Bridge Project

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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.

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, PC’s, and phones) can connect in seconds.

The Bridge Project has exciting initiatives underway in South Africa and Zimbabwe to train teachers and students to assemble and deploy Bridge Pi’s. The Bridge Project’s special emphasis on encouraging and empowering girls and women in information and communication technology (ICT) is featured in each initiative.

In South Africa our “Building Classroom Digital Libraries at Matlapaneng Primary School” project is advancing rapidly. We have applied for a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa and are cautiously optimistic about receiving embassy funding and support. This project will build on the success of our pilot projects at Matlapaneng Primary (about 40 km outside of Joburg). A planned highlight will be “Build Day” in October when teachers, the student “Tech Club,” and others from the community will assemble Bridge Pi’s for deployment throughout the school.

In addition to learning how to build and deploy digital libraries, MPS staff and Tech Club students will be trained to maintain and troubleshoot the devices. As problems arise, they will be able to identify the issues and develop simple solutions. We will make available additional best-practice materials and content from other sites that have digital libraries. 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.

This project is a partnership with our SA colleagues at Teba Fund Trust. The Matlapaneng project prepares the way for the planned 2020 launch of a Bridge Pi assembly center in the city of Mthata (about 900 km south of Joburg) to bring the Bridge Project to sites in the province of Eastern Cape.

In Zimbabwe we have readied components to assemble 8 Bridge Pi’s 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.

Connected Learning Conference

Bridge Project leaders Bob Rollins and Manning Sutton will be presentingat the Connected Learning Conference at the University of California Irvine in October. Workshop attendees will “Learn to build robust, low-cost, solar powered digital libraries for deployment” at schools in Zim and SA. Thorough documentation of the steps will be shared online through Carnegie Mellon University.

What does it take to assemble a Bridge Pi?

The components for a Bridge Pi can be purchased online in the U.S. for about $125 USD. In Joburg similar components cost about 2700 ZAR ($200 USD). Getting components to Zimbabwe has additional challenges. Import duties are quite high and we are working on registering as a manufacturing entity that would not be subject to duty.

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 ($27 USD)
  • Component box ($8 USD)

It takes about an hour to learn to assemble a Bridge Pi.

We are very excited about the upcoming workshop at the Connected Learning conference and planned “Build Days” in SA and Zim as we work towards our long term goal of reaching 1,000+ school sites. At our pilot projects BP Learning Centers have shown that using these resources not only boost English proficiency, love of literacy, and pass rates, but open doors for curious learners and spark their passion and enthusiasm.

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 M & E: $1,000

Total: $3,000

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).

Please check out these short (less than 2 minute) testimonials: