Menlo School students write code for educational tool


The Looma resembles little more than a makeshift wooden box containing a projector with some techy-looking doodads inside. The product's simple design masks its somewhat more complex purpose: to help teachers in developing countries give students access to technology-based learning and education tools, all sans internet connection.

It's the latest in a series of gadgets developed by Village Tech Solutions, a nonprofit founded by former Nepal residents David and Haydi Sowerwine of Menlo Park. Major parts of its code were written by high school students at Menlo School this summer.

From June 15 through the end of July, 22 Menlo School high school students worked six hours a day on software development projects to improve the "Looma." It was a six-week mix of unpaid internships, summer camp and startup microcosm, as described by the program's head, retired computer engineer Skip Stritter.

Students presented demos of their projects on July 27, showing how they learned new computer programming skills to: build a game for learning to tell time, translate or read aloud selected phrases, add new dictionary words, and develop a clicker wand to prompt the device, among other projects.

"Our mission is to develop tools to educate students in Nepal," Mr. Stritter said. As a nonprofit, Village Tech Solutions is on a tight budget, he explained. "The best engineering we can get (for free) is these kids," he said.

All the students had taken at least an introductory computer science course at Menlo School, while others had taken the school's AP course and Advanced Topics classes.

The skills and programming languages students had to learn to complete their projects were picked up with help from more experienced students or from internet tutorials, Mr. Stritter said.

Connor Kennedy, a rising junior at Menlo School, who worked on a project to enable teachers to annotate teaching videos, said he learned new programming skills and about working in a "real work environment."

Sonia Bhanot, mother of a Menlo School rising junior Jai Mehra, said she was impressed by the program and the "sense of achievement" it gave students for completing their projects.

Other participating students were: Jane Zafran, Niko Bhatia, Ian Costello, Grant Dumanian, John Weingart, Ryan Fischback, Aaron Brown, Thomas Woodside, Sam Rosenberg, Charlie Donnelley, Matt Flower, Maxwell Patterson, Jai Mehra, Jayden and Ellie Kunwar, Nikhil Singhal, Colton Conley, Anika Padwekar and Akshay Srivatsan.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anita
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 14, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Congratulations to the team! The time and talent you donated to help less fortunate students is to be commended.
Thomas, i am so,proud of you.

Anita Woodside

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Couple brings Chinese zongzi to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 5,850 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 7 comments | 1,555 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 1,322 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,108 views

Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush
By Stuart Soffer | 2 comments | 499 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More