A youth-led team, passion and one goal was all it took for the students at Taylor’s University to curate an affordable e-learning platform suitable for all ages, including young children from impoverished backgrounds. The DuckiePi, dubbed an online learning tool due to its simplistic user interface, is a device that emulates the look of your average PC and works just like it. What exactly sets this device apart?
Freshly launched in 2021, DuckiePi underwent various upgrades from its first version and was eventually ready for public use in April. Initially, the device was created with a tablet-like structure and called the Duckie pad. At that point, it was purely a tool to access the internet as the Duckie pad was able to enter into the Google services ecosystem but did not have a webcam and had a relatively complicated and counterintuitive user interface. Following that, research and experimentation was conducted. Alas, following research and experimentation, DuckiePi came fresh out of the oven of innovation! When we asked one of the DuckiePi team members, Bernard Yap, on the mechanisms of the device, he simply replied with “it works just like your everyday chromebook”.
DuckiePi runs on a Chromium Operating System (OS) which optimizes the use of Google Chrome. DuckiePi only costs RM400-RM430 to create, which is way below the average price of a laptop in the market. Bernard mentions that the device was created with the B40 community in mind, hence the team’s main intention was to keep it affordable while ensuring that it runs smoothly on Google Chrome, as it is the most commonly used online teaching platform across schools nationwide. Since DuckiePi is primarily built as a learning tool, most of its users will be utilising the internet for “simple” tasks, many which will be done on cloud. Hence, the Raspberry Pi 4B processor was chosen as a good fit. “Chromium OS is also a perfect fit for the low-end computer used, Raspberry Pi 4B, as it does not require much processing power,” Bernard mentions.
Raspberry Pi is a series of small single-board computers that was developed in the United Kingdom for the use of teaching basic computer science in schools (Heath, 2019). It gained popularity due to its low cost, modularity and open design, which are features that allowed the Taylor’s team to integrate it with the Duckie device. Fun fact - the DuckiePi was given its adorable name based on Taylor’s Duckie campaign and the Raspberry Pi processor that it adopted. Since its final revision, DuckiePi has been performing extremely well on the Google ecosystem - Google Forms, Google Drive, Google Sheets, Google Classrooms - the team tested them all out and DuckiePi did not disappoint. Despite its affordable build, DuckiePi has a camera, mic, keyboard and even allows the use of earphones! The device works smoothly with video conferencing via various platforms including Google Meet and Zoom Meetings as per the beta testing done by the team.
The nitty gritty work of creating and designing this potentially revolutionary device is now complete. 50 DuckiePi devices have already been transported to families in Projek Perumahan Rumah or People’s Housing Project Lembah Subang with the help of Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace. That translates to 50 more young people inspired and ignited to become proficient in digital literacy as they use the device for educational and communication purposes. This is a fantastic first step that provides opportunities to the underprivileged in adjusting to the 21st century. As this is the age of communication, initiatives like DuckiePi are essential to preserve and sustain the welfare of the B40 community in Malaysia and keep them from further marginalisation in society due to lack of digital skills.
Due to the incredible response from PPR Lembah Subang and the public, Taylor’s DuckiePi team has extended their funding goal to RM100,000. All funds will go toward making more DuckiePi for the betterment of the community. With the goal reached, roughly 250 DuckiePi’s will be produced and more communities can benefit.“Be it RM10 or RM500, every ringgit received matters to us,”says the Taylor’s Duckie team. If this initiative resonates closely with your heart, be sure to head on over to the website to learn more and drop a donation!
Heath, N. (2019, July 2). What is the Raspberry Pi 4? Everything you need to know about the tiny, low-cost computer. ZDNet. https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-the-raspberry-pi-4-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-tiny-low-cost-computer/