Shabait.com: Eritrea Institute of Technology EdTech Lab
Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam
Date: Tuesday, 26 September 2017
Eritrea Institute of Technology EdTech Lab
Written by Semir Seid
“We think big but we start small”, are the words of Mr. Samuel Tewelde, the director of ICT and Tele Education in Eritrea Institute of Technology (EIT). Thinking big is what everybody does but what makes the difference is taking the initiative to act, to make sure what you think isapplicableon the ground.
The EIT is known for its multiple innovative ideas from the youth. Recently, senior students of computer science and computer engineering were able to innovate a “Low cost, Low power computing system” using a Raspberry Pi (an electronic board having ports and connectivity with whole package of computing system) in their Educational Technology Laboratory(EdTech)assistedby the Eritrea-Finland Cooperation in their final year project.
It is an interesting project with many pilot projects within it. I spent an interesting morning with the director, Mr. Samuel, talking about the details of the project.
The EdTech Lab is conceived as part ofICT4EEDU, the Finnish-Eritrean Cooperation Project. It is established in partnership with theUniversity of Eastern Finlandafter assessing the shortcomings. The concept of establishing such a lab came from the modern Finish University and gradually contextualized locally.
Same as the modern tech labs in the other nations, the EdTech lab in EIT assists students in the teaching and learning process by developing and presenting technologies. Though it accommodates fewer number of students at a time, it creates a platform for innovative ideas from the educational communities and students. It provides digests, connections and, more importantly it attracts and creates technological education communities locally and from abroad.
The overall task of the EdTech lab is to take an idea, localize and contextualize it to the community. It is basically an innovational project not an invention. The “Low cost, Low power computing system” project launched in November 2015 is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
The Eritrea-Finland Cooperation project, whichstartedin 2015, won over five projects out of the 10 proposed in which two are directed by the EIT ICT center. These two projects are theDigital Library and Library Automationproject as well as theICT for educationaldevelopment.
The latter project launched is meant to enhance the ICT infrastructure of EIT, improve expert’s performance with a mindset to interconnect other higher education institutions with one effort instead of going on the same projects with each and everyinstitution. The infrastructure will cover much with the application of higher bandwidth. It includes digital library (previously established) for the EIT colleges, local search engine and other educational related services to education communities (students, staff, anyone keen on research).
However, ICT infrastructure cannot be enough on its own; services must accompany it. An upgraded form of digital library, and curriculum fitting course materials are currently accessible. Not only that but to encourage further research, the members came up with installing an E-Granary (a huge educational resource repository).
According to the documents of this repository, it is able to access up to35 millioneducational resources that includevideos, lectures and e-books which anybody can have access. Moreover, to enable the community to do far more deep research with the resources and ideas people bring in, the senior students developed the “EIT Search Engine” that can provide access to any sort of data people browse in terms of indexes anytime user searches.
Six months before the team officially managed to launch the project. In the meantime, small training sessions were provided to the team by Finish experts to enhanceindividualperformance and the project to its final stage.
The activities conducted in the EdTech lab are the Programming Taughts of Robotics (Main focus of the lab), the low cost, low power computing system project, Efficient Projector making, The Halogram project of students (contextually virtual concept) to enable them observe learning process in virtual manner, Website development, a continuously upgraded local search engine and many pilot projects presented by anyone.
According to Mr. Samuel, the lab is available to accept starting projects and is open to any innovative ideas brought by the community.
Coming back to the project, the director says it is not a replica of what lies in other parts of the world but mainly a contextualapplication usinga Raspberry Pi and available softwares that are required. Further, the senior students came up with the idea of constructing a complete system that includes servers and computers that host educational resources for the wholecampusnetwork in a similar manner to the low cost low power one computing system.
The Raspberry Pi, the device that initially became the reason for the next steps of the project, is an electronic board as small as smartphones having ports and other accessories. It can beinstalledoperating systems (OS) such as Windows, Linux and Ubuntu on it, to ensure the needed computer system operate in low power consumption. It hardly takes 10 watts and installing a monitor to it enabled the students to prepare a complete low power computer system with less than 20 watts. That is more or less equivalent to the solar panel powered lights we use in households. The students designed and made a 3D educational model cover for this board using a3D printerin the EdTech lab.
In order not to limit the project within the EdTech lab and spread it across the country, the team conducts an outreach event for school kids on how tech-education looks like and plans for more. The lab mentors many innovative projects to senior students and anyone interested.
While the ICT department in EIT involves itself in such an ongoing project, it has kept local stakeholders such as the ICT center of the Ministry of Education, the Eritrean Telecommunication, the Asmara Community College and the participating community as a whole. The eventual plan is for people to access any resource wherever they are located. Eritreans residing in diaspora find the initiative taken by the team as a huge step up in the country’s educational progress and always will to forward a helping hand in bringing new educational communities including material and financial support.