Objective of this Post
- Why RACHEL/Rasp Pis provide a low cost & easy to set up Facility for Education/Health in Remote Areas
- Journal of our recent Timor Trip
- Encourage other Groups/Ecosystems to do something similar, which we can also learn from
The RACHEL Story in Baucau with FLD - How did this begin?
RACHEL stands for Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning.
FLD, as known as the The Good Crocodile Foundation (Fundação Lafaek Diak) is a non-profit community development organization which uses the asset based community development (ABCD) approach, building on strengths already within the community.
In July 2017, After returning from my fourth trip to Baucau in Timor-Leste with FLD, as part of a nineteen person Nazareth Outreach Work Group which had many outcomes. One outcome was maintaining and upgrading some of the Ubuntu based computers, that were previously installed. During this time, we saw this “Gap” or Opportunity on how we can provide both Educational and Health Content, alongside existing Computing Devices. Part of which, was recognising Internet Access continues to be a challenge, whether it is Access, Communications or Cost, we started to investigated what else could be possible.
After some Googling, we discovered the RACHEL Project an Initiative by World Possible, which looked like it filled the “Gap”.
What is RACHEL?: Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning.
It is a Low-Cost and Easy to Run “Education Content” Micro-Computer (able to be run on a Raspberry Pi)
- Rachel Pi supports 6-10 wifi users with 64GB (Phone, Tablets or PCs)
- Rachel Plus supports 20-50 wifi users with 300GB (Phone, Tablets or PCs)
Around November 2017, we purchased two RACHEL PI devices for learning and validation purposes, to gain an appreciation of what was possible from both the RACHEL Software, and this device called a Rasperry Pi with a 64GB MicroSD Card. Simply put, you give the Rachel Pi device power from your phone charger or power pack and within 30 seconds you have a Wifi network called RPI, you then point any browser (eg
Chrome or Firefox etc) to http://10.10.10.10 and the RACHEL Portal comes up with Education or Health Content that you can select. The Rachel Pi supports around 10 users. We continued to explore the RACHEL PI’s capabilities, and discussed if this was useful. We researched how the Rachel Pi was being used in other locations around the world, and saw positive results.
Around Dec-2017, we purchased a set of Raspberry PI Devices with 16GB MicroSD Cards investigating their use as Low Cost Desktops, if you had an existing Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse accessing the RACHEL PI as a Wifi Content Server. Once again, we saw positive results, making sure we play and walk through all the RACHEL Content, as well as, use Libre Office which comes standard with Raspbian Operating System on the 16GB MicroSD SetUp. We also discovered you are able to plug in your own USB for local document creation and sharing. Libre Office can use/update existing Microsoft Office Documents.
We confirmed and validated, we could easily create and replicate additional RACHEL PIs by copying the 64GB MicroSD Cards and getting an additional Set of Raspberry PIs, and with all of these Raspberry PIs in my study, it was now looking like a Bakery.
We had a few RACHEL Set-Ups discussing what could work:
- RACHEL-PI with just Mobile Phone and Tablet Access
- RACHEL-PI with 2 or 3 Raspberry PIs having Browser Access via Wifi
- RACHEL-PI with laptop browser acess
- All of the Above
In a short 3 month period, we were starting gather some hope, re filling the “Gap”. It looked like the “Gap” could be challenged or maybe slighly addressed with bits of tech, content, people, enablement and planning, with they Key Element being the people and with very little cost, using existing Old Ubuntu Computers and lots of Spare Monitors, Keyboards and Mice.
Our last bit of Learning, come from acquiring the US$500 RACHEL-Plus, whilst similar to the low-cost US$120 RACHEL-PI, had extra capability, such as
-20-50 users instead of 10
-500GB of available storage (~300GB is pre-loaded by World Possible.
~100GB is availabl for local content)
-Remote access and updates if/when plugged into the internet
-5 hour+ battery life
-Extended WiFi range
-Password protected teacher portal to easily upload PDFs, movies, and other files
This RACHEL-Plus was another Cool Bit of Tech, no bigger than a small A5 notepad, had a slightly wider WiFi Range with, and can run for 5 Hours+ once charged.
In Feb-2018, We now had enough Technical and Potential Model knowledge combined with our ideas of how things could work with FLD in the Baucau Community . We checked in with the FLD Leadership Group consulting, if this was worth taking this to the next stage as a Pilot Project. The positive feedback from FLD Leadership, then encouraged the Planning and Organising of an Early June 2018 Trip to make the Pilot happen, before the next Nazareth Outreach Work Group was to come in July 2018.
Small Group of Three People, then spent from March-2018 thru to May-2018, working out how could we maximize the Pilot experience to give us flexbility with a variety of Deployment Opportunities.
We Arrive in Dili on Monday, 28-Jan-2018
We arrived in Dili late in the afternoon of Mon, 28-May where we met FLD Leadership, who were key to making everything possible in the next 10 days, given their knowledge, trust, relationships and their brilliant team. Over a lime juice at the Esplanada with FLD Leadership, we turned on both the RACHEL-Plus and RACHEL-PI, exploring jointly on our smart phones the RACHEL Educational and Health Content. Seeing it, first hand within minutes FLD Leadership saw the potential and were excited.
We arrived with the following equipment
- 1 RACHEL Plus
- 12 RACHEL PIs (Raspperry Pis with 64 GB MicroSD)
- 12 Raspberry PIs (16 GB MicroSD)
- 1 Projector
- 12 Travel Adaptors
- 8 Power Boards
- 12 HDMI to DVI Connectors (for DVI Monitors)
- 3 HDMI to VGA Connectors (for VGA Monitors)
On Tues, Morning we left Timor Plaza at about 940am, with our US$100 of 25GB Broadband enabled on our Existing 3G Wifi Modem device for the next 10 days, given the need for potential updating or RACHEL, Raspperry Pi and Ubuntu Device, as well as, keeping in touch.
We spent the next 5 hours travelling from Bacau to Dili via Manututto along some spectacular coastline, going in and out of many small beach villages, having a break mid-way. This trip can normally take 2-3 hours, but given the total 120km of the road was being ripped up to be improved over the next 12-24 months, it took considerably longer, and with a bit of bumpiness. We arrived in Bacau, at about 3pm, needing a rest for the next day. Dinner that night was @ Vittoria’s experiencing both the Curry Chicken Dish and Garlic Roasted Chicken.
Wednesday Stocktake, Validate and Planning
Arriving 9am at the Triloka Health Clinic, we were welcomed with a Timorese Traditional Dance Welcome accepting Traditional Timorese Woven Scarves/Ties meeting the Broader FLD Team whom we would be working and learning with, re what was going to be possible with this RACHEL Initiative.
After Morning Tea, we arrived at the FLD Training Centre to see organised and ready for us, Boxes of Previous Equipment which included Power Cables, Connectors, Keyboards, Mice, Laptops, Desktops and 20+ Monitors.
Whilst some of us, organised what were thought was useful for RACHEL use, in parallel we also unpacked the PIs looking at making sure things were going to work. By mid afternoon, we had sorted the existing equipment joining it with the new RACHEL bits, and we had small Set-Ups up and working, and now additional FLD Folks also getting confident with both the equipment and use of RACHEL. By the end of Wednesday we left with many more people across terms: RACHEL-PI, RACHEL-Plus, Raspberry Pi, Khan Academy. We had all heard “There are Seven Squirrels in the Box” Many, Many times, and we would hear it many more times in the coming days. We all left late, feeling very tired, but excited about what this could potentially mean.
Thursday Kitting Up, Training and Other Prep Bits
On Thurs Morning, we returned to the FLD Training Centre, met by our FLD Leader with a very detailed planning document, which made it clear, whilst she may have been tired the night before, she had put in alot of work into maximising what was going to be possible with this RACHEL Initiative Kit we had.
