Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

IMSA Leads Again With One Laptop Per Child

IMSA takes the bold path again -- this time to be the first secondary institution in the world to form a chapter for the One Laptop Per Child initiative, widely known as OLPC. The OLPC initiative demonstrates how IMSA's students are fulfilling IMSA's mission by advancing the human condition for countries in the developing world.  The One Laptop Per Child Initiative forms partnerships with these countries to bring learning to children through the XO, the trademarked laptop uniquely built for children of emerging countries.  OLPC describes the XO design as a “very distinctive machine; rugged, durable and child friendly, inside and out.”   The XO’s software applications are where IMSA begins to come in! 


Creative Software Applications for Children Around the World 

XO is built from free and open-source software, enabling learning advocates from around the world to share their knowledge and expertise to build learning activities for children. Who better than IMSA students and alumni to embrace this call for innovative activities for learning? 


The IMSA/OLPC Story Unfolds

Scott Swanson ’90, strategy technology coordinator at IMSA, and Mel Chua ’03, university affiliate liaison for OLPC, knew that IMSA students could dazzle OLPC’s university partners with their creative learning applications for children.  During IMSA’s January 2008 Intersession, Swanson and Chua co-led an intensive five-day workshop where 15 students learned the concepts, goals and technologies of OLPC. Students then quickly applied their enthusiasm, knowledge and skills to build innovative educational solutions.  


An example of the projects that students are developing includes a dynamic time activity to help educate younger children about the relationship between a digital clock, a wall clock, and the position of the sun in the sky. Another is an extremely low-cost electrocardiogram (EKG) sensor to assist with early diagnosis of heart problems in rural communities.  Their work was quickly noticed by another teen with similar interests from Cleveland.  Together they formed a global collaboration to help provide low-cost (no more than $10) "telehealth" hardware and software for the XO that would enable children to learn about medical and wellness concepts, as well as provide actual early diagnostic possibilities for family and community members in rural and distant areas. 


April-Hope Wareham ’08, who was a co-founder of the IMSA OLPC chapter, said the experience broadened student awareness of global issues. “Getting the chapter started, not only allowed us to work on various projects for OPLC, it opened new doors for a lot of students here,” Wareham said. “It raised awareness about many international problems.  It also got us thinking about solutions.”  Wareham’s impact will continue when she becomes a college student.  “I’m going to the University of Tulsa next year to major in Computer Science and Linguistics,” she said. “My XO is coming with me, and I will definitely be starting a chapter there soon!” 


Promoting Learning Without Boundaries 

Swanson talks about students’ efforts to create awareness about OLPC.  "The response that our students get from Illinois educators at technology conferences is nothing short of fantastic.  April-Hope [ Wareham ‘08] and Kevin [Crews ‘09], our chapter founders, had a poster session at the Illinois Technology Conference for Educators (IL-TCE 2008), the biggest educational technology conference in Illinois.  They and the little green machines seemed to pull everybody in like magnets,” Swanson said. “With the XOs, they were engaging everybody from school board officials to kindergarten teachers to primary students in hands-on experiences with the XOs, both individually and networked together,” Swanson said.  “At the same time, they educated conference participants on the ethos of the One Laptop Per Child project and showed the potentials of the units both in direct education of K-6 students as well as a service learning platform for grades 4 and up."


IMSA OLPC chapter co-founder Kevin Crews’ 09 said OLPC advocacy is important. “We do a lot of advocacy work for the organization here in Illinois through presentations and seminars,” he said. “I really wish that more people would take the time to understand the mission of the organization and to think about the situation in a long-term mindset,” he added.  “Children need water and food and electricity, but without an education, they will always need and never be able to provide. This is why OLPC is such an important project moving into the second decade of the 21st century.”  


Find Out More 

The IMSA OLPC chapter's information hub, maintained by the chapter members, is at  Here, you can find out about the chapter, member projects, and more about IMSA’s involvement with XOs and OLPC.