In March 2016, three junior Villanova Electrical and Computer Engineering students joined Pritpal Singh, PhD, chair and professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, on a spring break trip to Bluefields, Nicaragua. The purpose of their visit was to develop ideas for senior design projects. While there the team met with teachers at the secondary school in El Bluff, an island about a 15-minute boat ride from Bluefields. That visit led to an opportunity to help a group of teachers in this port town. “We happened to see a shipment of laptop computers arrive for the local primary school,” explains Dr. Singh, “but we learned that the secondary school had no computer equipment and none of the teachers had any experience in using them.” Returning from that trip, Dr. Singh and his students—Kurt Heidemann EE, Ethan Fortin CpE and Madeline Lopez EE, and a fourth student Christopher Dixon, ’16 CpE—along with College of Nursing staff member Mary McCusker, decided they would personally raise the funds to offer computer training to nine teachers at that school.
For $350, Dr. Singh was able to secure training for seven El Bluff teachers, two teachers from a local church school, and a nurse who serves as a community leader. Five days of training on the basics of internet use and Microsoft Word will take place at Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU), which has collaborated with Villanova University on a number of initiatives including the telehealth project in the area of Laguna del Perlas. In addition to the training, in early June, Dr. Singh learned that Villanova will donate four laptops for the secondary school in El Bluff.
Dr. Singh expects his students will return to Nicaragua in October to resume their work on a telehealth project in the medical clinic in El Bluff.
UPDATE: In early July, Dr. Singh received thank you notes via email from several of the teachers who received computer training. He responded to each them:
“I am so happy to receive your email! It is wonderful that you are learning about computers and are able to send email now! I am glad that you have this opportunity to learn and I am sure that it will be of great benefit to you and your students in your school in El Bluff.”