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A Delicious Experience: Connecting Kids in Rural Ghana with Kids at Hershey’s via Telepresence

I am often asked what it takes to create a successful telepresence experience. Usually, I respond with requirements like: a high-speed network, great lighting, good acoustic space and the right equipment. However, after a trip I took late last year, I’m going to add “stable power” to the list, and here’s why.

In late 2011, my customer The Hershey Company – you may have heard of them – invited me to be involved with a new project they were kicking off with the goal to enrich the education of underprivileged youth in both the U.S. and Ghana. Hershey wanted to create a common, virtual classroom so 80 elementary students could learn together based on a curriculum developed by teachers in both Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Ghana. The obstacle they faced was how to connect the students, which ultimately led to my visit to Ghana.

Throughout the summer of 2012, I worked with the Hershey Telepresence support team to equip a space at the Milton S. Hershey Foundation headquarters with a C90 codec, two Precision HD cameras, an AudioScience Microphone array, a document camera and some displays. The plan was to duplicate this setup at the Assin Fosu school in Ghana. The ever-revealing reality of a “less than ideal” environment for telepresence required scaling back the Ghana design to an SX20 codec, one display, two microphones and a document camera. The endpoints at both locations were then registered to a VCS Expressway to enable firewall traversal and easy connections across the public Internet.

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