DC Cares about the XO
Our first meeting of the OLPC Learning Club at the downtown offices of DC Cares attracted a diverse group of 48 XO enthusiasts, including some parents and children. The Vine blog, Grig, Richard, Herbert have writeups on the meeting. Walter Bender made a mention in this week’s OLPC Community News, and there are photos on Flickr by Jesse, Grig and myself. I want to especially thank our host Curtis Cannon, Andrew Halls, Jonathan Blocksom and Jonathan Hsu for helping with the meeting logistics. Also, Phil Shapiro has been a great cheerleader for the club and scored our first press clip with an article in the East Montgomery County Gazette. The evening was also, regrettably, a little less colorful as Wayan was away on his honeymoon.
I got there an hour early and double-parked out front so I could unload my bags of gear for show ‘n tell. To my surprise, there were already a couple people in the meeting room trying to wirelessly mesh their XOs. Parking was an easy roll down the adjacent underground garage. It turns out I was the only person who drove. While I got my gear laid out, Curtis and others let batches of people in through the secure front doors. By 6:25, we had a good crowd with the arrival of a group of high schoolers (from Arlington, I believe).
After distributing raffle tickets to everyone, I did a brief welcome and review of the facilities and agenda. Curtis (pictured above speaking to the group) joined me to talk about the mission and services of DC Cares and how they came to acquire seven U.S.-side Give One Get One laptops through the fundraising efforts of his friend Peter Corbett at the recent Technoliday party. DC Cares is a unique foundation in that it doesn’t grant money to support social change locally, but matches community assets such as volunteers, pro-bono consultants, non-profit board members, goods and services to help other non-profits build their capacity. We talked about how keeping the OLPC Learning Club diverse and engaged could produce excess energy that could be channeled into local social change in addition to feeding content and innovations back into the global OLPC braintrust to serve children and education.
Justin Thorp spoke next about his work on the World Digital Library project as a contractor at the Library of Congress. Justin had just concluded his last day on the project to become the [Web 2.0 Widgets] Developer Community Manager at Clearspring Technologies. Justin mentioned that few people realize that the LoC acquires assets in all languages from around the world, and is uniquely positioned (with funding from Google) to create a digital library of rare books, manuscripts, maps, posters, stamps and other treasures from the library’s vast holdings. Justin also demoed the International Children’s Digital Library, a collection of digitized children’s books in many languages readable on the web via a kid-friendly user interface.
Then I started to juggle all the XO-related accessories I’ve accumulated since August. I began with the vignette of how I bumped into Nicholas Negroponte at SFO airport back in February 2006 to a meeting back in August 2007 when we (myself and another director representing my day job) were given two prototypes. I described how I experimented since then with accessories such as power adapters, solar panels, carrying bags, network adapters, and viewfinders for the XO camera. The most audience reaction was for the viewfinder made of LEGO bricks and my out-of-shape geek’s attempt at foot treadling the Freeplay Weza while doing the talk about it. A point I made was that OLPC perhaps somewhat overhyped the solar panels and human power options to uninformed G1G1 consumers who then romanticised the notion of getting easy power from hand-cranking or waving around an index card-sized solar panel. The solar and human power options for the XO require hours of patience or substantial physical exertion to generate usable amounts of power. I observed that there are some vivid lessons for our children in these accessories about the value of energy, and why adopting clean alternatives is important.
I closed the presentation with the raffle of two iLite Micro USB LED lights and a Targus Auto/Air Adapter. Jonathan Hsu also stood up front to offer for sale his fresh-off-the-manufacturing-line ZoWii USB ethernet adapters in XO green. About half the room converged on him to plunk down some green for green. We stayed around another hour to mesh and chat. OK. End. More in another post.