First, shameless plug: If you've got a soft spot in your heart for free software, please take a moment to read Mako's appeal for the FSF and contribute if you have anything to spare - they do fantastic work on a shoestring there, and it's all tax-deductible. If you're broke like me, Josh says to digg it and spread the word. The FSF's work is relevant to everyone, not just software people; for instance, if you'd like to be able to play music you've purchased on a computer you own, their anti-DRM campaigns are working for you.
End spiel, start content.
When your list of accomplishments for the day includes "only vomited twice!" and you're very happy about it, you... might have bronchitis. I've had no voice for the last two days. Typing being my remaining fastest means of communication, here's a recap of the last week with the IMSA-OLPC crew.
We spent 4 mornings together, 3 hours each day. Remember, these are 14-18 year olds with other courses and homework and sports and drama practice and student council and so on, and no prior experience with XOs and in most cases Linux, programming, or hardware: (I'm almost certain I'm missing names here - my apologies. If you know someone I'm missing, please let me know and I'll add them in)
Mitra began to transform one of our most frustratingly neglected documentation sections - emulation. (To see what it was like before, click here.) He's writing up scripts and taking screenshots to make it easier for novices on all platforms (Windows, Mac, and Linux anyhow) to play with Sugar.
Gabi, Colin, Ariel, and Sanat built support circuitry to allow a range of cheap sensors to interface safely with the laptop's audio-in/analog port. They're eventually hoping to use the laptop as a basic medical monitor - it's a long-term project. At the start of the week, only one of them had ever heard the word "breadboard" before. A few days later, they were designing analog circuitry and contemplating how best to get a PCB printed.
Arjun and Spencer started calibrating Distance under different weather conditions, background noise volumes, screen orientations... you name it, they tested it (and ran linear regressions on their data, and...) It was their first experience debugging, but they were soon making suggestions like "can we run an initial period of noise detection and then compress the frequency range of the maximum length sequence to avoid it?" Last I saw, they were trying to get in contact with the original developer.
April-Hope and Will took the Measure activity and started filming and narrating experiments using it in order to create a video library to introduce kids to the scientific method. By Friday morning they were working on multilingual subtitles. The amount of cultural sensitivity that's gone into their project is - well... they re-shot and re-edited entire scenes to remove the thumbs-up gesture (obscene in some countries) and came to us on the last morning concerned that students from some conservative-dress countries might be uncomfortable seeing some young women in sleeveless shirts that walked across the background of the film at one point. (We told them to make a note of it on their wiki page but not to worry too much about it.)
If you're in the Chicago area, come to the first OLPC Chicago meetup next week on Jan. 22 (it's at Google Chicago) and you'll get to meet them and see their projects. Some might be doing research on OLPC full-time this summer, which excites me to no end - if they can get this far in a week working part-time, what more if they had three months?
Another happy thing: IMSA finally has a FIRST team, started after two years of lobbying by Jim Gerry and two IMSA '06ers (now alumni). They swept their regional rookie awards last year and hope to go to Nationals this time. However, they can't get enough workshop time; the only place they can use tools is manned only intermittently during class hours, meaning fabrication is tough.
However, I heard epic tales of the entire team living in the closest teammate's garage (some students live up to 5 hours away from campus) for the final weekend during record-setting cold Chicago temperatures, blowing breakers with space heaters and power tools up until the final moments. So the hacker spirit's alive and kicking there too. The future looks bright.