Esperanza: LIN in Costa Rica

Esperanza aims to produce a new generation of technologies for use in community development and education. Central to the success of the Esperanza has been the identification and integration of a group of very strong local partners, with existing deep community connections, into the network. A careful, thoughtful approach to building a strong working relationship with our partners has been the most critical first stage in this project. Our collaborators come from not only the academia but also the public and non-governmental sectors and are deeply involved in developing and implementing numerous field studies, new university engineering and entrepreneurship courses, and immersive design workshops with us. They are also carefully documenting their experiences. The dialogue and constant communication amongst the different partners in the Network is vital for its sustainability and success.


Esperanza's mission is to promote technological exchange and develop a compelling model for true technological transfer among its different partners in order to develop local capacity to design -- through interdisciplinary research -- relevant digital solutions (hardware, software and methodology), to improve the quality of education, healthcare and life in underserved communities.

Esperanza Partners

Grassroots Invention Group (GIG) @ the MIT Media Lab

The Grassroots Invention Group or GIG is a Research Group at the MIT Media Lab that focuses on engineering and disseminating powerful low-cost design and fabrication technologies at a grassroots level. GIG conceptualized and presented the Learning Independence Network to a group of collaborators in Costa Rica, as a model for developing and implementing a Constructionist approach to development. GIG has also provided the initial technological tools for this project. Notably the Tower System, an extensible modular computational prototyping toolkit, is a central component of the tools in the FAB LAB, that are currently being used for rapid prototyping by Esperanza members in Costa Rica. The Costa Rica FAB LAB is the first international site in a network of FAB LABs, a project of the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms or CBA that GIG has been leading in collaboration with the Physics and Media Group at the MIT Media Lab.

Many members of GIG, in particular Christopher Lyon and Timothy Gorton, are actively involved in this project.


The Central American Institute of Business Administration or INCAE, is a member of the Digital Nations or DN Consortium at the MIT Media Laboratory. The Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development or CLACDS actively participates in and supports Esperanza. The political backing of INCAE’s President, Roberto Artavia, and Alberto Trejos (at the time Dean of INCAE and now the Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica) and the sustained support of Arturo Condo, and Juan Carlos Barahona have been key not only for the relationship between INCAE and the MIT Media Lab, but also for the formation of Esperanza.

CLACDS aims to help leaders in the private, public, and civic sectors in Central America implement changes promoting sustainable development in order to optimize economic growth, social equity, and environmental balance in the region. INCAE’s very first and specific action within Esperanza is the design and development of the graduate course in Technology Management by Professor Luis López. The goal of the course is to, foresee the business and commercialization potential and possible markets for the prototypes designed by researchers at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology who are participating in LIN.

Ana Maria Majano, Executive Director of CLACDS and researchers Cristian Cortés and Wendy Rodríguez are also active collaborators of the initiative. INCAE is also interested in promoting Learning Independence Networks in other countries in Central America.

LUTEC @ The Costa Rica Institute of Technology or TEC

Costa Rica institute of Technology or TEC is a public university in Costa Rica created to educate professionals with a solid scientific, technological and humanistic background. Its mission is to contribute with Costa Rica’s development through education, research and outreach programs. It aims to maintain a scientific and technical leadership in science, technology and academic excellence, fully respecting ethical, humanistic and environmental standards.

Professors Milton Villegas-Lemus, Juan Córdoba, and Marcela Guzmán professors in Computer Science, Industrial Design and Communications respectively, have organized the LuTec Project (The Luthiers -- from French, a string instrument constructor -- of Technology) to organize TEC's participation in Esperanza. LuTec is focusing on the development of the first interdisciplinary and multi-level course within TEC aiming to design and develop appropriate technology resonant with local needs. The course has recruited university students from different departments within the university (Computation, Electronics and Industrial Design) and has also attracted and supported participation from the Scientific and Technical (Vocational) High Schools and also has involved MBA students from INCAE. TEC's involvement in the network began with the full support of the former president of TEC, Alejandro Cruz.

LuTec also hosts the first FAB LAB in Costa Rica, and the first one installed outside the United States, that has raised high expectation not only in TEC, but in the country in general.


