Rice University has adopted a high-tech, sustainable energy solution to the problem of how to bring computing to the 100 million Indian school children who are without electricity. They have designed the I-Slate tablet PC which incorporates revolutionary microchips that require a fraction of the power currently required of computers.
The first prototypes of the I-slate, which were built at NTU this summer by a team that included three Rice undergraduates, are set to undergo their second round of tests in India. Palem, who directs ISAID, said the I-slate is the first of a series of electronic notepads being built around a new class of green, power-stingy microchips that use a fraction of the electricity of today’s computer chips. Under development in partnership between ISAID and Switzerland’s Center for Electronics and Microtechnology, the chips will make it possible for the I-slate to run on solar power from panels similar to those used in hand-held calculators.
The I-slate began to take shape over the summer, and early prototypes were introduced in tests at a school near Hyderabad in early August. Rice undergraduates Lauren Pemberton and Shelby Reinhardt were first introduced to the project in a spring course on sustainable engineering and spent 10 weeks this summer at NTU writing a self-directed mathematics teaching application for the first I-slate prototypes. In early August, Reinhardt and Pemberton accompanied Pingali and Vincent Mooney, ISAID’s chief I-slate hardware architect, to see how a class of 10- to 13-year-olds liked the new device.
The device is expected to be able to run on the solar power of plans similar to those in handheld calculators. Students at a school near the city of Hyderabad in India have been testing out early prototypes of this technology, which will be helping the designers produce variants that be used by kids in different parts of the world.