A group of young volunteers decided to prototype the idea of local-community OLPC offices by running one in downtown Chicago during summer 2008, paid for entirely by saved-up internship funds. 19-year-old Andrea Lai, 20-year-old Nikki Lee, 23-year-old Chris Carrick, 22-year-old Mel Chua, 13-year-old Melanie Kim, and 12-year-old Mia Kato spent the summer fixing laptops, running workshops, debugging, developing, teaching, and learning. Their adventures are chronicled here by Melanie and Mia, the two youngest members of ILXO.
Mia: Hi, I'm Mia. I have lived in Washington all my life (having moved only once, and to a house less than ten miles away). I am currently attending a middle school and enjoying my last year there. Stuff I do in my free time are pretty normal, like playing flute and hanging out with friends and family. But I think I can say that my summers have been infinitely more exciting than some of my classmates, considering the awesome things I've gotten to do. Like flying to Chicago and helping out at ILXO.
I have always been interested in the different ways that games are created and designed to be made fun to play. Sometimes, when I'm bored, I start playing on one of the Gameboy Colors we have at home. There are simulation games, board games, and RPG (Role Playing Games) games like Pokemon and games that follow the storylines of books or movies. I prefer the RPG's, personally. I really love the way that the player can interact with objects and other characters in the world, and how there are differerent places with their own characteristics within those worlds.
Melanie: Our cousin Mel says: "The average staff age was 18.5, and the oldest among us was 23. To this day I have no idea what the folks we rented the office space from - a gorgeous superprofessional office building, right downtown by Union Station - thought when we walked in the first day. Everyone else was wearing fancy suits and ties, and these kids came in with t-shirts and a bunch of electronics and proceeded to decimate their free hot chocolate."
We tried our best to keep our office neat and fairly presentable, but we had more than 25 laptops that all needed power cords to charge and storage space. Our office was also home to a stack of malfunctioning XOs Nikki repaired. We occasionally left partly dismantled XOs on a table in the back. We had this system of arranging the XOs, labeled by number. We also had a sticky note calendar on the wall, which we used to post important deadlines and events. We played music from Nikki's laptop and stopped every day for lunch. We kept snacks in the office. With the small crowd, it wasn't that hard to stay focused.
Melanie: One night, Mia and I went with the rest of the ILXO gang to the Google Chicago headquarters to meet with a group of teachers from around the Chicago area. It was basically a brainstorm session. The ILXO office provided XOs which were lined up on the tables for people to fool around with. Many of the adults there brought their own.