In order to design and develop technology that is locally appropriate and relevant, professors and students in the course keep in constant communication with the other partners in the Network.

LUMEN @ The School of Education at the University of Costa Rica or UCR

The School of Education at University of Costa Rica or UCR is an active node in Esperanza. With the backing of the President of UCR, Gabriel Macaya, as well as the full and active support and participation of the Dean of School of Education, Sandra García, Julia Alonso, from the Program for Advanced Technologies in Education or PROTEA, coordinates UCR’s participation in Esperanza through LUMEN (from Latin for a light or a lamp). LUMEN is a research project whose goal is to rethink the design and development of teacher education courses, mainly those that involve the use of digital technology to support the learning process. Other researchers involved in LUMEN besides Dean Sandra García and Julia Alonso, are Flora Salas, Zoila Rosa Vargas and Wilfrido Gonzaga.

LUMEN is in constant dialogue with other projects in Esperanza, mainly LuTec at the TEC.

Little Intelligent Communities or LINCOS

Lincos , a Community Center designed based on a constructionist approach to education and development, is equipped with new digital technologies that promote sustainable human and community development in both rural and urban settings in developing countries. LINCOS enables community members to use digital and other technologies to improve their education, health care and environmental monitoring and offers electronic commerce and government services. So far, two LINCOS have been installed in Costa Rica and ten in the Dominican Republic.

LINCOS researchers and community members are working closely with students from the TEC to jointly design and prototype more appropriate and low-cost technologies for environmental and health monitoring applications at all LINCOS sites.

Technical and Scientific High Schools @ The Ministry of Public Education or MEP

The Ministry of Public Education of Costa Rica or MEP has the mission of fulfilling the constitutional right that guarantees education for all in the country. MEP administrates the educational public system that includes formal K through 12 institutions, as well as public informal and adult education.

MEP is participating in Esperanza with a project called Digital Opportunity. Our goal is to develop an integrated educational approach that establishes genuine links between high schools in different tracks (technical, academic, artistic and humanistic), the One Room School system in the country (rural, elementary schools) and TEC. The students will develop a stronger sense of themselves as learners, activists, and inventors through engagement in long-term active and meaningful learning experiences with great potential for individual and community development.

In particular, the director of Technical Education, Fernando Bogantes, and the founder of the national system of Scientific high schools, Víctor Buján, as well as Carlos Barrantes from Promece and Rocío Alvarado from the One Room Schools are leading a strong team of collaborators within MEP and working closely with Professors Milton Villegas-Lemus and Juan Cordoba from the TEC for the implementation of Digital Opportunity. Deputy Minister Wilfrido Blanco is fully supporting the project and has appointed Mónica Riveros to lead the administrative organization of the project within MEP.

Cientec Foundation

Cientec is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and popularize science and technology. To do so, Cientec produces and distributes educational material, and develops programs and activities for families, teachers and the general public. Some of Cientec’s programs are: Math for the Family, Science and Play, Astronomy in the Park and Mathematical Equity. Cientec’s website has been recognized as one of the most visited in the country. Alejandra León, Cientec’s executive director, as well as the Foundation’s Board of advisors are fully supporting the participation of Cientec in Esperanza to popularize the findings and the ideology of the project.

Cientec and GIG are in the process of designing a Science and Technology Digital Newsletter for Cientec’s website where students and teachers around the country submit articles and review submission of others on themes that resonate with goals of Esperanza. The most well recognized scientists in the country will serve as advisors for students and teachers who wish to publish in the Newsletter. The newsletter will also have a space for the invited scientists to publish generally accessible articles about their own research.


The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio) is a scientific institution with social orientation. It is non-profit and for the public good and its mission is to promote a new awareness of the value of biodiversity, and thereby achieve its conservation and use to improve the quality of life. With the support of its Executive Director, Dr. Rodrigo Gámez and its BioInformatics Director Dr. Erick Mata, INBio has recently joined Esperanza through its Education for BioDiversity Program. INBio is developing an Interactive Educational Program that will promote interactive learning of biodiversity contents and values with the use of digital technology for personal fabrication. It is a non formal program, targeted to highschool youngsters.

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