SAM Labs Institute at ISB

August 2016

Rose and Ivelin from SAM Labs provided a successful two-day Institute at the International School of Brussels. I am happy to have had the opportunity to attend.

Aside, and relevant: Having spent only two days learning about SAM Labs last week, I just today had an amazing experience: I had accepted, for a neighbourhood friend’s son,  to read over one chapter of a University College London – Department of Computer Sciences –  MSc Information Security thesis,  “ A Privacy Enhancing Architecture for Secure Wearable Devices.” And you know what? The two days of exposure to talk about SAM Labs has given me a new sense of awareness about the language of computers that I did not have. So I read the thesis chapter I had committed to, with quite an element of (new) ease, in fact, and was able to focus on my objective: checking English usage.  I enjoyed it! I saw words that I knew I did not need to understand. Very nice.

Hey, a new word for us: new ease….. newease.   Contrary to  unease…..un  ease

Back to SAM Labs:

Rose encouraged us to apply some ideas to a curriculum unit we use. She provided these practical sections headings, to guide us: ACTIVITY, CONCEPT, VOCABULARY, APPLICATION AND CONSOLIDATION.

I chose to apply to:  Grade 7 SS CITIES unit. Prior to my unit choice, Rose had actually mentioned “Smart Cities” work as one of her past experiences with teaching and integrating SAMs.  I hope she comes back to ISB and works with our grade 7s one day!

As it turns out, using SAMs in a SMART CITIES context is about helping students and teachers to understand how all the apps already in play in many cities actually work, and providing students opportunities to explore new ideas: i.e How do they see themselves as  potentially able to solve problems cities are facing?

First, of course, they need to be aware of what “problems” exist. And it will help if they are aware that the word “problem” to one person, may not mean “problem” to another.

SMART CITIES and Integrating SAM Labs : Below are my notes taken during Institute  (N.B. These notes are OK, not great. But they make sense to me. And I will use them as thus when I show them to my students. And maybe someone will me help to find the line spacing command. Why does the text go weird when I use italics?) 

ACTIVITY -students design and build (ex. LEGO)  a smart city or smart neighbourhood

CONCEPT  -what is a smart city?

A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but are not limited to, local departments information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants,water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.

VOCABULARY    Smart homes  /  Smart streets  / Smart cities  /  Sustainable development /  Mobility  /  Waste management, recycling /  Air quality   /  Security  / etc.

1. Bins full  -alert authorities   –  Students make  props, such as bin  –  SAM: Proximity sensor inside lid   -when full=detected –  Output – light  Each light corresponding to a different bin

Detect fire in bin  -temperature sensor   – Same light above can be used, different color for bin, different colour for fire (heat)

2. Bike parking = how do all the apps work?    Bicycle rental availability    Brussels = “VillO”  VillO bikes to rent in Brussels

Not VillO:  -this does not exist at this time: where you can park safely, current availability – also, you consult an app  Students make parking units and bikes  –  Pressure sensor  -more weight or not  -more weight = not available  -or less weight = available   –  -when busy, i.e. bike parking spot available or not = light goes on, and email goes to system that integrates into the app.

SAM: -sensor, a comparator (values) greater than less than (less weight = available spot), or greater than = spot is taken, a light flashes etc.

3.  Cars   -Dissuasive Parking availability at city entrance zones  -GPS – shuttle bus availability, location, timing….

Students in their city plan have roadways, cars coming in, shuttle busses heading out of city center to city entrance parking lots, some bus stops

Driver coming in from  Namur, will decide whether or not to stop and use dissuasive parking lot

Bus has  SAM light in a door, door opens, light flashes sensor at the bus stops that are a five minute drive and that is 8 minute drive from the parking lot. Sensor recognised the light flash, sends an email to system. The system feeds the app.

4. Additional ideas, possible with SAM:

Public Security :  Mob action = need to alert authorities of this rapid sudden movement of crowd  -measuring footfall – pressure sensors

-and various security-related possibilities….

Smart homes and streets   -light sensors  -homes- heat sensors, turn on fans, AC, etc.


NOT APPLICABLE re SAMS, but good to bring up with kids…..

But how to move forward with these concepts???  What will students think of?

Air quality


-show along routs intensity as cars penetrate -ex. have lights flashing =less at city entrances, increasingly more intense….. Etc.

Correct recycling

-if correct waste goes in bin, sensor reacts positively

-if incorrect waste goes in bin, IFTTT (if this then that) sensor responds negatively + Instagram sent with info re. how to recycle


On a personal note…. I had acquired a SAM lab “Pro” kit recently (2nd generation). Purchased at a fund-raiser for school. I happily popped it in the mail this week. It is gone to Ottawa, to a 21-year-old student, Geemakun. He’s a (Cree) First Nations citizen from Moosonee, Ontario and is studying Mobile Applications at Algonquin College. I hope Geemakun will have a lot of fun with the kit. Rose and Ivelin from SAM Labs are informed and Rose said for sure that they’d love to hear from Geemakun.  I hope something happens. Geemakun is a strong believer that Canada’s First Nations children would benefit from more  computer science education, and in particular coding. I gather this means that First Nations populations in Canada, on the whole, are not on the stronger side of the digital divide. From the little I know about the future, I do realise that the gap will get greater and those on the weaker side stand to plunge. This is frightening. 

I have never been too tech savvy but I have been wide-eyed aware for a long time that the “tech privileged” have a moral obligation to contribute to the less tech privileged populations and geographic areas. This might be a good (blog) time to share a professional experience connected to technology and lessening the digital divide. The International School of Brussels was one of four partners  involved with The Kinshasa Technology Project (2003-2007) , also known as Projet Limete, and as Projet Limete-Université Cardinal Malula.

Along with Mr. Anastase NZEZA BILAKILA, I was co-founder of the original project. The idea was conceived at my neighbours’ house in the Ixelles commune of Brussels, where Mr. Nzeza was staying during a sabbatical leave from Université Cardinal Malula, in the fall of 2002. It is a long, successful story, but the video, dated 2005, sums it up rather nicely in 5 minutes (credits to MJ Farris):

5-minute video on The Kinshasa Technology Project  (detailed hard copy archives available at the commune of Watermael-Boistfort)



One thought on “SAM Labs Institute at ISB

  1. I think this great, Anne-Louise. I really like the approach you have taken to reflect on your learning, share some reflections, and demonstrate action. This is a great model for Personal Learning that I am sure your students will appreciate. You write really well, of course. I also started blogging for students and found that I enjoyed it. I hope you keep it up!


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