the FedEx 1-800 number and they confirmed the office and address.

Take #2: Kim & Stormy

So the next day Kim and I set out. Here’s a picture of the road between our house and town. This is not the worst stretch, just one where I was comfortable stopping to take a picture.

The road from our house to San Jose

The road from our house to San Jose

We arrived at the FedEx address, and sure enough, no FedEx. I tried calling again and no answer. The next closest FedEx was 30 minutes down the road in Cabo San Lucas. We were debating driving there when Kim suggested calling it. Brilliant idea #2! They gave us much more useful directions to the San Jose office. Across the street from the Walmart and Nissan dealership in the Las Palmas shopping center. Turns out Walmart is also not in the right place on Google maps but Walmart is a big enough building with good enough branding that we found it.

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FedEx office in San Jose del Cabo

Problem #2: No customs approval

The FedEx guy informed us that Cabo is a border state and that to ship anything anywhere in Mexico, we would need to go to customs at the airport first and get our package taped. Another 30 minutes up the road. He told us we’d also need a receipt. He was pretty insistent that we’d need a receipt. He said we’d pay import taxes of 5% of the value. Several customers walking in with boxes covered in customs tape verified this.

The FedEx guy also suggested we talk to the Mailbox store next store. The Mailbox guys confirmed we must have a receipt. Once we had a receipt, they said they’d be willing to take the laptops to customs for us and that import tax was 16%.

Mistake #1: Not getting a box

At this point, we were hauling the laptops around in a cooler (each wrapped in bubble wrap) and I asked if the FedEx guy if he’d sell me a box. There were some with price tags in the front. He brought out a non-FedEx box but said I should buy one at customs. He was rather reluctant to sell me the one he had. I should have insisted. In retrospect, I don’t think he had any boxes. Everything he ships comes packed up and taped up with customs tape, so I doubt he sells any boxes.

Brilliant Idea #3: Getting help from someone with a computer and internet

So at this point, Kim and I take all the laptops outside to the shady sidewalk, unpack each one and write down the serial numbers. I hadn’t brought my computer with me, thinking I was just sending a FedEx package, so I sent the list to Avni and asked if she could write a letter for us. Avni wrote us a great letter explaining who Kids on Computers is and the estimated value of the laptops.

Mistake #2: You need a receipt

In retrospect, we should have made up a receipt, not a valuation letter. More on that later.

Kim and I went to lunch (it was 4pm at this point) while Avni wrote the letter. We had some back and forth via phone from Mexico to the States to get the numbers right.

We went back to the FedEx store to print the letter and realized the numbers weren’t right. (Not all laptops have clear serial numbers and we’d done some wrong.) At that point, I wasn’t going to drag Kim to customs and I wasn’t sure how late they’d be open, so I said I’d try again Monday.

Over the weekend, Avni and I tweaked the letter. It was additionally complicated by the fact that I had 2 factor Dropbox authentication set up and I had no place where I could get both wifi and cell service.

Take #3: Stormy & Frank with kids in tow

On Monday, my family and I went to FedEx. My kids very reluctantly.

Kids along for the adventure

Kids along for the adventure

At FedEx, I tried to email the letter to the FedEx guy so that he could print it but my cell service wasn’t good enough. (Learning #5,129,398: Verizon international data roaming works better than Tmobile’s.) I tried to get him to go to the Dropbox page but when he very reluctantly tried to open the page, when it didn’t open immediately, he quit. I tried getting the hotel next door to give me wifi access but they wouldn’t. When I asked them to print the letter, they said they were out of toner. At this point, Avni emailed the letter to the FedEx guy. (Learning #5,129,399: Have an awesome partner with good internet access available via text.)

The FedEx guy printed the letter and I triumphantly returned to the car.

Waypoint #2: Customs

We drove out to the airport and arrived at customs to discover they had no boxes and the closest store was many miles down the road. In the meantime, they looked at my letter and the laptops. They unwrapped each laptop to write down the make and model. They didn’t care about the serial numbers at all. They then valued them (using some process inside that I couldn’t observe) and told me that they were 15,000 pesos, around $1,000 USD and that I would need to pay 16% tax. I tried bartering with them but it did not seem to be negotiable. I also asked where I could sell them for that price and they just shrugged.

