Day 1: Bangladesh Roadtrip – setting off for Dhaka.
After a 14 hour flight we arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, safe but very tired. Local time it was 4.40am in the morning but for us it was around 11.30pm. No problem getting all our electrics through (100 Micro:Bits, 10 Crumble Robot kits & 11 Robo:Bit buggies) but we did faced a very long wait at passport control.
Once getting through that we then met up with Luke and Kobir who are the founders of CAFFE (Computers are free For Everyone) who are our main hosts whilst in Bangladesh. We drove to Steven’s house, a friend of Luke and Kobir. Here we had a lovely breakfast of fried egg and toast. Shortly after this, I began to feel ill because of all the food I’d had on the plane, the 14hr flight and, perhaps, the heat. After just a small rest we went out to a nice local cafe and met up with the Code Club Bangladesh’s Farhana Akter Chowdhury (head of Country Operation) & Mehnaz Sharmin Mohona (Project Manager) to organise our Code Club sessions and get to meet them. However we had to cut it short due to my jippy stomach.
After meeting them we went back and I had a ten hour sleep and woke up feeling fine and ready for the next day. Phew, back to top form again.
Day 2: Bangladesh Roadtrip – flying to Sylhet.
After a ten hour sleep I felt much better and was now ready for our short domestic flight to Sylhet. We drove to the airport and got on the plane with Luke and Kobir.
When we got off, I was very excited to see what CAFFE was like. So, after collecting our luggage, we met Kobir’s father and drove off towards the CAFFE base. As all of us were hungry, after our flight, we decided to get some food on our way. Can you believe it – we went to a KFC. When we finally arrived at CAFFE we got a tour of the space and where we would be staying. We were amazed with how big and nice our room was. The school space is amazing too.
Finally in the evening we ran a small ‘workshop’ with some of the volunteers where we made up the Robo:Bit’s so that we could use them straight away, already made up, for our Robot challenge. This was our first workshop really. It went okay, except we realised that following the instructions exactly was key to success – to avoid putting parts on the wrong way round – a bit embarrassing!
Day 3: Bangladesh Roadtrip – Micro:Bit and Robot workshops begin.
Today we ran our very first proper workshops, three Microbit and one Crumble Robot workshop. In the Microbit ones we went through a series of different activities which were:
- Microbit icebreaker game
- Displaying the Bangla ‘B’ on the Microbit
- Scrolling their names (in English) on the Microbit
- Showing the temperature on the Microbit
It was really great fun to use the MegaBit in these sessions. We got through all of these well with all of the day’s Microbit groups and even managed, in one workshop, to get the participants to compete against each other to get the hottest and coldest temperature on the Microbit. However, for me, the most amazing thing was that one of the volunteers who helped out on the first workshop was able to teach all of the overflow students in the second workshop, how to use the Microbit!
As well as Microbit workshops we also did one crumble workshop. Just before this workshop I took all of the words out of my worksheet, so that all that was left was the pictures. It ended up working well; instead of reading English instructions about how to do it, they could look at the pictures on the worksheet for reference. In this workshop we even managed to end with a race!
After all of the workshops me and mum went on a rickshaw ride with Kobir and Roxsana. It ended up being amazing and we got to see what Sylhet was really like, with cows roaming the roads and makeshift bridges over some slum-like areas but also surrounded beautiful lush green landscapes. I would definitely do it again, it was way better than travelling by car.
Day 4: Bangladesh Roadtrip – more workshop including fabulous Wearable Micro:Bit session using MI Power boards from Kitronix.
Today we did our second load of workshops, like yesterday, three Microbit and one Crumble Robot workshop. It was a brilliant day with some great coding and robot building.
Our first Microbit workshop we did with the CAFFE volunteers. In this we got through the basics quickly. After that we attached the Kitronik MI:Power Boards to the Micobit so that we didn’t have to use the big battery packs. We then downloaded the code for the pedometer and put them into our wearable Microbit Watches. Then we went out on a walk down the road to test the wearables out and when we got back we had mixed results, some saying 20 steps, some saying 30, some saying 40 and some saying even more. So we concluded that the pedometer isn’t too accurate but we all had a really good time.
In our second Microbit workshop of the day we got through everything so quickly that we had to come up with a challenge for them. It was to make a 4 letter Bangla words which they could make with all of their Microbits put together. One of the groups made the word ‘Don’t Do It’!
