If you were among the lucky few invited to the standard-setting launch of BRCK Education, you can relate to the palpable excitement that engulfed the tent just outside Louis Leakey Auditorium before the doors opened. Even the traffic outside was undaunting, as some attendees exited vehicles ferrying them and walked concertedly to the venue. I for one struggled to find enough composure to stay restful. At the end of this account, you'll understand why:
Simplicity and subtlety provide a beauty like none other. In the case of the BRCK Education launch, everything had a purpose — from the hurdle-shaped tables that would later act as display booths, to the kiddie corner that initially seemed misplaced in the midst of all the suit/tee-donning, coffee-sipping adults at the event. The BRCK primary colours (black and yellow) were everywhere, from the parking lot signs to the polo shirts that their staff wore ever so proudly. There was tea, hot chocolate and coffee for everyone, along with limitless rounds of mandazi, to keep everyone awake for the 9.30am launch some had shown up over an hour early for. You did not feel drowned in BRCK branding. Just embraced by it; as if in a warm, bicoloured hug.
As we were ushered in, we caught a few glimpses of beautiful posters spread wall-to-wall, showcasing children interacting with what was about to be introduced to us. The words "Education will never be the same in Africa" had sat convincingly atop the back of each invite. The whispers and murmurs that carried through the room probably contained everyone's guess on how BRCK would do that. The guessing didn't need to last long as Erik Hersman took to the TED-esque stage and brought the room to complete silence. Clearly as excited as the crowd before him, his concise introduction set the mood for the speakers that followed, first of whom was Philip Walton, BRCK COO.
For those who don't know, the BRCK had some of its early beginnings at the iHub space. This was well before it became a fully-developed product, when it was mainly an idea without enough spine to stand out in the connectivity market. Philip spoke of this with a sense of nostalgia:
We didn't know whether the world would be excited by a product from a bunch of engineers in Nairobi... Now I'm amazed that a little company out of this city is shipping consumer electronics to 54 countries.
The growth of BRCK has been outstanding to say the least. It took the world by storm and is a tried and tested product. This introduction to its humble beginnings and marked progress emphasised the continued commitment of its creators to improve its offering. Through projects like BRCK + Pi, the company has been moved into redefining the connectivity +information access landscapes. With BRCK Education, they intend to not only complement, but improve the way education is currently offered in African schools at the edge of mobile reception.
When you say something can't be done, BRCKask, 'How soon do you need it?' - Brian Gonzales, Director of Global Education, Intel
Tablets are often delicate, large and prone to damage in the hands of playful, inquisitive children. But when Nivi Mukherjee — President of BRCK Education — introduced the Kio tablet, it sounded nothing like those typical tablets. The young boy who brought it up on stage could clearly handle it. It could drop from about 70 cm onto concrete, have a glass of water tip over it and even land in dust but still function as expected — flawlessly. With 8 hours of battery life, kids could enjoy uninterrupted, rich and interactive learning. Content partners like Pearson Education, eLimu, eKitabu, KnowZone and Kenyatta University contributed to the wide array of digitised goodies that pupils can soon use to learn, play and grow.
While a single Kio sounds brilliant, perhaps the more game-changing possibility is an all-in-one package that combined all the adapted products BRCK has created so far. Enter the Kio Kit, introduced by Erik: a beautifully rugged, digital classroom-in-a-box with 40 Kios and a BRCK + Pi — the former keeping content updated by providing connectivity and the latter acting as a microserver to store that content offline. To add to the functionality, the kit and its contents are turned on by one switch in under a minute, something that worked like a charm during Erik's onstage demo. If I was a child and my teachers turned this on, I'd have a hard time leaving class during Kio time — it was hard enough leaving the auditorium. Throw in the fact that the kit charges each tablet wirelessly and this is definitely any remote school's go-to digital solution. The crowd was delighted!
Between amazed glances at the stage, live-tweeting and stopping to clap and nod in agreement, the launch went so smoothly that its end felt abrupt. It had began at exactly 9:30am and ended by 10:17am. So far, and many in the room seemed to agree, only Apple launches had left us feeling this emotional mix: excited by the announcements, gripped by the products and stunned that it was all over, as if more awaited us outdoors. But on Tuesday, 22nd September 2015, BRCK had struck those chords. We were all enthralled. A first-hand glance at the products outside added to the spell that had already been cast inside.
The Kio and Kio Kit will retail for $100 and $5,000 respectively. While these prices may seem out of reach, Chase Bank Kenyawill be offering financing for them to allow schools to access these essential tools from the start. Pre-orders began on launch day, with limited availability expected from November 1st 2015 and general availability expected in January 2016. For more information, head over to education.brck.com today and see how this tech company from Nairobi intends to change education for Kenya, Africa and the world; one school at a time.
For a behind-the-scenes look from the BRCK team, do read this.