Customs is a counter outside, so during this whole process we stood outside in the sun.

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Waiting outside for customs

Oh, and by the way, anything you mail out of Cabo, has to go through customs at the airport. We saw people with letters, with boxes of gifts for kids, with bags of dirty clothes to mail, … all of it got checked and taped.

Dumpster Diving

So mistake #1 came back to bite us. Customs did not sell nor even have boxes. Several other customers tried to help us and we ended up with a variety of heavy duty bags but a trash bag wasn’t going to protect the laptops.

All the gas stations around the airport said they sold only candy and beer, so no sizable boxes. The hotel was very helpful but said the trash got picked up at 6am. They sent us to City Club which is like a Costco. We decided to go dumpster diving instead. There were several big warehouse looking buildings with brands like Bimbo and Corona painted on the sides.

Dumpster diving for a box

Dumpster diving for a box

Frank found us a great box. And then somehow as I was packing the laptops into it, I made mistake #2.

Mistake #2, the colossal mistake

Mistake #2 was a colossal mistake. (Although not as time consuming as Mistake #1.) After loading the box into the trunk, I could not find the keys anywhere and the only place where they could have gone was inside the locked trunk. I had locked the keys in the trunk.

At this point, Avni suggested it might be easier and perhaps cheaper to have one of our Oaxaca volunteers fly to Cabo to get the laptops. The customs officials had told me I could carry them on any domestic flight without trouble. They started researching flights.

While Frank walked to the nearest gas station to get refreshments, I called National and once I explained to them that I was at the Bimbo factory, they sent a car immediately. The driver seemed to find nothing strange about an American family dumpster diving. He even helped me search the trunk and suggested we unpack the box of laptops. Sure enough, the keys were nestled between 2 bubble wrapped laptops!

We made a pit stop for cash at the airport terminal and returned to customs. They took my money and passport and 10 minutes later returned with a receipt and taped up our box. Yeah! Frank pointed out anyone with a roll of that tape would be very popular.

Box with official customs tape

Box with official customs tape

Back to where it all started

I was really afraid to get my hopes up, but I really thought we had it at this point.

We returned to FedEx (another half an hour drive) with the custom taped box. Then we started the process of mailing it. It took half an hour to do all the paperwork (at some point I stopped talking to the FedEx guy thinking maybe I was slowing the process down) but turns out everything was really in order this time and he gave me a receipt, tracking number and took the box.

Actually mailing the package!

Actually mailing the package!

I didn’t know if I was relieved that the laptops were shipped or a bit worried that I was leaving them to do the next part of the journey on their own.

Celebrating with a margarita

Celebrating with a margarita

Waiting to hear about their (legal :)) arrival in Oaxaca …

Categorized in Equipment, Mexico, Shipping.

Kids on Computers Lab Set up in Ouled Moussa

This is a guest post from Jake Stern, current Peace Corps volunteer serving in Ouled Moussa, Beni Mellal, Morocco where we set up one lab during our Morocco October 2014 trip. His post describes our time at Ouled Moussa including our final day at the lab where we setup networking and taught a class. His original post is here


These past couple of days have been the most busy days of my Peace Corps service thus far. Beginning last Sunday, I have consistently gotten up at 8am and been finished with work at 8pm with only a lunch break in between. Now this may sound trivial to the average American schedule but in PCV and Moroccan terms this is intense.

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(Here we are working on the set up of the Lab)

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Categorized in Equipment, Morocco, Setup, Trips, Volunteers.

Dispatches From Morocco: Avni Khatri

During the Mexico trip, Corey, (volunteer and VP of Operations) shared her experiences and photos from her experience on the ground.

We want to continue that new tradition and share live-as-possible volunteer stories during our Morocco trip! For the first installment, let’s join Avni, the President of Kids on Computers!

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Categorized in Equipment, Morocco, Trips, Volunteers.