In summer 2003, Design that Matters and four members of the MIT Kinkajou design team conducted an extensive field study in Mali and Benin. Among the objectives of this study was to field-test the Kinakjou beta prototype. This journal is an account of our experience. Click here for the Kinkajou Design Review entries in our 2003 West Africa Field Journal.
Here are some classroom action shots from our most recent field visit. At this point, the night-time adult literacy courses have been underway for six to eight weeks, at a rate of three to four classes per week. Each village class has two volunteer instructors, or karamogos. Both instructors received training in the samagoya literacy method from the Malian NGOs partnering with World Education. In addition, one member from each team attended the Kinkajou training seminar run by World Education before the start of the school year.
Kinkajou #131 in Kati, near Bamako
The instructors in Kati, a village about 30km from Bamako, were very creative about how they used the Kinkajou. The projected image filled one whole wall of the classroom. The result were letters over a foot tall, easy to read from any point in the classroom. This was important, as the karamogos only had one kerosene lantern for the entire classroom, making it impossible for the students to read from their workbooks at their desks.
Demonstrating image size in Digani
At another class in Digani, near Segou, we took the Kinkajou outside to demonstrate ways of changing image size and brightness for the instructor. Note that the field team, Mali staff, students and instructors are included for scale.
The field visit provided us an opportunity to gather additional data about the classroom environment in villages across Mali. In total we visited four classrooms over a three day period simply to feel what it's like to try to learn in this environment and to listent to students and teachers share their experiences with us.
The following document describes environmental conditions found in each of the classroom as well as interactions between students and teachers over each 2.5 hour class. A breakdown of costs related to use of kerosene laterns to provide some illumination in the classrooms also is provided.
A group of students studying their workbooks by kerosene lantern in Sébénikoro near Kati
Karamogo Drissa Fané and chalkboard exercises by lantern-light in Sébénikoro near Kati.
We would like the user experience for someone receiving a new Kinkajou to more closely resemble that of a new computer owner. To wit, a new computer arrives in the box with a big paper diagram explaining how to connect everything and turn on the power. Once the computer starts, an interactive menu pops up explaining basic features like how to use input devices and navigate the operating system.
Here's an example setup diagram from Dell [PDF].
Our idea for a Kinkajou equivalent would be a sticker on the projector base, with a cartoon demonstrating how to connect the power and orient the projector, perhaps including text in Bambara, French and English (or whatever languages are appropriate for the setting). Inside the projector, the first few slides of every microfilm reel will explain more about how to use the machine, for example how to advance the film, adust the focus, and change the image size/brightness.
Moulaye Yatara, karamogo, or literacy teacher, in Digani, Mali
In observing the classes in session, we realized that the microfilm represents an opportunity to present all kinds of information to the class and teachers, beyond the classroom presentation material.
The samagoya method used in the literacy courses is new. In addition to the workbook that every student reads, the literacy teacher (or karamogo, in Bambara) receives a teachers manual that gives tips for each session. Despite the guide, we observed several instructions skipping or otherwise mangling steps.
Also, only one of the two karamogos in each class received training on the Kinkajou, and that was only a one-day session. At least one teacher was clearly uncomfortable using the projector. In Digani, the karamogo only used the Kinkajou for 15 minutes in the 2.5-hour class. The projected image was quite small. It isn't clear whether this karamogo received Kinkajou training.
Karamogos Moulaye Yatara and Martine Sogoba with Kinkajou #135 in Digani, near Segou
In the future, we like the idea of creating groupings of slides for each class, separated by blank slides to enable use of the projector as a light source:
Everyone we met is still using the original cardboard box to store and transport the Kinkajou. One teacher leaves the Kinkajou at a friend's house near the classroom, because the box is too inconvenient to carry on the half-kilometer walk home. The nifty battery pack, on the other hand, is easy to carry, and reminds her of a briefcase. She takes it home every day to charge in the mango grove near her house.
