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Author: Dipeshwor Shrestha (page 1 of 2)

Interconnected Embedded Systems – MIT’s Intro EECS Class at Karkhana

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This blog post is written by Ashim Sitoula, a former Karkhana intern, who is currently studying at MIT.

Let’s face it – trying to make cool things using technology in Nepal can be a challenge, especially if you’re a high-school student or even a college student. Whether it’s building your first robot or learning to program a microcontroller, the odds are against your favor. Here are a few real-life scenarios:

  1. Circumstances out of your control come in the way of your awesome idea. Perhaps your school turns you down when you approach them for assistance; you are instead told to focus on your studies. You hear similar things back home as exams are soon approaching.
  2. If the situation is slightly better, you have everything set in place only to find out that the component you’re looking for is out of stock in the market; it’s only arriving the next month.
  3. In rare cases, everything’s worked out perfectly and you’re looking to raise the functionality of your project but you’re stuck without technical assistance.

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Learning in the digital age

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The idea that technology is the great leveler in making the world flat has been around for quite a while. The internet has loads of resources available for almost anything you can imagine. When I was an engineering student, I learned a lot from the internet but almost all the resources I searched for were technical. I had never learned anything out of the technical domain using the internet.

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Nawa Marga: Post-quake Relief Through Education

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In April 2015, Nepal experienced a devastating earthquake. As much as the earthquake was a tragedy, it was also an opportunity for us to promote new approaches to teaching that value emotional well ­being of students. In just over a month, we trained 277 trainers who went on to train 6,412 teachers in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavre, Nuwakot and Dhading. Our efforts that started with just three teachers ultimately reached 200,600 students.

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Creative Spaces I: RoboFun

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It’s my second week in NY and as part of my plan for the trip was to visit organizations that are doing interesting things in the education field, I’ve been to two amazing places so far and I’ll be writing about these amazing spaces in the Creative Spaces in NYC series.

Last week, I went to RoboFun that offers fun classes on robotics and programming for the kids. Here are some observations/questions/thoughts/wondering I had from my visit: Read more

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Teaching approaches at ITP vs IOE

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It’s my second week in NY and I sat in on Tom Igoe’s class on Understanding Networks. I’ll do some comparisons between his class and a typical undergraduate class I took, when I was in college.

The first thing is the class size, 16 students at ITP compared to 48 students at IOE (Institute of Engineering). I was wondering how ITP came up with the number 16, did they experiment with smaller or larger groups and settled for 16 to be the optimal number. I should probably ask this the next time I run into any faculty members.

The second thing is the classroom arrangement, the students at ITP sit around tables arranged in the middle of the room, facing each other. At IOE, we’d sit on benches that were arranged in rows all facing the teacher and the energy flow would be from the teacher to the student. The energy flow in the class at ITP is more organic and involves everyone in the class, not just the teacher.

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Day 1 at ITP NYU

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On the first day at (Interactive Telecommunications Program) ITP New York University (NYU), I got to observe three amazing teachers with different teaching styles. I sat in on Tom Igoe’s Intro to Physical Communication, Daniel Shiffman’s Intro to Computational Media and Benjamin Light’s Intro to Fabrication.

I sat on Tom’s 9 am and he started with a quick activity in which the students had to introduce themselves, where they were from and what manual skill they had. The class size at ITP is relatively small compared to 48 at Pulchowk Campus, where I did my undergraduate engineering from. I was amazed by the diversity of the students. They were from different backgrounds like graphics design, industrial design, marketing, journalism, electrical engineering, computer engineering and language. I was wondering how ITP addresses the varying levels, skills and interests of this diverse group of students.

And the manual skills were also diverse: swimming, rock climbing, balance, calligraphy, water color painting, running, playing sports, setting up stages for dogs and taking pictures of the dogs, photography and making things. Mine was ‘breaking things apart’.

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Positive classroom culture

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Hasin and I are teaching Science to 20 kids in a mixed grade class. We were supposed to start the class in May but since the schools were closed because of the earthquake, we had to wait till June. The school had relocated into a smaller space and some kids had recently joined the school. In the first week, we conducted activities from “Nawa Marga: Post quake relief through education” and got to know the kids.

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“First day back” trial class

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We have been getting a lot of help from teachers, psychologists, educators and volunteers in designing a post-earthquake lesson plan for schools.  Educators Sarita Bhattarai, Safala Rajbhandari, Bilquees Banu and Kausalya Khadka along with Karkhana teachers Roshan Bhatta and Sunoj Shrestha conducted a trial class for 16 kids from the Salyani Durbar camp.

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Learning continues (II)

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There has been a lot of media coverage on the temporary camps in different areas around Kathmandu. We had been planning to run engagement workshop for the kids there but we were surprised to come across one very close to Karkhana at Salyani Durbar. There were around 15 families living there who are now staying in the temporary tents after the old building collapsed.

We have been teaching 17 kids from ages 6 to 14. Karkhana teacher Roshan noticed that most of the kids enjoyed Math challenges and decided to focus on geometry and fun Math tricks.

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The Learning continues

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The Karkhana team is safe and the worst is probably over. The relief efforts being made by various organizations as well as locals is laudable.

We wanted to contribute our part as concerned citizens. Ashim and Sachet volunteered for some organizations but were disappointed with the management team. Everything was disorganized and chaotic. Sakar, Rajib and Sunoj went to Kavre to assess what the actual needs of the people were and how we could help them. They realized that people like us without any specialized skills (like first aid, sanitation, structural engineering, veterinary doctors, nurses, paramedics) were of not much help. That made us think how we could contribute. Why not do something that we are already good at? Teach.

While most of the efforts are being spent on providing the basics to those affected by the disaster, providing medical care to the injured and rescuing people, some of us should also think about how children cope with these situations, address issues like sanitation that the kids need to be aware of and provide outlets for them to express their feelings. Lets combine our efforts to create a fun learning experience for kids.

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