Friday, October 07, 2011

To Infinity, and Beyond!

A few weeks ago, some of our students at the La Carpio computer lab got the once-in-a-lifetime chance to talk via Skype video to Franklin Chang, a Costa Rican-American astronaut and veteran of seven space shuttle missions. This is quite an extraordinary event for the kids. Franklin Chang is one of the more well-known Costa Rican national heroes, and they may have heard of him on the news or in their science textbooks, or even on PBS NOVAScience. Getting to hear from him face to face and ask him some questions was pretty exciting for everyone.

And it doesn't stop there. This week we've started up classes in 3d programming with a program called StarLogo TNG. It's similar to the interface the kids got familiar with in Scratch. I wish I could tell you more about the program, but I am actually learning along with the other students. The three-person teaching team is made up of some La Carpio youth that have shown some incredible aptitude for programming and other uses of computer technology. Queso and Freddy are still helping out with the classes and getting some first-rate training through Omar Dengo, a foundation that focuses on technology development in Costa Rican education.

God keeps bringing together amazing talent for this project to keep in motion. The newest member of our team, Carlos, came in with some more advanced training in network installation. The network in our computer lab was previously a rats nest of cables that resulted from a partially completed team work project. When I came, I plugged things in so that they were provisionally functional, and was hoping that another team would come sometime to finish the job, install conduit, and organize the cables. Well, that team DID come, from the fourth bus stop in La Carpio. We put the tools in Carlos' hands, and he walked through the technical process of routing cable, measuring conduit, and hiding all the messy network havoc we'd created. He showed Queso and Freddy how to create the terminals with a crimper tool, and together they tackled the job over a period of about 3 days. From time to time I went in to try and be helpful, but they didn't need me for anything except to clear out the chopped up cable. Carlos declared he didn't want to see any cables visible by the end of the job. I was impressed at how much pride he took in his work, even taking before and after photos to show to his professor at the technical school where he was training. I think the photos say it all:

It was a mixture of joy and sadness for me to watch this process. Joy because I could take my hands off the project and just watch some talented youth we'd invested in take the reins. Sadness... because I didn't get to be a part of the real fun! I just watched the process from behind a glass window and checked my e-mail, completely cut off from all the action! I guess that's part of the goal, though, but letting things move on without you (successfully!) isn't as easy as it sounds. It's difficult letting it go a little...

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