Meaningful Adventures in the Dominican Republic

Group Selfie with Marist Students and CampersIn June, 2015 Computer Science students collaborated with Spanish students in a two week service-learning project led by Dr. Carolyn Matheus and Dr. Kevin Gaugler. The group travelled to Cabarete, Dominican Republic to provide a technology-education summer camp for students at an underprivileged school. The goals of the camp were to provide junior-high and high-school students with useful technology-related skills and introduce them to the idea that technology can be fun! This collaborative effort between populations of disparate interests and backgrounds set out to change perceptions of technology among the Dominican attendees. Using the SOLE learning method, camp attendees collaborated in groups led by Marist Computer Science and Spanish students that rotated through a series of activity stations, including:

  • Robotics: Camp attendees learned about robotics using Lego Mindstorms, NXT software, and a mobile application for controlling the robots. At the end of the camp, teams designed and built robots to compete in a soccer game and drive their robots through a series of mazes and obstacles.
  • Virtual reality: Camp attendees learned about virtual reality using Google Cardboard and mobile phones. In addition, students were given the opportunity to explore advanced virtual reality hardware and software by interacting with the Oculus Rift.
  • Raspberry Pi: Camp attendees learned basic aspects of computing using Kano’s Raspberry Pi kits, including an introduction to programming through the creation of interactive stories and games using Scratch. At the end of the camp, a “Kano Olympics” was held in which camp teams competed in a timed relay race to assemble the Kano kit, boot up the Raspberry Pi, and complete a series of coding activities.
  • Android XO Tablet: Camp attendees worked with Android XO tablets—most notable for being used in the One Laptop Per Child program—and were introduced to a variety of educational applications and collaborative software.

Campers Learn to Create QR CodesThroughout the camp, all attendees were introduced to strategies for project planning and project management. At the end of the camp, the best projects were selected and presented to the entire camp by the Dominican students. Marist Computer Science students gained hands-on experience in curriculum development and were afforded the opportunity to apply their knowledge in the field while giving back to an underprivileged community with limited access to technology education. In addition, they gained valuable skills in critical thinking, problem solving, intercultural competence, and leadership. Marist students also gained cultural and historical knowledge of the Dominican Republic through this innovative and engaging service-learning project, as well as through trips that explored the cultural and natural landmarks of the Dominican Republic’s north coast. On the weekends and in the afternoons, the group visited local historical sites, learned how to surf, snorkeled around coral reefs, went zip-lining, explored local beaches and caves, and interacted with locals from the community. This program will be offered on an annual basis.