The Planning document, detailing FLD would like to see these RACHEL Kits distributed with Hands-On Workshops accordingly:
.Thursday RACHEL shared between FLD Maternity Clinic and Triloka Health Clinic
.Friday Waimanuboe Primary School with RACHEL-PI,Tablet and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Friday Bacau Secondary School with RACHEL-Plus and 3 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Sat Aubaca Junior School with RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Sat Aubaca Primary School with RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Mon Golgota Junior School with RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Mon Return to Waimanuboe Primary School for Checking in, Also Bacau Secondary if time Allows
.Tue Aubaca Primary School Skype Call with Nazareth Primary School, followed by Teacher RACHEL HandsOn
.Tue Uainau Primary School with RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Wed Bucoli Junior School with RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Wed Caisido Primary School with RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Thu Ossoluga School with RACHEL-PI, 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops, tablet, 2 Laptops and Generator
.Fri Afasa Primary School with RACHEL-PI, 1 Raspberry Pi Desktops and 1 Laptop
.Mon Darsula Primary School with RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
.Tues Wailakama Junior School with RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Desktops
Yes, it was clear from this FLD Planning document not only had theyunderstood what was possible, but was now taking it beyond the orignal Pilot Concept through to a Working Rollout. We were happy to see this planning, logistics and execution potential, even if it exceeded what we had to deploy. This was a really nice problem.
Even though we know we would not have enough equipment or time, we would start with the plan, and see how far we would go, especially given we had done alot of talking to that point with no deployments, hence, we agreeg let’s check in at the end of each day talking through how things were going, and discuss what could happen next.
Hence, the Thurs Morning had us breaking into a couple of teams focussing on:
- Learning new bits of RACHEL, including some of the Admin components
- Getting Old Laptops and Desktops useful for RACHEL consumption
- 1st shared Deployment working against Wall-Mounted LED Screens in the Maternity and Health Clinics
- Producing Working Kits with Naming Convention for packing and tracking purposes
---- We worked out we had 12 Working Raspberry Pis with Monitors, Keyboards and Mice
---- and 4 RACHEL-PIs which could double as dektops given the available working Monitors
---- and 2 Laptops which could access Wifi
---- and 2 Desktops which had Network cards which could work with a Network Router, which also had a RACHEL-PI connected
Another Big Day … and ready for our 1st School Deployment the next day, we packed our Kits into the Hilux for an early start
Friday at Waimanuboe Primary and Baucau Secondary Schools
An Hour from Baucau we arrived at Waimanuboe Primary School, where we were welcomed by the Principal and Students with Timorese Singing in a very idyllic setting. Discussing what was possible with the Principal, we set up the RACHEL-PI in his office, which had a little more Security than the 3 Classrooms, draping an extension cord from his office through the wall into the 1st Classroom, where we set up a PowerBoard with 2 Raspberry PIs with Monitors, Keyboards and Mice showing how they connected through to the RACHEL. “There are Seven Squirrels in the Box” came booming out of the Speakers not once or twice, but a few times … also shown was interactive content where students had to exercise and develop their skills. It was clear the Students were happy to see this type of Resource available for them. Also shown, was how students are able to have their own username, get points for what they do, track their progress and be able to get coaching respectively. It was clear the students loved it. We were also able to show a previously deployed ubuntu laptop, be able to connect to the RPI Wifi and access RACHEL via Firefox. Also provided to the Principal was a Lenovo tablet, that could access RACHEL which could be used by Teachers or Students respectively.
In the afternoon we arrived at the Baucau Secondary School to be welcomed by Staff and Students, which is still very new and has little resource. We were shown a Teacher Area, Classrooms and Library and after some discussion given the position of rooms, placement decisions were made. We placed the RACHEL-Plus in the Staffroom with 1 Raspberry Pi Desktop, so students in nearby classrooms with SmartPhones will be able to access it respectively. Also, both a RACHEL-PI with Monitor and a Raspberry Pi Desktop in the Library which is much further away. Once again, there was alot of interest by both Staff and Students across the many RACHEL Resources, especially given Students could have their own username and track their progress.
