What started as a 15-year-old student’s idea to help some technologically disadvantaged students, has morphed into a mission that will likely improve the educational opportunities of students across the southeast Asian country of Nepal.
Ardrey Kell sophomore Avideep Pradhan is a straight-A student with a wide variety of afterschool activities including DECA club, track, Speech and Debate and Student Council.
He’s also responsible for the planning and construction of computer labs in two schools in Kathmandu, Nepal, the capital of a small country situated half way around the world from his Ballantyne area home.
“I started thinking about this in eighth grade. We had Google Classroom, Chromebooks, Smartboards, a whole digital learning environment. That gave us such an advantage when it came to education,” said Avideep.
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“Then I started thinking about all the kids in around the world that didn’t even have the opportunity to go to school.”
When his dad, Abin Pradhan, a Nepal native, announced that the family — including himself, Avideep’s mother Deepa, Avideep, and his brother, Arya — would be taking a trip to his home country the next summer, Avideep started making plans.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people out. When I found out about the trip, I told my dad about these inexpensive processors I read about online. We started talking about how to build a computer lab there,” said Avideep.
Pradhan, says the project was perfectly matched to his son’s skill set.
“Avi has always been tech savvy. From early childhood he could easily find his way around a smartphone, tablets and computers,” said Pradhan.
“When he told us he wanted use most of his savings from pocket money and gift cards (around $950) and asked if we could match that fund, we knew he was serious. We were more than happy to match that amount and get some more support from family and friends. Everybody thought this was a great project, especially coming from the mind and heart of a ninth-grader.”
Avideep did further research and settled on Raspberry Pi processors equipped with ePaath, a locally developed digital module containing interactive curriculum for grades 3-7. He added back-up power supplies, and specced out monitors and keyboards to purchase in Nepal. The system would work on very little electrical power, and would still be valuable to students even if Internet access was not available.
Last summer, once his family arrived in Nepal, Avideep and his dad visited several schools to determine which two were best situated for the project. Aided by school staff and Rotary Club volunteers, they installed computer labs in Jana Uddhar Seconday School in Chunikehle and in Tikabhairab English School in Karyabinayak. They also provided training for the teachers.
Now he’s back in class at Ardery Kell. Between his extracurricular school activities, AP psychology, AP computer science and other advanced level courses, and his hobbies (playing piano and guitar and learning videography and photography), Avideep keeps tabs on the two computer labs, some 8,000 miles away. While there have been a few issues with the computers, he says, overall the labs are running well and the students are gaining great benefit from their new technology.
The computer can do almost everything a standard desktop can do, but at a fraction of a cost and uses a 10th of power. This is an attractive feature because electricity is available only 30 percent to 50 percent of the time.
Avideep and his dad are making plans to bring computer labs to other schools in Nepal. The project, dubbed “eBlackboard,” has a professional 28-page business plan, a website, and nonprofit paperwork in process. Others have signed on to help both in the planning and execution of the project. The Rotary Club of Durbarmarg, located in Kathmandu, and ECCA, another local nonprofit, funded solar batteries and chargers and is helping to monitor the labs. Family friends from California will be taking more processors to Nepal this summer, helping to expand both labs to 10 terminals each.
Avideep hopes to raise enough money to install computer labs in several more schools, setting the stage for a computer revolution in Nepalese education.
When asked about his student’s influence across the globe, Ardrey Kell principal David Switzer says he’s not surprised.
“Avi’s an incredible young man who is really driven to give back. He is a leader who’s always coming up with creative ideas to help others,”“said Switzer.
Pradhan says he expects to see more of the same from his oldest son.
“As parents we couldn’t be more happier and proud to realize that our son was interested in using his entrepreneurial skill, time and money for community service half way around the world. We have faith that he will continue down this path of service and help more children in need, wherever they may be,” said Pradhan.
Melinda Johnston is a freelane writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about the eBlackboard project and how you can help, visit www.eBlackboard.org.