The Experience Nicaragua team is made up of four members, two students, Shigeki Seko and Darrin Nix, and two coaches, Jon Happel and Juan Pablo Salinas. The first thing we would like to say is that we owe an enormous thanks to our coaches for the many different things they did like getting us interviews, getting access to equipment, and helping us get permission to use material. But most of all we would like to thank them for keeping us motivated and just being there when we were stuck.
I'm 17 and I've been living in Managua, Nicaragua for the last two years but I will be moving to the US in September to work for a year before I move on to college to study International Economics. I graduated from the American Nicaraguan School, a school of about 400 students, in June. I suppose my favorite parts of school (if there are such things) were my Economics classes and getting to teach an introductory programming class to the Middle School. English is my first language but I've lived in South America for most of my life so I speak some Spanish as well. My favorite hobbies are languages (French and Chinese) and computer programming (Java and PERL). I was on the soccer team for a while, but I've decided to leave sports up to the people who were born with the bodies for it. I spend a lot of time on the Net reading online programming books and playing multiplayer games like Myth: The Fallen Lords. I am also the team leader of our project.
Experience Nicaragua: The Creation
Although the Thinkquest competition didn't officialy begin until the end of February 1998, Experience Nicaragua began long before that. It all began in March of 1997 when a computer science teacher at the American Nicaraguan school used a winning Thinkquest project to help teach C++ programming at the school. Darrin Nix decided to enter the competition in 1998 and set out to find suitable team members and an idea to develop. After meeting five or six potential members on the Net, he was introduced to Shigeki Seko by his future coach and the team was ready. They brainstormed for a while on what idea to use and finally decided on a topic that they were both interested in, that they both understood, and one that offered practically unlimited potential for creative development -- Nicaragua.
Had we known exactly how much effort and time this project would consume, I'm sure that we never would have begun it. But now that it's over we agree that it's been one of the best things we've ever done. We began the project by collecting all of the material about Nicaragua that we could lay our hands on. First we went to our libraries and pulled out everything there was about Nicaragua, which wasn't very much in Japan, and photocopied all of the relevant material. Next we went on the Internet and surfed and surfed and surfed some more, trying to find useful material. Eventually we discovered every known piece of information which lurked in the dark corners of the world-wide-web and printed it out.
Then came the hard part -- summarizing the thousands of pages that we had compiled. This part of the project actually began in late March and ended in late June, taking up the biggest chunk of the competition. The rest of the time, until the end of August, was spent creating the Enhanced and Light versions of the site as well as translating everything into Spanish and Japanese. Throughout the entire project, from February to August, we had collected images from wherever we were allowed, recorded interviews, and written applets and programs so all that was left to do in those last two hectic months were the translations and the HTML.
One major problem, of course, was that since Shigeki lived in Japan and Darrin lived in Nicaragua neither their daily schedules or their school schedules coincided. Darrin's vacations came while Shigeki was in school and we often had to pause for long stretches because one of us had major exams. We managed to resolve the time-difference problem, however, at least for a while. For the last three months of the competition, Darrin began getting up at about 6:00 in the evening and going to bed at 10:00 in the morning so that he would be able to work live with Shigeki on ICQ and so that he wouldn't have to fight off his family to use the computer.
All things considered, it's been well worth it. We've learned more than we ever imagined by doing this project and we've also experienced what it's like to work together smoothly as a team, something that took a while at first. We hope you will enjoy the Experience as much as we have.