Saturday at Aubaca Junior and Aubaca Primary Schools
Aubaca Junior and Primary Schools are located very close to the Triloka Health Clinic, making it easier for setting up, supporting and checking in every now and again by FLD. We arrived at Aubaca Junior School on Sat Morning with Staff and Students interested in this new RACHEL Capability which they saw as a BackUp Internet. Once again after some discussion about the RACHEL Initiative and where it should be placed, we decided to place 1 RACHEL PI and 1 Raspberry PI in the Staff Room using an Existing LED Monitor that had a HDMI Connection, which made it much easier. The Show and Tell and HandsOn was done in 2 streams with folks participating on the Screens in the Corner hearing “There are Seven Squirrels in the Box” or Video around Biology or the Thorax via a 2nd Stream across the room, where Students using a Smart Phone were going through discovering Division with their own usernames and tracking getting points.
Very Close to the Junior School is also the Primary School, where only the Principal and 1 Staff Member were waiting for us, given it was now Late Sat morning. After some discussion we also set up One RACHEL PI with 2 Raspberry Desktops, as well as, configuring 2 other Windows7 Laptops for RACHEL Consumption. We agreed we would return Tues Morning, and continue the HandsOn, after a Facebook Messenegr Call between Aubaca and Nazareth College.
Saturday Afternoon & Sunday
We used the opportunity of this unscheduled time, to work on and catch up on a few things
- We did a Stocktake on What had and had not been used
- We worked thru setting up click-n-play both mp3, mp4 and avi files with omxplayer params using auto-associate for any usb content they could share.
- We also updated the 2 Old Ubuntu laptops and Desktops, so they could play RACHEL Video Content
- We also made sure we get set up the 2 Desktops using an Old Router combined with a RACHEL PI for one of the Schools
Catching up with FLD Leadership on Sun Evening for a very nice Dinner and playing Spoons, we discussed how the RACHEL Project had been going, discussing the experiences, excitement and concerns across our 1st Four Schools, dicussing more Good Things than not. This included potentially a RACHEL-Plus for Aubaca Junior given it has 575 Students, One RACHEL-Pi will probably not be enough. FLD Leadership discussed whislt the “English” will help, also highlighted that “Portugese” is still used as the “language of choice” for Edcuation Purposes. Which then obviously got us thinking about, the language packs which are available, but we had not yet used. Doh !
Hence, Sun Evening was spent investigating how to potentially enable the Portugese Language in the Khan Academy Component. We dicscovered there are 2 ways. If your RACHEL-PI Server Instance has the ability to temporarily plug into the Internet, you will be able to do this via the Browser logging in as rachel/rachel with “Manage” interface, which is documented. If you are not, and need an offline approach, you download a language pack zip file, load it onto the RACHEL Server into a particlular kalite scripts folder, and run a particluar command to unpack and load, and then reboot the RACHEL-PI Server, and voila. Whilst we did this investigation, we did not actually get a reliable working version at this point, so we kept to what we had.
Mon at Golgota Primary School and Return to Waimanuboe Primary School
We travelled out to Golgota Primary School via Bacau Newtown Area, and taking a left turn down a very non-descript dirt track, led us to see a narrow building over a slight rise passing a few goats, taking our hilux towards the front of the building where we see a long verandah for 6 classrooms, with an office being in the middle. Within minutes, of getting out of the vehicle we had both staff and students pouring out getting lined up, to sing a song welcoming us, with a few photos along the way. After some discussion, it was decided to have One RACHEL-PI and 2 Raspberry Pi Dekstops placed in the middle office, which acts as a Staff Room, which sees students come and go, quite comfortably. After a Quick setup, looking at Power, Security and Usability we had the Training predominantly deliverd by FLD Staff, through to the Principal, Staff and a few students. While this was going on, we were also outside showing some of the Video Counting Content to the Students, who were looking forward to this being available.
After lunch, we returned to Waimanuboe Primary School, checking in how things had gone, since this was last installed on Thursday with no staff, apart from the Principal given it was a Public Holiday. Both Staff and Students were excited to see us arrive, and keen to show they had been using both Raspberry Pi Desktops and the Old Laptop. So much so, we recognised the need to simplify or streamline some of the choices, so RACHEL Content becomes the more guided choice at this point in time.
