Friday, July 25, 2014

The Robotics Equipment Saga

The camp curriculum includes a few themes: "Computer Science Unplugged" games to teach abstract logic, basic internet and computer skills, Scratch programming, self-confidence building sessions, a small research project and robotics.  The materials for all of those except the robotics are pretty easy to transport over country borders.  However, the robotics modules required shipping 20 robotics kits and as many laptops from two countries into small feat.

Michigan State University donated 10 robotics kits and loaned 7 laptops.  The laptops must return to the U.S. because Rwanda does not accept computer donations for equipment more than three years old.  IBM Germany loaned another 10 kits and laptops.  These too must be shipped back to their country of origin.  Many thanks to MSU and IBM for their support.

It is an understatement to say there are many considerations when transporting electronics equipment between countries.  Software licensing issues come into play, as do import and export controls for all countries involved.  However, despite all the rigamarole, all of our equipment has arrived in Kigali...we think.   This is due in large part to efforts by Celest from our team.

Benjamin Roode and the U.S. Embassy staff here also have been fantastic to work with.  In addition to paying the airfare for two graduate students in our group, they allowed us to ship all electronics equipment to the Embassy.  Embassy personnel are even handling the customs process for us.  The MSU equipment made it all the way through customs weeks ago and had been sitting in Benjamin's office.  On Friday, part of the team visited the U.S. Embassy in Kigali to meet Benjamin and retrieve equipment shipped from MSU.

We hear rumors that the equipment from IBM Germany is also in country but still in customs.  Embassy personnel think they'll be able to retrieve the kits and computers from customs at Kigali airport this coming week.  Bad news is that we leave early Monday morning for Janja in the Northern Province near the Rwanda/Uganda border where the camp will be held.  Good news is that the Embassy will send a driver to Janja with our equipment as soon as it is liberated from customs.  We look forward to seeing the remainder of our equipment soon.

Here's part of the team as we head to the Embassy.  No pictures of the Embassy because our electronics equipment were held at the front gate while we were on premises.

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