Last weekend, we held a 20-node workshop in San Isidro, a small town next to Quintana. Almost 30 people attended (with women and men in equal proportion, including some children) and collaboratively built the antennas, prepared the weatherproof enclosures, painted the poles, and soldered DIY RF pigtails, among other activities.
After the initial forming of groups and task assignment, everyone was quickly up to speed, and after a few hours it was clear that the workshop would finish sooner than planned. With friendly smiles, evident enthusiasm, and with the general good feeling of doing something together for a greater-than-individual benefit, the neighbors of San Isidro prepared the materials for 20 ready-to-install nodes. Before the sun set, everyone was heading home satisfied.
Some days later we met again, for a community training to flash the routers, review the firmware web interface, talk about decibels, mesh design, show people how to put the nodes up in their roofs, point antennas, crimp ethernet cables, etc.
We learned from a local neighbor (Mariano) how to flash a node without actually seeing the router! With surprising ease, (he had never used the ethernet port of his computer before) this blind fellow matched plugs and ports by touch, connected the out-of-the-box TP-Link to his laptop, and using a text-to-speech engine, navigated to the web admin interface, uploaded the binary, and reflashed this way a couple of routers in less time than other sighted participants.
Another group was outside, putting a few nodes around the place to simulate the soon-to-be network, in order to play with the antennas and learn in a very practical way the basic RF concepts, like antenna directionality, signal propagation and absorption by obstacles, and most importantly teach themselves the notion of a “good”, “acceptable”, and “bad” received signal strength value.
A week has passed, and they have already installed almost all nodes in their town (10 of them, since the rest were built for other towns or kept as spare), the result of which can be seen at the pictured mesh diagram. You can also check out a couple of photos of the recently installed nodes by clicking on the image.