The amazingly long-lived Kinkajou box
Most people didn't consider the Kinkajou handle, well, a handle. It helps that Mali is very dry. A cardboard box in a tropical climate like Cote d'Ivoire would rot to shreds in a few weeks--presumably people would start to notice other ways to carry the projector around.
Kinkajou #135, currently being using in the village of Digani in the Segou region, rattled when I picked it up. Attached are pictures of what I found inside. A capacitor had broken off the board, perhaps as a result of a bad solder connection and maybe some rough handling.
Board with missing capacitor
Attached is a technical assessment of the failure, and a recommendation for repair.
The 100uF capacitor that broke off is right after the on/off switch.
It's job is to:
No decent power supply would be designed without such a capacitor. Is it absolutely, critically essential? Based on your empirical evidence, perhaps not. Should it be replaced? I would recommend yes because a noisy power supply could cause the projector to mis-behave or shut down if the power pack connector is disturbed.
We should have Emmanuel fix the cap, if only as an exercise. It is probably the easiest repair to do because it does *not* require that he remove the PC board. The cap is right at the edge near the cover (that's why it got damaged so easily).
This kind of feedback is important. Let's pay heed to this cap for the next round of builds. It could be as simple as gluing the part down.
Here are four photos documenting the capacitor replacement.
1. Preparation of leads w/dimensions
2. "Before shot" showing nearby via
3. Cap position prior to soldering
4. "After shot" showing finished work
The pads shown in photo #2 should be cleaned of any remains of the broken capacitor, and "tinned" (add solder so it is shiny). In photos #2 and #3, there are blue arrows that show a nearby "via" (i.e. hole). It is imperative that this via not be shorted to the capacitor. After the repair, if the technician has an ohm-meter, he should make sure there is no short between the via and the "-" lead of the capacitor. If he cuts the leads to 2.5mm lengths shown in photo #1, he shouldn't have a problem. Regarding polarity, the "-" side is marked in gray and is closest to the via. The "+" side is near to the edge of the board. The lettering on the cap are always oriented as shown, and can be used as a guide for orientation. In other works orient as shown in the photos.
The Mali team reports that the solar panel connector jack is emerging as another failure mode for the system. The problem appears to be that, once they've finished charging the battery, teachers tend to pull the solar panel connector out by the cord, instead of holding the connector.
This has lead to two connectors failing so far. Here you can see Kinkajou technician Emmanuel Coulibaly taking a battery voltage reading, something they do on every site visit, and before and after every classroom visit. In the photo you can see the power socket adapter he put together to make it easier to take readings.
Kinkajou technician Emmanuel Coulibaly taking a battery voltage reading
Here you can see Sitan Komina, the teacher (karamogo) responsible for this unit, showing her battery charge data sheet, where she records the time she connects and disconnects the solar panel every day, and the color of the LED on the charge controller window. DtM field rep Ousmane Samake said that she is the only teacher (out of six sites visited to date) where he's always found the battery charging. In some other sites, it looked like the panel had never left the box.
Sitan Komina, karamogo in Toubana (a village in the Koumantou region), with battery data sheet
The solar panel connector fails when metal pin pulls out of the plastic housing to the point where the solder joint breaks. Here we've pulled apart the clever repair effected by Komina's husband (by no means a professional electrician), using tape and some spare copper wire. Emmanuel later went back to the village to replace the connector entirely, using an identical part that is (we were happy to learn) available in Bamako electronics shops.
Solar panel connector, showing village repair
As part of the ongoing pilot test of the Kinkajou in Mali, field representative Ousmane Samake and project technician Emmanuel Coulibaly have been visiting participating schools and evaluating the use and condition of the Kinkajous.
Of the 10 schools visited, half had Kinkajous that were in need of repair. The most common problem was that the jack that plugs into the solar panel charger had broken been broken.
Karamogos from the villages of Digani and Bambougou-Wèrè brought their Kinkajous to OMAES (the local NGO) for evaluation. In Digani's case, the second soldering point of the jack was deficient.
