Encounters and Adventures

Kenya Summer 2011 Blog

Written by: Maksim Kolysh

July 3, 2011

With the conclusion of our second week of classes, we are nearing the halfway point of the program. Thankfully, we finished both the Python and Django curriculum for the students, allowing them to start working on their final projects. They have been assigned to teams -- each team has members with experience in a wide range of fields, such as business, entrepreneurship, communications, web development, and programming -- and most of the teams already have some notion of what they will be working on for the next two weeks in preparation for their final pitches and demos.

Apparently, Nairobi is the silicon valley of Africa -- there is a huge MIT and other techie presence here. Recently, the Sanergy (saner.gy) team arrived to Nairobi. They are a new company of mostly MIT students who are working on efficiently converting waste into usable energy in urban slums. A few of their members are staying with us. Additionally, Oshani and I were lucky enough to meet Kevin Gibbs, the lead developer of the Google App Engine, who just happens to be in Nairobi on sabbatical. We have invited him to come speak to our class about his extensive experience working at Google and to give them some advice on developing web apps. It should be a very energizing and relevant discussion, as our students will ultimately be deploying their applications using the GAE.

Between writing lectures, labs, and meeting new people, we have had some time to explore more of Kenya. Our trusty TA Kelvin agreed to take us to Mount Longonot, an inactive volcano within two hours of Nairobi. It took us five hours to go up the mountain, walk around the entire crater, and get back down (10 km total, 1km vertical), but it was definitely worthwhile. The view of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha from the peak of the mountain was breathtaking, and I think it was our most worthwhile trip to date.