*** Update: This page remains for historical reference. Many of the solutions here have been upgraded and the projects have advanced. See our current project page for more current information. ***
It may not be readily obvious, so if you’re wondering why a bunch of hackers are into education, first read this post: Why Education?
We work with “Western educators” to provide computer-based training (CBT) software and hardware solutions that assist remote area and disadvantaged schools, most of which have no (or slow) Internet connectivity.
We’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to find the best free education solutions, with a specific focus on solutions that are rugged, resilient and relevant for disadvantaged areas.
This has culminated in the development of the Intel CAP (Content Access Point), which has taken new life with our partners, WorldPossible, as the “RACHEL Plus” and has a dedicated website here. Please note that both the Rachel Offline and WorldPossible.org web sites are now the permanent home for our Education initiative. These pages serve as a historical reference and include some behind-the-scenes information about our motivations and development efforts.
Our home-built solution, dubbed the “RuggedPi”, was a do-it-yourself project that served as a demonstration for the Intel CAP as it was being developed. The “Loaded” Chromebook is a client solution based on the Google Chromebook. All three solutions provide educational content in various forms, either to wi-fi connected users (Intel CAP or “RuggedPi”) or directly to clients (the “Loaded Chromebook”).
All of our hardware and software options are designed to provide world-class educational curriculum and resources to disadvantaged areas that need them the most. All of our components are battery-operated (rechargeable from mains and solar) and contain material from Khan Academy, Wikipedia, The Goodwill Community Foundation, CK-12, Project Gutenberg, Hesperian and more. Our preferred laptop, the “Loaded” Chromebook costs approximately $220 per seat, and our wi-fi servers range in price from $30 to $300. When combined and deployed, our systems provide an affordable way to add an electronic library and a wealth of training material to any school, anywhere.
This fifteen-minute video summarizes the problem, our goals and outlines the solutions we tried before landing on our “dream combo”. You’ll also learn more about the Chromebook and the BRCK and also about how we’ve worked with the BRCK team in Kenya.
Please note that this video presents a dated solution set, and that our preferred solutions can be found on our partner website at RachelOffline.
There are several excellent computer-based educational software packages that are available online, free of charge. You can either install them yourself individually, or combine them for maximum benefit.
Our Educational Software page lists the various packages we use, and describes how to get them, combine them and install them.
The “Loaded” Chromebook
As we set out to create the most resilient, rugged and relevant educational package for disadvantaged areas, we found that the creation of a server was a much simpler challenge than coming up with a client that fit the bill. We tested numerous tablets, smartphones, netbooks, laptops and desktops. In the end none of them could meet all of our requirements. We found the Chromebooks to be inexpensive, easy to maintain, field-resettable, durable, easy to repair, expandable and most surprisingly practically impervious to viruses and “tough to mess up”.. all at a surprising shelf price of less than $200. We leveraged this amazing little laptop and created what we like to call the “Loaded” Chromebook. Read more about the Loaded Chromebook here.
RACHEL, the Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning is a combination of freely available software and content modules that make it easy to bring online educational materials into places with limited or no internet access. The content is available in multiple languages and can be customized to suit local needs. Each of our server solutions distribute this content via wi-fi to smartphone, tablet or computer users.
The RACHEL-Plus distributes RACHEL content via wi-fi and is housed in a ruggedized, battery-powered device developed specifically for this purpose by Intel®. It serves 2-50 simultaneous users and is a ready-made solution costing $399. Read more.
The RuggedPi (formerly PelicanPi) is a battery-powered, water-resistant solar-charged powerhouse designed by hackers for makers, builders and the DIYer. Parts cost approximately $300. Read more.
The RACHEL-Pi distributes RACHEL content via wi-fi to up to 20 users and costs $99. Read more.