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My Big Campus

 

Our experience suggest that one of the critical barriers to learning is a non conducive environment at home. Moreover, the reality is that a school is not in a position to change the social environment within the homes, given the historic realities of poverty, illiteracy and oppression. The challenge then is to attempt at creating an environment that enables and facilitates learning for the first generation learner. This can be done with the involvement of the parents and capacity building of the community as a whole. We believe this is the only path in transforming the tribal child's life through the tool of education.

In these efforts, the school has initiated a project, titled My Big Campus – a School Without Walls, that will break the barriers of a physical and conventional school by allowing children to access our educational digital content at home on devices like a tablet, android phone, laptop or computer.

The school will use the 2. 4/5.8 Ghz  de-licensed spectrum to seed a wireless network to create a wi-fi mesh targeted at extending the school educational resources to the homes of the first generation tribal learners in the rural area of Dahanu Taluka. Simultaneously the school will continue to develop the much needed contextual learning resources for the primary levels on its virtual learning site - My Big Campus.  Students will be accessing this in school and then once again at home.

In addition to being able to access the virtual learning environment at home, the school is also setting up a video conferencing server which will allow students and teachers to conduct evening classes and communicate with each other on a real time basis.  We believe that this kind of access will be empowering to not only the students of Tamarind Tree School but to several members of their family and community living in the catchment area of this network.

Therefore while the school is looking at reaching a physical enrollment of 300 students, My Big Campus can actually reach out to several hundreds of children and adults across several village,  once they join and are logged in to the network.

Mesh Networking

A wireless mesh network (WMN) is a concept that promises to democratise the process of global digitalisation. a concept as seen as a community's answer to the growing stranglehold of corporates over communication technologies. Tamarind Tree along with this technology partner Nomad Communications have been experimenting with the concept for the past several years and are    convinced that it could be the best solution for last mile connectivity for the communities.

Wireless mesh is a communications network made up of radio nodes, organized in a mesh topology rather than a starred topography which is currently being used by the Wireless Internet Service Providers . Wireless mesh networks often consist of mesh clients, mesh routers and gateways. The mesh clients are often laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices while the mesh routers forward traffic to and from the gateways which may, but need not, be connected to the Internet.


The coverage area of the radio nodes working as a single network is sometimes called a mesh cloud. Access to this mesh cloud is dependent on the radio nodes working in harmony with each other to create a radio network. A mesh network is reliable and offers redundancy. When one node can no longer operate, the rest of the nodes can still communicate with each other, directly or through one or more intermediate nodes. Wireless mesh networks can self form and self heal. Wireless mesh networks can be implemented with various wireless technologies including 802.11, 802.15, 802.16, cellular technologies and need not be restricted to any one technology or protocol.

Wireless mesh architecture is a first step towards providing cost effective and dynamic high-bandwidth networks over a specific coverage area. In a traditional network a router communicates exclusively to a centralised Access Point on the one hand and the clients on the other. In a mesh network a router acts as a station and access point simultaneously. Mesh infrastructure carries data over large distances by splitting the distance into a series of short hops. Intermediate nodes not only boost the signal, but cooperatively pass data from point A to point B by making forwarding decisions based on their knowledge of the network. Such an architecture may, with careful design, provide high bandwidth, spectral efficiency, and economic advantage over the coverage area.

This type of infrastructure can be decentralized with no central server. . Nodes act as routers to transmit data from nearby nodes to peers that are too far away to reach in a single hop, resulting in a network that can span larger distances. The topology of a mesh network is also reliable, as each node is connected to several other nodes. If one node drops out of the network, due to hardware failure or any other reason, its neighbors can quickly find another route using a routing protocol.

Tamarind Tree Wimesh

There is an impressive penentration of wifi enabled smart phones even in the rural areas of Maharashtra. Moreover there is an increasing desire even among illiterate parents to provide computer access to their children.  However as far as conventional internet access is concerned, the last mile connectivity continues to be as elusive as it was five years ago even with the supposed availability of 3G spectrum. Moreove the data charges on the GSM network continue to be prohibitive.

The Tamarind Tree wi-mesh is an experiment of creating an organic network that would be created and owned –of course with a lot of landholding-- by the community with their active participation and to whatever extent possible, even financial contribution.