Our amazing Bridge Project is targeting schools and communities that are plagued by shortages of basics such as textbooks, teaching materials, beginner readers, and novels. We are reaching thousands of students and teachers who have limited or no access to the internet and the wonderful educational resources online. We are “bridging” the well-known “digital divide” by creating Bridge Project Learning Centers (BPLCs), bringing access to a wealth of materials including hundreds of books, reading lessons, textbooks, teacher resources, instructional videos, encyclopedias, coding courses, hundreds of health and development articles, math courses, high school science, past exams, and more.
The Bridge Pi – solar-powered digital library:
At the heart of each Bridge Project Learning Center is a “Bridge Pi” – a portable, low-cost, high quality, solar-powered digital library. Each Bridge Pi device creates a wifi hotspot giving 30+ devices unlimited, free access to a wealth of materials saved on the Bridge Pi’s digital library. Any WiFi-enabled device (including tablets, PCs, and phones) can connect in seconds.
Using low-cost commonly available hardware (solar panel, battery pack, Raspberry Pi computer, WiFi enabled devices, projector), and high-quality curated content, this solution provides a school with the library resources it needs to enable students to improve and learn new skills in the digital age and progress more successfully in their education.
How does this work without the internet?
This solution uses a low-power Raspberry Pi computer running in the classroom. It has built-in WiFi and the ability to run a website, delivering web pages and media such as videos and audio. This leverages the work of several organizations that have made their content and websites available “offline” for use in standalone mode.
What is the Raspberry Pi?
Raspberry Pi is the name of a series of single-board computers made by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK charity that aims to educate people in computing and create easier access to computing education. The Raspberry Pi launched in 2012, and there have been several iterations and variations released since then. The original Pi had a single-core 700MHz CPU and had just 256MB RAM, and now (the Pi-4) has been completely re-engineered and upgraded with more memory and a more powerful processor.
The Raspberry Pi is a very cheap computer that runs Linux (open-source operating system), but it also provides a set of GPIO (general purpose input/output) pins that allow you to control electronic components for physical computing and explore the Internet of Things (IoT). All over the world, people use Raspberry Pis to learn programming skills, build hardware projects, do home automation, and even use them in industrial applications.
The Bridge Project has exciting initiatives underway in Ghana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe to improve educational outcomes as well as educate teachers and students on how the Bridge Pi works by assembling the library and customizing the user interface. The Bridge Project’s special emphasis on encouraging and empowering girls and women in information and communication technology (ICT) is featured in each initiative. These include projects from other USACF Bridge Pi implementations (e.g. in Zimbabwe), and organizations including Learning Without Borders and Arizona State University’s SolarSPELL project.
In South Africa at Matlapaneng Primary School” (about 40 km outside of Johannesburg) a planned highlight was the “Build Day” in October 2019 when teachers, students from the“Tech Club,” and others assembled Bridge Pis for deployment throughout the school. In addition to learning how to build and deploy digital libraries, MPS staff and Tech Club students were trained to maintain and troubleshoot the devices. As problems arise, they will be able to identify the issues and develop simple solutions. In addition, we made available additional best-practice materials and content from other sites that have digital libraries. This project is a partnership with our South African colleagues at Ubank Fund Trust.
The Matlapaneng project prepares the way for the planned 2020 launch of a Bridge Pi project in the province of Eastern Cape, South Africa.
In Zimbabwe we have readied components to assemble 8 Bridge Pis at the Bulawayo office of our colleagues at CAAP Trust. Our colleagues at CAAP have demonstrated that teens are able to assemble Bridge Pi’s using “how to” videos we produced here in the U.S. and shared online. We are developing plans for the first Bulawayo “Build Day” where local students, educators, and others will learn to make and maintain Bridge Pi’s for deployment in a range of schools, including very remote sites with severe shortages of teaching materials and educational resources.
In Ghana we have a pilot at a primary school in Accra.
What does it take to assemble a Bridge Pi?
The base components for a Bridge Pi can be purchased online (in many countries) or locally, depending on the country.
Bridge Pi Learning Hub Component list:
- Raspberry Pi 3 kit ($50 USD)
- SanDisk 128gb micro SD card ($20 USD)
- Lixada 10 watt Solar Panel Charger ($20 USD)
- RAV Power portable phone charger ($30 USD)
- Component box ($8 USD)
It takes about an hour to learn to assemble a Bridge Pi.
How much does it cost?
Supporters of the Bridge Project are able to have an enormous impact for a modest price tag. The budget for bringing a BPLC to a new site depends to a large degree on how remote the location is. For a site within a 2 hour drive the budget is approximately $3,00 and is composed of:
- Hardware Costs: $1,000 (a Bridge Pi Learning Hub and 8 tablets)
- Awareness Campaign: $500
- Training and Technical Support Workshop: $500
- Five semi-annual visits for technical support and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E): $1,000
Additionally, the Learning Center can be made far more robust with the addition of a projector ($500) and/or by adding a 12 tablet library ($1,000)
Who Can Sponsor a Learning Center? A BPLC can be sponsored by an individual, school, community center, business or organization. USACF will work to establish a direct link between the sponsor and the school, including invitations to visit as well as results from M & E visits and photos.
Next steps: Please help us reach 10 new schools this year! Contributions can be made from this website or via our Go Fund Me campaign. Please direct inquiries to Bridge Project Director Bob Rollins ( +1 510 919-8968).
For more information, please watch a short video to learn and get inspired:
- “Things that I found were amazing, absolutely great.”
- “Inspired me to write more poems”
- “3-D Diagrams that have really assisted students”