In the final Microbit workshop of the day we had an older group and so after completing the basics we decided to do a ‘Rock, Paper & Scissors’ game with them and it was a lot of work, however, after a lot of trial and error we managed to finish the game and compete against each other in a rock paper scissors tournament.
In the Crumble workshop we had a very young group who all managed to finish their robots and really enjoyed themselves while doing so. We also managed to have a race with this group and had to do a second one as there was some cheat!
Day 5: Bangladesh Roadtrip – day trip along the Shari river to the border of Indian and Tea Gardens.
After eight workshops in two days we were in need of a much deserved day out. So we went on a day trip with the CAFFE staff.
We first went to the Shari river and took a boat trip down it. We stopped at a small island and I went swimming in the water with Luke and Kobir’s father. After a little while we got back on the boat and went down to the Indian border. Sadly we couldn’t cross it or we’d be shot. It was a great trip and we got to see and go on one of the biggest rivers in Bangladesh.
After that we headed off to a Tea Garden. From the Tea Gaden we could even see the Indian Border. The first thing we saw was the national flower of Bangladesh, the Water-Lily. We then headed over a small bridge like that of the ones we saw on our rickshaw trip and up a steep hill to the top. As we came over I saw the amazing sites around us, apart from a busy road it was all green and natural. From the top I could just about make out Mum crossing the bridge. It was lovely at the top and we spent around ten minutes up there taking in the view before we headed back down through the tea plants to the road at the bottom of the hill where we got in the car and drove back home.
It was a great day out and it refreshed us, ready for the next round of workshops!
Day 6: Bangladesh – visiting Autism school and Mozilla community.
Today we went to the Sylhet Art and Autism School and Hex.it.
We got in a CNG taxi and drove to the Autism school where we were greeted nicely and shown into the room where we’d be running our workshops. We then set up the computers and handed the Microbits out to all the kids. Firstly we played the Microbit icebreaker game and then we took some of the kids to the computers and got them coding. However some of the kids really struggled so we got them onto Paint so that they could create some art. Due to the shortage of laptops available, Mum & Roxsana had to play the Microbic icebreaker with those who weren’t coding . At the end of the workshop, we gave a Microbit to a boy who really understood what he was doing and enjoyed himself. After that we did a small training session with the teachers at the Autism school so that they’d be able to continue teaching the Microbit to the pupils. We left them Microbits and later CAFFE will run a session with the Robo:bit buggy that is reserved for them.
The next session we had was with Hex.It. We met the manager of Hex.It who we’d been talking to us on Twitter, and got a tour of the workspace. Most of the young people there are university students linked to Mozilla and run free Coding workshops for kids. This was our most advanced group so we went quickly through the basics of the Microbit with them. We got them into teams and gave each team a Robo:bit buggy and gave them minimal instructions how to code it. They were set some challenges and scored each team based on how quickly and well they completed the challenges. It was really fun. Some even used their mobiles to code.
Day 7: Bangladesh -visit to charity that run outdoor classes for underprivileged and linking with our Coderdojo distance learning group.
Today we went to Khasdobir Youth Action Group and a small computer training company who have been learning to code by Skype with our Coderdojo friend in London – Syed Shahriar and his young sons.
We got in a CNG taxi but it had a flat tyre so was a little late and met up with one of the Khasdobir staff who took us to one of their open air schools where we saw them sing songs to us; we sang a song for them too, as well as taking lots of pictures. After that we headed back to Khasdobir where we set up our computers to run our Micro:Bit workshop.
It went great; first we did the icebreaker, then I showed them how to display the Bangla B on the Microbit and how to download the code. I showed them how to scroll their names and finally how to display the temperature on the Microbit. This was real fun as we had to go outside to test it out.
Next, we went to a small computer training company who get coding lessons from Syed via Skype. We had never been to that part of Sylhet before and what a surprise we got when we found out it they were based on the ninth floor of an unfinished shopping complex. It was all open and had concrete everywhere. There was a tiny office – 40 degrees and we found out that they had only had two laptops that we could use as all the desktops didn’t have wifi built into them. So we ended up having to use the Microbit phone app. Unfortunately, it didn’t work because of the connections in the area and a few glitches in the app.. In the end we managed to get some of the Robo:Bits robots up and running and we were able to teach basics of the Microbit. We left some resources behind to experiement with. The view was amazing, by the way!
Day 8: Bangladesh – very sad to leave Sylhet as we return to Dhaka.
