Reaching students, without internet, using radio broadcasts and interacting using cheap handheld devices to participate in virtual classes
Mesh-Ed solution overview using portable radios and low-cost custom handheld wireless devices in a mesh network
Lesson content is delivered via radio broadcast. The advantage of radio is that it can span long distances and rechargeable portable radios are low cost and can be shared amongst family or student groups.
What problem does your innovation solve?
Mesh-Ed addresses the need to keep children and youth engaged in education in situations with limited resources, such as no access to classroom learning and no internet connectivity. Engagement means participation and interactivity. Content can be delivered in various means, such as text book, SD cards/ebooks, podcasts & videos or via face to face tutorials. This solution complements those methods outside the classroom by connecting the student with their peer group and a learning co-ordinator.
Explain your innovation.
A teacher uses the radio broadcast to provide information and ask questions, the students respond using their Mesh-Ed device.
Using low cost Arduino prototyping micro-computing components and small but powerful Xbee radio chips coupled with a wifi gateway at one point of internet connectivity, we can connect multiple learner devices to each other in a "mesh network". These transparently pass on messages between each other in the mesh network to span large distances and reach the internet gateway device, which may be located in a different town, region or suburb.
The gateway device passes on the student responses to the internet and are aggregated at the Mesh-Ed server. I have prototyped using easily available technologies such as Node-RED running on IBM's BlueMix cloud platform and Adafruit IO's dashboard.
This allows the learning co-ordinator to receive the responses from students and have them displayed in visual form, such as responses to
- requests for questions (eg. please submit a short question and I will answer)
- answers to polls (eg please select yes if you understand this topic, or no if you need more help)
- quizzes (eg. What is the capital of France? A: London, B: Paris, C: Sydney, D: New York)
This allows for teacher/student interactivity.
Features of the Mesh-Ed device:
- Small touch screen
- Lesson poll/quiz/response
- GPS location tagging on messages
- Distress button with GPS location - Student chat groups
Mesh-Ed Student Device prototype demo: The Mesh-Ed student learning device is a low-cost, handheld, rechargeable battery operated touch screen device. It connects students to teachers and each other, in situations, such as emergencies, where access to classrooms and internet is not available. It complements other learning delivery methods such as distance education or tradition schooling. It uses low powered, low bandwidth radio communications to form a mesh network of students and teachers.
Mesh-Ed Student Device: A simple prototype interface design includes a touchscreen menu (top row), a text area to display teachers messages, and a set of response buttons.
Screen layout is kept simple in the prototype, however the screen is capable of displaying images and graphics.
Mesh-Ed Quiz Screen - This is the main screen for interactivity with the teacher. Broadcast messages from the teacher are displayed in the white background. The student can respond to polls and quizzes using the touch screen buttons laid out at the bottom of the screen. Responses are sent back to teacher using the mesh network of devices and optionally, an internet gateway/relay.
Mesh-Ed SOS Screen - The push of the HELP!!! button can trigger an alert. The next version of the prototype will include a cheap GPS module to geo-tag alert messages for mapping on the Mesh-Ed dashboard and notifications to emergency personnel.
Mesh-Ed Chat Screen - This is still in development, so a mockup is shown here. The device can be programmed to send and receive short messages on the mesh network, to allow students to chat, share information. A contact teacher message channel can be created, or the teacher can be involved in the group chat. This will connect students where they haven't been able to collaborate in the past due to lack of technology or prohibitive cost of mobile phones & internet.
Mesh-Ed Student Device prototype broken down: An Arduino microcontroller, XBee-Pro 900HP DigiMesh transceiver module and colour LCD touch screen, along with a battery are combined and programmed to create a small networked interactive device. Parts are available commercially at retail electronics and via eBay. Huge cost savings can be made by purchasing online and in bulk. Next version will add a GPS chip. Components can be miniaturised post-pilot to create a much smaller form of device.
Mesh-Ed Student Device - Side view. It's compact already, but custom circuit boards and components can be miniaturised post-pilot to create a much smaller form of device. Weather proof casing will be added in next version of the prototype, prior to pilot. Additionally, a port for recharging a rechargeable battery will be added.
Mesh-Ed Internet Gateway:
An Arduino microcontroller, XBee-Pro 900HP DigiMesh transceiver module, and ethernet shield are connected to a router to bridge the Mesh-Ed network and the Internet. This creates connectivity between the students and teachers.
The Mesh-Ed mesh network can operate in local cluster mode as a peer network of students and a teacher if internet is not available, but adding an internet gateway allows for greater scale of broadcasts.
The real innovation in the solution relies on some amazing miniature radio technology technology from Digi. This is the XBee-Pro 900HP DigiMesh chip. Even with this tiny wire antenna, I have tested the range at 800m. With larger antenna range can be extended to ~2km. Mesh-Ed mesh networked devices each relay each others messages in the background using very little power to span large distances.Utilising an XTEND relay within a local cluster can hop messages to another cluster over 40kms away. .
Pilot would use hand-cranked battery rechargers to recharge radio and Mesh-Ed device batteries. Small solar panels are also an option.
In the pilot, a small, inexpensive portable radio is used to receive lesson broadcasts. It can receive AM, FM and shortwave broadcasts. With further design, it is possible to incorporate the circuitry into the Mesh-Ed device and create an all-in-one device. But for now, handheld radios are cheap and lightweight.
Student responses are sent on the mesh network of their Mesh-Ed devices until they reach a Mesh-Ed gateway device which relays messages to/from internet.
Small packets of data transmitted using the MQTT protocol. MQTT is and efficient, low-bandwidth communications channel between teacher & student.
Student responses are shown on dashboard gauges, prototype here is using AdafruitIO.