Patrick also cleaned up and simplified the ability to have mp3/mp4 point click, play and exit. We spent some time seeing how both Staff and Students were using the RACHEL and specifically the KA-LITE and Wikipedia Content. What became clearer at this point, was that there is a role for both the Desktop Browser Access with Sound, as well as, the more portable Smaller Form Tablet for portability.
We spent some of our Mon Evening over Dinner, talking through our Waimanuboe return visit, as well as, thinking through our next Morning Facebook Messenger Video Call with the Nazareth College Reception Class, takling through what it would take to get everything lined up:
- network access at both ends
- camera and lighting in the rooms with projectors
- use of facebook messenger
- class groups prepared to do something
Tuesday return to Aubaca Primary and Go To Uainau Primary School
Goal this Morning, was to get our 1st Video ConCall between Aubaca Primary and Nazareth Primary, which was to occur at 0900 Timor-Leste time. We Left Baucau at 8am, aiming to get to Aubaca Primary for 830 giving us ample time to prep, with the appropriate equipment from our end. This included our 3G Dongle, Laptop with Facebook Messenger using the Laptop Camera hooked up to a Projector, hoping lighting and sound would just fall into place.
We arrived at Aubaca Primary at 840 given the Road Construction and being caught behind a truck, and instead of setting up straight away, we had a meeting about the Video ConCall 1st with the Principal, which then gave us 10min to set up. We then discovered the 3G Telkommcel Dongle Communications was not working well enough, and then hoped my Mobile Phone would be enough for both the comms and use of FB Messenger, and using the vysor app via Google Chrome so we can see it on my laptop and projector, even though the picture was not big, but enough. We also utilized a white bed sheet to maximize the projector brightness and colour, which seemed to work. The show was sort of on and ready. We had students in the classroom excited, wondering what was going to happen, but had been prepared to sing a couple of songs, and six students ready to talk a little about themselves in english.
Right on 0900, we connected with Teacher and Class back at Nazareth, seeing both Teacher and Students on the screen, after a bit of delayed shouting at each other, we kicked off with Nzareth students singing a song, followed by the Aubaca Students also singing a song with the Network going in and out and having to re-connect with FB Messenger. After we had one of Nazareth Students introduce themselves, we then had six of the Aubaca Students talking about themselves, mid way thru the Connection dropped out completely, which was a pity, given how much the students were enjoying the experience. Hence, we video-recorded the Traditional Dance to show the students back in Nazareth Later. After this “first” in the Baucau Area running a VideoConCall between the 2 Schools, we spent some Hands-On time going through the RACHEL Content, including KA-Lite, Wikipedia both for the Staff and Students appreciating how it was accessible from the Raspberry Pi desktops, as well as any Mobile Phone that can see the Wifi. They also asked about the content being available in Portugese.
Uainau was our Sixth School for RACHEL-PI Deployment, which we got to after 1100, once we had got the designated equipment for the School, which included a RACHEL-PI with a monitor, and a Raspberry Pi desktop. We arrived seeeing Students waiting for us, in the hot sun ready to sing a Welcome Song. After spending a small amout of time with the children, we then discussed with the Uainau Principal and Staff, about the location of the RACHEL Devices to maximize what is possible in the school, which ended up being in the Staff Room given it’s Power and Security. Once Set up, we went through our RACHEL HandsOn utilizing both the Desktop Monitor and Keyboard, as well as, Wi-fi tablets. Great to see the FLD Staff once again, driving the Hands-On and Enablement given the knowledge and confidence growing every time we delivered such a session.
Wed Morning to Early Afternoon Buccoli and Caisidu, and Health Staff
Our day started, by visiting one of the local Baucau Carpenter who was building Student Desks for the new Baucau Secondary School, utilizing real wood versus laminate, he had an order of 100 units. Afterwhich, we picked up the RACHEL Initiative equipment we needed for both Buccoli and Caisido Schools from FLD.
We arrived at Buccoli at 930, where we were welcomed by Staff and Students with a Ceremony, which included both Speeches and Students Singing, which brought back memories of previous school visits. After a formal meeting with Principal and Teachers, it was decided for the RACHEL Set-Up to be put in the Biblioteca(library). After 25 minutes of placing the equipment in place which this time included 2 Ubuntu Desktops alongside the linksys wifi network router and the RACHEL-Pi, we discovered, we did not have adequate power for more than one device. After significant discussion, we reverted back to the original Principal’s Office which had a back area, which included our Previous ubuntu computer desktop, which did have enough power for our RACHEL Set-Up. Once in place, we took to now our standard routine which was to kick off the HandsOn Show & Tell, getting the staff and a few students across the KA-Lite and Wikipedia Material. Benefits of the RACHEL-PI, is that the approach and platform remains consisten regardless if it is a Raspberry Pi Desktop, Ubuntu or Windows Desktop or Phone or Tablet, as it takes advantage of what is possible with a Modern Browser Based Approach, maximising what is possible with a Browser UI including audio, video and interaction or just plain reading. We continued to show the tablet interaction over a late morning tea, come early lunch where we tasted some local fare of coconut pancakes(very, very nice).
Leaving Buccoli, we arrived at Caisidu at about 12noon, where a number of students were waiting for us, and some were in Class. As we approached the waiting staff, we were able to engage immediately with a Battery Powered RACHEL-PI, using a couple of tablets as we walked in instantly showing “There are Seven Squirrels in the Box”, and then moving from Addition to Multiplication to Division, etc. We had 3 little Student Groups crowded around tablets and phones, engaging, laughing and providing answers or clues to each other, whilst we also commenced putting in place the One RACHEL-PI and one Raspberry Pi with 2 Monitors. Once Set Up, we encouraged the 3 groups to see the same experience & content via the Monitor. They were excited to see this sort of Resource now available to Caisidu, and set up so quickly and easily (little different to Buccoli, couple of hours earlier)
Wed Late Afternoon in the Health Clinic was a GEM
Our last afernoon was spent, leaving boxes with labels, for a future return visit
- 20+ Keyboards
- 12 Working Monitors
- 30+ Video Cables
- 50+ Power Cables,
- 4 Extension Cords
- 1 Local 6 Socket Power Board
- 6 Travel Adaptors
- Tool Box & Blower
We also updated 3 ubuntu laptops in the Clinic and installed chromium-browser, so they can play and lsiten to the RACHEL-PI Video content.
The best part of the afternoon, was seeing the Health Clinic Staff in deep discussion around the RACHEL-PI Health Video Content, whilst the majority of the week focussed on putting RACHEL in Schools, I completely forgot about the Health & Medical content, which was valuable to the team. They explained, it gave them the opportunity to have their own “Staff Development” Sessions together, as well as, use it with a Powerbank and take it out with the Mobile Health Clinic using the tablet to remote villages.
Summary & What’s Next
We started this trip not sure, if anything would work and to keep both expectations and plans, thinking “Pilot” and no more than 2 schools, 3 schools maximum. Also, making sure we should and try visit one twice.
We finished this trip, with RACHEL deployed
- 8 in Schools, with 2 Monitors each
- 2 in Health Clinics
- 1 in FLD House
- 1 Left Over
Also, very exciting was local FLD staff are now enabled and confident with what RACHEL is, and enabling staff & students for use
Use of the Raspberry Pis, as desktop computers also needs to be highlighted, providing abilities to
- Play Video & Audio with omxplayer
- Able to to create Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations with LibrOffice
- Play games such as
- Educational Content itself such as Mathematica and Wolfgram
- or used for python coding
In terms of What’s Next, we are returning looking at the following:
- If Languages such as Portugese-Brazil is installed for KA-Lite, can it sit alongside English on a 64GB MicroSD Card
- RACHEL-in-a-Box for lots of Schools. Can we get away with 2 tablets and a RACHEL-Pi, which is Quick and Simple to Set-Up, or do we need 2 Desktops which will need to be looked after, kept clean.
We have been told, we will get some feedback on how these deployments are going, to help with further rollout thoughts.