One Laptop Per Child Persentation at the MUG Meeting

At first I was skeptical about attending a presentation about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project at the /Michigan!/usr/group (MUG). So initially, I wasn’t going to go to this months MUG meeting. I figured the meeting wouldn’t be very technical and would only be about the benefit of the program. At the last minute, I decided to go, and I’m glad I went to the meeting. Ivan Krstić from the OLPC project put on a excellent presentation.

One thing I found interesting is the OLPC motivation for the project. Krstić explained that before children reach school they are inquisitive and want to know how everything works. It very similar to the hacker mindset. But once children reach school, their education becomes authoritarian based. It is no longer acceptable to question how and why things work the way they do. I had never thought about the education system in the United States this way. This is probably one of the reasons that I disliked school. I didn’t like school until college where I was able to take the basic knowledge I gained and further explore it and research the topics I found interesting. So from what I was able to gain from the presentation, the main reason the OLPC project was started was to empower the youth in developing countries and give them the tools to conduct their own research.

After giving the motivation for the project, Krstić explained the technical details of the laptops. I had no idea of the innovations involved in making this project a reality. To begin, the laptops had to be extremely cheap to manufacture. Next, the power consumption of the laptop had to be much lower than the average laptop. These constraints seemed very similar to those that exist in the field of sensor networks. One thing I found impressive is almost all of the programs on the laptop were ported to Python. So for the curious students, they can modify the source code of their application to see the effect of their changes. The laptop also had a show source button. This button would display the source code in an IDE for the application that is currently running on the laptop. Krstić also went on to explain his part of the project, which is creating a security model for years olds. This problems is more difficult than it appears at first because it can’t be assumed that a five year old can read.

After seeing the presentation, I was very impressed with the direction of the OLPC project. If I had a small child, I would try to get them one of these laptops through the “Give One Get One” program.


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