Today was the day that we had to leave Sylhet. It was such a shame as we really liked Kobir’s family and didn’t want to go back to Dhaka. However we had to so we went to the airport with Roxsana, Kobir and Luke and flew back to Dhaka. When we got to Dhaka, Kobir had to go to a convention linked to his work so we went shopping and had a look at some of the local food. After the convention we went to the American Diplomat’s club where we had a great diner.
Day 9: Bangladesh – amazing day with Street Kids at LEEDO’s Peace House.
Today we went to LEEDO, an NGO for Street Children, and ran two workshops on the Microbit.
When we arrived we were greeted with flowers by the children and we went into the room that we were to run the workshop in. We were given 7 Laptops but we only ended up with 3 because the others were windows 7 and did’t recognise the Microbit. Our first workshop was a great success. We taught one person and then he/she would teach all the others how to do it. In the second workshop we were reduced down to two laptops and some of the children had quite serve learning difficulties but this didn’t stop it from being a greater success than the first one. As everyone passed the basics and got onto the temperature exercise. They loved the Microbit so much that one child asked if he could take it to the toilet with him!
After the workshop the kids took us to their brand new bamboo playground where they fed us mud pies, jumped on Luke and played a game of cricket. It was great.
Day 10: Bangladesh Roadtrip – sightseeing around Old Dhaka and the Ahsan Manzil Museum (a.k.a. the Pink Palace).
Today we went on another Day trip, this time to explore Dhaka.
First we went to the parliament and saw its amazing building design and then saw all the people jumping off the bridge opposite it. We also went the Zia Rah memorial across the bridge. Then after that we went to Sadarghat, a ferry port, and walked around looking at the ferries lined up on the side. Taking pictures, we drew a bit of a crowd so we quickly moved on to the Ahsan Manzil museum (a.k.a. the Pink Palace where we found out about the history of Dhaka and looked at some of the artefacts.
Day 11: Bangladesh Roadtrip – workshop with underprivilage kids and great Micro:Bit session with Code Club Bangladesh.
Today we did our final 2 workshops at FFTPP (Friends For The Poor People) and Code Club Bangladesh.
At FFTPP we ran a workshop with some of the kids from the old CAFFE school in Dhaka and lots of new ones, as well. We went through the basics and got them all taking the temperature in different rooms around the site, comparing them with each other. It was a very good workshop and the kids were quick to learn. After we left they continued with workshops with Luke and Kobir the following weeek.
For Code Club Bangladesh, we met in a school called Nazrul Shikhaloy and where taken to their computer lab where we set up. We had 18 students who all completed the tasks smoothly. We were able to take them out in groups to measure the temperature. Mum managed to take 5 boys who came in half way through and get them back up to level in time to take the temperature with the rest of the group. Not bad going with just one computer.
Day 12: Bangladesh Roadtrip – end of the road, farewell Bangladesh and our awesome CAFFE friends.
Sadly our last day has arrived and we have to leave Bangladesh. We left for the airport at 3:30am and got on the plane to Bahrain at 5:30am. As we checked in last, we were upgraded to First Class meaning we got much nicer seats on the plane. When in Bahrain our flight was delayed by 3 hours so we got to spend an hour in the Falcon Gold VIP lounge with free food and drink; it was amazing! When we finally arrived in Heathrow Dad picked us up and we drove home and that was the end to an amazing experience of a coding Roadtrip in Bangladesh. We manged to run 17 workshops introducing the Micro:Bit and Robots to over 220 young people. It was a real privilage and something i will never forget. It has inspired me to keep going and actually develop more fun workshops with the Microbit and Robots.
I would like to say a big thank you to all our many individual contributors, sponsors and partners.
Indiegogo contributers and all those who donate money directly.
Our biggest thanks goes out to Kobir, Luke, Roxsana, Forez, all the CAFFE staff & volunteers along side all the groups we visited and of course the fabulous young people who joined in our workshops.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to post daily vlogs of our Roadtrip whilst in Bangladesh as we experienced difficulties with the WiFi/Internet when uploading footage and editing. So I’ve decided to put the vlogs together and make a little film. I will post the link here, hopefully within the next week.
I have already had an article published in First News which I’m very proud about.
I’m delighted to report that South London Press has also published an article about what I’ve been doing, too.
See link: https://www.londonnewsonline.co.uk/29329/femi-harvests-fruits-raspberry-pi/
Thanks for reading,