Earlier this month about three dozen OLPC and Sugar community members met in Paris for the previously mentioned Sugar Camp #2 which was organized by OLPC France. Not surprisingly many participants were from France but the conference was also attended by people from Australia, Austria, Germany, Paraguay, Poland, the United States, and the UK.
The meeting took place over a weekend with Saturday being focused on presentations and discussions from various deployments, projects, and individuals. Sunday was all about getting together and getting work done. Some of us had opted to extend our stay by one day which enabled another busy and productive hacking session on Monday.
When arriving I was immediately impressed by the great job the OLPC France team had done when setting up the conference space at Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie. The first thing you saw when registering was a display of a red, a blue, and a green XO. Five steps later a screen looping through the famous of the Nosy Komba XO dance video had been set up. There was also a small exhibition of photos from the Nosy Komba project. Last but not least there was plenty of coffee available.
The five sessions on Saturday covered quite a broad spectrum and provided a good baseline for the rest of the event. We started off with a deployments round table where the OLPC projects in Uruguay, Rwanda, Nepal, the Philippines, and Nosy Komba (an island in the North-West of Madagascar) were discussed.
After lunch Pierre Léna, a French astrophysicist and member of the Academy of Science, presented the work he and his team has been doing around using the XO to learn about the Moon. Not only are they working on an inexpensive XO telescope which provides x16 magnification but they're also developing learning materials to go along with it. I was really fascinated by this project since it's such a great example of how the XO can be used to learn science.
Next up on the stage was a panel discussing the Nosy Komba project which is based on a collaboration between the "G du Coeur" student association at ESG business school and OLPC France. So far the project has distributed 160 XOs and this summer it was also connected to the Internet thanks to a 12km wireless link. It was very interesting to hear about all the challenges they ran into, particularly when setting up that wireless link to the island.
You can find more information about the project on this page on OLPC's wiki and I'm also planning on writing a separate article on the project in the coming weeks. Additionally Horst Jens from Vienna recorded a 22 minute interview with Jonathan Ragot, who is one of the project's leads, which you can listen to below or download here (MP3).
The last two sessions on Saturday were all about activities which are currently being developed by volunteers in Paris. The first one (which is still nameless) is focused on nutrition and supported by Danone Research, an aspect which led to some tough questions during the Q&A. The second one is called "A toi de jouer" ("Your turn to play") and focused on providing a simple tool for story telling in the form of small video clips. Both efforts are still a little rough around the edges but definitely interesting.
As previously mentioned Sunday and Monday were all about getting work done. People generally split into smaller groups to dive into aspects such as
- refactoring Sugar internals
- wikifying existing or writing new documentation
- developing new activities
- testing activities
- discussing design considerations
- exchanging experiences in small deployments
Speaking to people during and after the meeting days it certainly seems like everyone had a great time and got quite a bit of work done. And as with any other OLPC and Sugar community meeting many good discussions already started before breakfast and went well into the night. As such I think the social side of Sugar Camp #2 is really best summed up by the photo to the right.
You can find more photos from Sugar Camp #2 in my album on Flickr and Gary C Martin used an iPad app to take several panorama photos which you can find in his Flickr album. I'm also sure the OLPC France folks will soon update their blog with their impressions and photos. If you speak French then I'd strongly recommend you to head over there and read the posts about the Moon learning activity and their extensive Nosy Komba update from mid-August.
Now it may sound pre-mature but I'm certainly already looking forward to Sugar Camp #3 and who knows, maybe I'll also make it to Nosy Komba in the meantime...