Dennis Stevenson adventureafrica at
Sun May 4 14:37:19 EDT 2008

Life Skills & Marine Ecology

1. Name:
          Dennis A Stevenson
2. Email address:
          denniss at
3. Organization:
          Cape Windjammers Education Trust
Cape Town, South Africa

I am the president of a registered charity called Cape Windjammers  
Education Trust – .
It is CWET’s mission to use the power of training under sail for life  
skill, leadership and career development thereby contributing to  
sustainable peace and development in the region. Training under sail  
is internationally recognized for being an efficient tool to induce  
sustainable behavioral change in youth (Edinburgh University  
research). It is implemented widely in many countries around the world  
with the exception of the African continent. It is CWET’s aim to make  
this tool widely available for South African civil society  
organizations and the youth they are working with.
Our organization is run entirely by passionate committed volunteers,  
and has a very lean budget.
Here is my vision for the OLPC:

Ø    90% of our trainees are still at school and most come from  
disadvantaged circumstances, and many are at risk due to their gang  
and drug infested environs. They are thus ideal candidates to receive  
an OLPC.

Ø    We take them on a 5-day, offshore voyage of adventure.

Ø    In addition to teaching them life-skills and seamanship, we have  
developed a marine ecology appreciation course (several of our  
volunteers are post-grad marine biologists) as well as teaching them  
math and science disguised as navigation.

Ø    A wet and windy boat is not a good environment for a book or a  
bunch of photocopied pages.  Nor for any conventional computer.   The  
OLPC will be ideal for the distribution of static learning material  
that must be taken to sea.   The lightness and the one-handed grip  
suits an environment where one must always have “one hand on the boat”.

Ø    South Africa has 11 official languages and any one course will  
have trainees from several of them.   Hence the need to develop where  
possible language independent material.  This fits the nature and  
philosophy of the OLPC.

Ø    But static material, however necessary, is not what grabs a child  
(I have two sons 12 and 14 so I know whereof I speak).  There is  
enormous scope for interactive material in experiencing the world of  
seamanship, navigation and marine ecology.  I have not yet explored  
all the possibilities but for instance:

o      Marine species recognition and logging

o      Animations of ocean currents, tides and winds

o      Illustrate the way the marine species use and are affected by  
the ocean currents and winds

o      Animations of ships’ navigation lights, shapes and sounds for  
safety at sea (first you see only the lights, secondly you state what  
type of vessel(s) it is (e.g. a submarine towing a hovercraft) the the  
ship is revealed

o      We could simulate a marine radio network using the OLPCs and  
the children could practice radio procedure, sending and receiving  
“mayday” messages, etc.

o      Interactive scalars and vectors, shaping a boats course

o      Etc…

o      All of these will make great games (the way kids like to learn)

Ø    Logging and Blogging: the youngsters learn that the ship’s log  
needs to be written up regularly.  In like fashion we expect them to  
keep a log of their experiences and thoughts.  Where possible we want  
them to put up a Blog on the net.  Here is an example from the girls  
we sent to take part in the Tall Ships cultural exchange in Europe  
last year:

We also taught them how to use a video camera and how to film on board  
a ship and so in addition to written journals they made a video  
journal (available on request).   How much better if each child had an  
OLPC with a built in camera, and could make their own multimedia  
journal entries as things happen or thoughts occur to them.  Where we  
are using more than one vessel the children would be able to exchange  
experiences across boats on the mesh network.

Ø    The multimedia journals will be taken back to their school and  
community where they can be projected from the OLPC while the child  
gives his/her report back.

Ø    After the 5 days at sea plus the preparation and debriefing days  
the OLPC will have become an extension of the child and they will go  
on to use them to explore and discover more and more knowledge.

Ø    Having been on a sailing adventure and arriving home with a  
laptop will give the child a lot of credibility among their peers and  
community.  This will allow them to exercise their newfound self- 
confidence and leadership skills.  And to break out of the “you’ve got  
to be in a gang to be somebody” trap.  We expect each child that we  
have invested in to be a multiplier and to influence many others.

8. Description of your experience, both with hardware and software:

Ø    25 years in the Life Insurance Applications development team of  
an international, Fortune 500, financial services company, the biggest  
in Africa (see

I started in programming, and progressed to systems analysis, systems  
design, application systems architecture and Business/IT strategy and  
process design.   I achieved the positions of Chief Architect (Life  
Assurance) and the Principal Consultant for Strategy and  
Architecture.   I was especially valued for my innovation and human/ 
machine interface design, constantly being at the forefront of new  
technology exploitation.   I have had the advantage of having been  
schooled in the days when memory and random access storage were tiny  
and code had to be very tight and sparse, plus having lead design in  
the days of designing for the client server environment where the  
client was a PC and the server was a mainframe.  Early on in my career  
I designed the first online, real time updating, system using a  
database, in the financial services sector in South Africa.  Late in  
my career I had the pleasure of designing the first Insurance sales  
system operating on a salesman cell phone and resulting in an issued  
policy on the mainframe legacy systems all within the space of the  
client interview.

I designed the web-based sales system for our UK company.  I published  
numerous websites starting in 1995 right up to the present.

Ø    5 years as a consultant at the head of my own company (see 

Ø    And now, though I still have the company, I don’t accept  
contracts anymore because I am involved full time with being

o      A stay-at-home Dad for my two early teen boys.

o      President of Cape Windjammers Education Trust
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