Broken connector jack of Digani's Kinkajou
In the case of Bambougou-Wèrè's Kinkajou, however, it seems that the cause of the breakage was a hungry goat!
Low battery charge was also a common issue across the sites. In the village of N'goye, the karamogo has come up with an innovative process for charging the Kinkajou. He has set up a permanent housing for th solar panel on his own roof and extended the wire down to the floor. Every day he comes home and plugs in the battery.
Kinkajou battery pack recharging
Solar panel on the roof of the karamogo's home
Extension wire from the roof
In the village of Dougabougou, the karamogo addressed the problem of low light in the classroom by splicing a wire off of the Kinkajou battery in order to power a 5W car lamp.
Battery plug for lamp
The Kinkajou, lamp, and battery wired together in the classroom
This "shortcut" reportedly shorted out later when the Kinkajou was plugged into the battery. Repairs were carried out by the karamogo, who bought a 12V car battery and a new lamp for use in his own home when classes were out of session.
Literacy classes in the village of Songuéla I have been shifted to the daytime, providing an excellent opportunity to test the Kinkajou under different conditions. Field rep Ousmane Samake reports that the karamogo closes the doors and windows of the classroom in order to achieve the required darkness. The daytime temperatures make heat dissipation for the Kinkajou difficult, so it is only used 15 minutes at a time.
Community ownership is a crucialissue in development work. If a community has no stake in a project, there is often no incentive to initiate local innovation or even maintain the project. It was encouraging to learn that, in an effort to address the problem of lighting during nighttime Kinkajou classes, some villages purchased batteries and lamps of their own accord. In the village of Kléla, the former mayor bought a lighting system for the class.
Car battery used to power lighting system in Kléla
Lamps and wiring in the Kléla classroom
In Ngorodougou, community ownership of the project resulted in a few local innovations:
B&W Kinkajou projection on wall "screen"
Car battery used to power the lighting system
Bright car lamp in use during a nighttime literacy class
Ngorodougou Kinkajou solar panel with repaired cord
In the village of Sorocoro, the karamogo had some difficulty with keeping the battery charged using the solar panel. It was found that the panel was being placed in partial shade at an orientation that didn't capture the maximum solar energy flux. Field rep Ousmane Soumake coached the karamogo on how to use the solar battery charger properly.
Solar panel in partial shade, charging behind a fence
The most serious of the Kinkajou malfunctioned occured in Sendala, where the film advance mechanism had become stuck. The film had come off the spools and was jamming the machine, but did not tear.
Despooled film inside the Sendala Kinkajou
View of spool and advance mechanism
Here the school Parents' Association pooled their resources to purchase an oil lamp for the classroom. Unfortunately, the light from this lamp was insufficient and there were 18 pocket flashlights being used by individuals.
The karamogo also reported an imbalance in the battery case. Upon inspection, it was found that the battery had become glued to the opposite side of the case.
Opening up the battery case reveals the source of the imbalance
During classes, the Kinkajou projection was quite small and hard to discern. Field rep Ousmane Samake coached the karamogo on adjusting the size of the projection and on rewinding and advancing the microfilm.
Ousmane Samake, DtM's Field Representative in Mali, has completed his final redesign recommendations for the Kinkajou, following the conclusion of the first phase of the Kinkajou's pilot test. These recommendations are the culmination of observations and evaluations of the Kinkajou in use over the course of the 6-month pilot test, in which 45 communities across Mali participated. Ousmane and project technician Emmanuel Coulibaly visted 10 participating communities and evaluated the use and condition of the Kinkajous at these sites. In particular, they looked for common technical issues concerning the day-to-day operation of the Kinkajou and areas in which teachers could use their Kinkajous more effectively in the classroom. Ousmane's redesign recommendations include proposed changes in microfilm content, teacher training methods, and the monitoring and evaluation of the pilot study.
Read his complete report: [Word DOC]