Kids Test Solar-Powered Computer Tablet for Schools in India


Photo via Procsilas via Flickr Creative Commons

The One Laptop Per Child project might need to step up, now that tablet devices are on the scene. Rice University has partnered up with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Villages for Development and Learning Foundation in India to develop a solar powered tablet computer that can be used in schools that lack electricity. Dubbed the "I-Slate," it is already being tested out in classrooms. Rice University states that the I-Slate is currently in development at the Institute of Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID) at NTU, but the first protptypes built this summer are undergoing tests this month in India.

"President Obama's visit to India this week highlights Indian economic achievements, but India's full economic potential will only be realized with sustainable, low-cost technologies that benefit all segments of the population," said Krishna Palem in a press release. Palem is a Rice University professor leading an effort to create a low-cost, electronic tablets that can replace the handheld slates currently used by school kids.

The I-Slate uses an energy-sipping microchip that allows the device to run on solar panels -- much like the way solar powered calculators work.

"Children in Indian village schools are just like their peers anywhere in the world: eager to learn, tech savvy, and willing to try new pedagogical tools that engage their creative minds,"said Rajeswari Pingali, ViDAL president. "The I-slate can help bring the marvels of ICT into thousands of rural schools and contribute to an improved learning experience."

Rice University plays an important role, in that students from one undergraduate course spent 10 weeks writing self-directed math applications for the early prototypes. I-Slates can then come already equipped with educational programs and games for the students. So far, students have taken to the pads and their feedback is helping to create the next generation of prototypes. The I-Slate creators have high hopes that this could be a low-cost solution for a high-quality education for millions of school children one day -- and all while running on a little bit of renewable energy.

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