Emergency alerts can be mapped and trigger alert. Messages and questions can be sent from teacher to students.
- children 6 - 18 years
- youth with limited face-to-face engagement with a teacher
- learners with no internet
The constituents will benefit because they will receive lessons broadcast on the radio. They can be connected and learning even if they have no internet, located remotely, isolated due to natural disaster or armed conflicts, or unable to attend a school. They can be located anywhere there is radio reception.
The Mesh-Ed device increases the connectivity and interactivity, over and above the listening to the radio lesson. Interactivity and engagement markedly adds to the motivation and learning outcomes of students.
Mesh-Ed also provides a peer support network and distress alert feature which increases safety and security.
Mesh-Ed particularly can benefit disadvantaged adolescent mothers who have had to drop out of school to care for unplanned children. This will be one of our pilot groups in Burundi, Africa.
Children in Burundi, Africa. Image by REAVI-Baho.
Gift A Dream Foundation supported class in Bangalore, India. Image courtesy of Gift A Dream Foundation.
Women and girls being assisted in REAVI-Baho office Kamenge, Burundi, Africa
Women and girls being assisted in REAVI-Baho office, Kamenge, Burundi, Africa.
How is your innovation unique?
Lessons via radio has been proven for over 50 years in Australia (School of the Air) and has been implemented in other countries (eg. Ears to the World, LAIRN), and is the subject of other submissions to this challenge.
Mesh-Ed seeks to complement and extend those distance education models by adding student interaction where poverty and lack of access to information networks/internet prevent connectivity.
The Mesh-Ed solution is unique in that it takes advantage of recent technology advances in the "Internet of Things" radio devices, rechargeable battery technology and declines in the cost of advanced components. In particular the prototype model uses tiny XBee Pro HP 900 MHz DigiMesh radio chips to provide longer range, small bandwidth transmissions which don't consume much power.
Mesh-Ed learning groups are ideally 40 - 100 students that communicate with each other, but the solution scales to have unlimited groups and individuals communicating back to the teaching co-ordinator.
What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?
Cost of Mesh-Ed device? Prototype using expensive parts cost <$100 USD. Cheaper substitutes & production economies -> Mesh-Ed device $25-$40 USD.
More expensive antennas & radio relays extend the range of the mesh network, but what is effective range in difficult terrain?
Utilising SD cards for content distribution? The LCD screen is capable of displaying video but the CPU would need to be upgraded, adding to cost. How functional do we make the device?
Security & safety: keep the device cost low to minimise security risks to the children, but what other risks? Radio transmissions will be encrypted, particularly for location data.
Partner for content & radio broadcasts & radio receiver distribution? Other OpenIDEO ideas utilise radio..
Tell us more about you.
REAVI-Baho is an NGO in Burundi, Africa with representation in Melbourne, Australia. REAVI-Baho is a network of associations fighting sexual and gender-based violence in Africa, particularly assisting young girls integrate back into school and society after traumatic events or unplanned pregnancy.
We have also partnered with Australian-based registered charity, Gift A Dream Foundation, which provides educational programs in Bangalore, India.
REAVI-Baho introductory video. REAVI-Baho is dedicated to increasing support and education for female victims of sexual and gender based violence in Burundi, Africa.
Ayda Sabri with Students who attended her 2016 Youth Leadership Course and Adult Volunteers who donate their time throughout the year to educate our 42 Children. — getting connected with Ayda Sabri in Bangalore, India. - Image courtesy of Gift A Dream Foundation
Gift A Dream Foundation Logo
What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?
Emergency Setting - Elaborate
Mesh-Ed is effective at connecting students without internet in any emergency.
Mesh-Ed will be most effective in urban populations, settlements, camps or towns where there is more than one learner within a kilometre radius. This allows the mesh network to connect learners. However, 40 students, each located within one kilometre of the next will allow each to communicate with each other and a local teacher. One internet gateway within this network will extend the solution to remote teachers.
Where will your innovation be implemented?
Pilot in one or more of:
-Indigenous communities in Utopia, Northern Territory, Australia, where learning is often interrupted by remoteness, flooding, and social issues.
- Kamenge, Burundi, Africa with REAVI-Baho representatives on the ground. Piloting with already identified adolescent mothers who've dropped out of school
- Bangalore, India, extending a Gift A Dream Foundation's programs.
- Any other suitable pilot location in association with new partners
Post-pilot options unlimited.
Experience in Implementation Country(ies)
Relying initially on REAVI-Baho Australia for concept development.
Pilot testing can be extended to REAVI-Baho, Africa and Gift A Dream Foundation, India.
We have contacts in Central Australia, but new links to be formed with indigenous support & education agencies in Australia.
We would also tap into knowledge of Queensland and Northern Territory School of the Air program and seek to pilot with them.
We plan to collaborate with Ears To The World, and international aid distribution agencies.
I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for less than a year.
Sector Expertise - Elaborate
REAVI-Baho has seven years experience managing campaigns addressing the rights of girls in Burundi, Africa. Gift A Dream Foundation, registered in Australia, operating in Bangalore, India, has over 4 years experience establishing a school and school funding programs.
Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.
We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.
REAVI-Baho operates in Burundi, Africa & Melbourne, Australia.
Gift A Dream operates in Bangalore, India & Melbourne, Australia.
Mesh-Ed promotional video: https://www.powtoon.com/online-presentation/e7RWq4UjNra/?mode=movie
REAVI-Baho website: https://reavibaho.wordpress.com
REAVI-Baho intro video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=146YYytfNPs
REAVI-Baho Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/REAVIBAHOBURUNDI
Gift A Dream Foundation website: https://www.giftadream.org.au
Gift A Dream Foundation Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GiftADreamFoundation