ECE Projects Introduce Computers in Schools in Rural Tanzania

February 14, 2011

A group of students and faculty traveled to Tanzania last summer as part of a continuing project to give schools in remote villages in Tanzania access to the educational resources and information of the Internet. The project includes student work by ECE capstone design teams. It started in 2008 with the installation of a solar-powered computer in a school located in a remote village southwest of Mount Kilimanjaro. Each year, ECE teams expand the project.

This year, one capstone team developed a time-sharing computer system with audio integration to further the educational opportunities for the students using the system. There were two schools online, and this team helped to bring a third school online during the trip to Tanzania.

Another team project focused on building a more power-efficient Internet connection for the schools. The team designed a solar-powered “connect-ondemand” satellite/radio link. With the new design in place, the system draws minimum power from the batteries while optimizing the time of its usage.

Both of the 2010 projects were supported by MSU alumni George and Vickie Rock, with a matching grant from the Dow Chemical Company.

“I went for the first time this summer,” says Lalita Udpa, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who recently joined the faculty team guiding the students’ work on these projects. “I was captivated by the country and the people. The people are very smart, very artistic, and friendly.” She believes that it was a “life changing experience” for most of the students.