CyberFair Project ID: 3568

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Patent Wars on AIDS Drugs: Public Health or Corporate Wealth?
Category: 7. Environmental Awareness

School: Pinkerton Academy
    Derry, NH, USA

4 students, ages 15, 18, 16, 16 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on October 31, 2004. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): none

Classes and Teachers: Deborah O'Connor (primary coach); Nagi Mahalingam (Assistant Coach); Ammu, Jonathan, Raghu, Elise

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Team

Ammu (15) Role: team leader, research and content development, translation, intro, part Spanish site.

AIDS is an issue that I’m passionate about, and ‘Patent Wars’ provides a new angle from which the pandemic must be tackled. By creating this site with the team, I hope to disseminate knowledge – knowledge which could ultimately help eliminate the problem altogether, and analyze the situation to develop creative solutions.

Jonathan (18) Role: game development, layout and programming.

I didn’t know much about the subject when we started the project, but it was enormously interesting. I learned a lot about HIV/AIDS and patent wars. I also learned a lot about working as a team and that my teammates are nice and talented people.

Elise (16) Role: web design/layout and graphics

Although having previous web development expertise, this was my first major project. It has proven to be a valuable learning experience, and I have discovered the rewards of working with a dedicated and committed team. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting people from the other side of the world, sharing our experiences and culture.

Raghu (16) Role: Research and content development The creation of “Patent Wars” has been an enjoyable experience. Initially, I researched merely to meet a deadline, fill a quota, but as time progressed, I engrossed myself in the subject matter. I failed to grasp how pharmaceuticals could engage themselves in litigious activities, all the while knowing that their inaction resulted in the lives of millions more. These questions intensified my desire to fully comprehend the situation.

Primary Coach: Deborah O’Connor Role:primary coach, project management, conflict resolution, progress monitoring, risk management.

Assistant Coach: Nagi Mahalinam Role: assistant coach, technical consultant, content advisor.

For more details please visit:

2. Summary of Our Project

The battle in the field of medical drug research and development is one that is fought without weapons, yet affects countless people worldwide and leaves death in its wake. It can be thought of as a conflict of interests: should preference be given to the world's pharmaceutical giants who use the monopolistic rights for their drugs as incentives to produce more, or should countries with high rates of deadly illnesses be given the right to override patent laws in order to save lives?

The drug research and production industry is not a cheap one. Several million dollars can go into the development of a new drug. The global pharmaceutical industry insists that patents provide incentive to research and produce more drugs. Were it not for the monopolistic rights that drug companies hold, it would not be worthwhile to invest time and money that it takes to develop new drugs. It is obvious that if these pharmaceutical companies do not produce drugs, there will be no drugs to fight over.

Yet developing countries do not concur. The fact remains that the drugs made available by today's pharmaceutical giants are simply not affordable. In order for people in developing countries to gain access to medication, they must either produce their own generic drugs or import generic drugs from other countries. Both of these options leave them at the mercy of the large pharmaceutical companies, who jump at the opportunity to charge the smaller countries with patent infringement.

It becomes apparent that both sides have convincing arguments. The quicker a solution is found, the better. As is often the case, knowledge proves to be an effective catalyst. A perusal of the pages of this website will provide you with an extensive understanding of the topic of patent wars on AIDS drugs.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:not sure

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

While constructing the website, we faced problems getting in touch with the right person to obtain permission for photographs, interviews and opinions. Without letting this discourage us, we remained persistent and were eventually able to obtain the information we needed to create this high-impact website. A multinational, multicultural team is always difficult to manage. Communication was a big challenge as we lived in different time zones. The team was flung far across the globe but still managed to adhere to strictly laid out protocols. Neglecting time differences, mind you Sydney is GMT+8 while Boston is GMT-5, the team employed efficient methods to stay in regular contact. Instant messaging, e-mail, internet phones and a forum to post & retrieve are only but a few mentioned here. It wasn't always happy & dandy: there were numerous ups and downs. There were times when work advanced blindingly fast and also times when it was difficult to fight procrastination. Though it was summer and holidays for the most, Elise had to contend with winter and the 2nd half of the year in Australia. And lastly, balancing this independent study with our regular school work in a short amount of time was another challenge. There was a tremendous amount of work to be completed in a short amount of time for this project. However, with dedication, motivation and persistence from all team members and coaches and by self imposing strict and unattainable deadlines, the team managed to complete the project with ample time left for testing and final touch ups.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

The best part of this project is the fact that this website encourages online learning and using the Internet in an educational and positive way. We see huge benefits working in such international projects -it breaks down barriers such as religion, racial, language, geographic and above all else it teaches the kids tolerance and respect which are the keys for finding world peace. This was most amazing aspect of this whole endeavor!

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

This project integrates several areas of Grade 10-12 New Hampshire State curriculum.

Language Arts : The students demonstrated their ability to write for a variety of purposes and audiences. As the project is global in nature and the target audience is 12+, the students had to develop materials for various learning styles and age groups.

Mathematics : The students employed statistics and probability to interpolate and extrapolate the data on AIDS. They evaluated patterns to make intelligent predictions on future trends and arrived at logical conclusions. Science : The students evaluated patterns and progress in patent battles from a scientific and technical standpoint. This helped them understand that progress in science and technology is controlled by societal attitudes and beliefs. It helped them realize that science and technology can affect individuals, and that individuals in turn can affect science and technology.

Social Studies: The students demonstrated an understanding of different types of economic systems, intellectual property rights, their advantages and disadvantages, and how the economic systems used in particular countries may change over time. The students also demonstrated an understanding of international trade and trade policies.

Educational Technology: The students continually used technology communication, productivity, research, problem-solving and decision making tools towards creating this website.

Information Power : The main aim of the project was to research and share information world-wide. They worked effectively as a group to pursue and generate information to contribute to society.

World Languages: Students demonstrated an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the various cultures. They participated in multilingual communities and gained an understanding of the various cultures. For example, they translated the website into Spanish.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

This website would not be possible without the use of a myriad of technological tools. Computers, printers, routers, digital cameras, scanners, video cameras, word processing softwares, web design and graphics softwares, e-mail, instant messaging, FTP, internet security, online discussion forum, and IP telephony softwares were used daily to create the website. The computers along with the instant messaging and telephony softwares were used for weekly online conferences – which was essential not only to establish roles and responsibilities but also to discuss progress.

The online forum was the most critical element for our successful completion of the project. As the team members lived in different time zones, this medium was essential to post and retrieve messages at the individual’s convenience.

The team also had to use a variety of resources : books, internet, newspaper and interviews during the research stage to get an accurate understanding of the issue in order to create an authentic website.

This website has turned out to be a perfect example of today’s technology-supported education. It makes it possible to provide quality information to a global audience at times and places most convenient to them. In an effort to make the site ideal for telelearning, the website is offered in two languages and different bandwidth versions.

Once completed, the project was evaluated for quality of educational content, choice of audience and topic, originality, depth of content, citations, website design and appearance, sequence of content, writing, use of multimedia, technical performance, cross-cultural perspective, team work and timely completion. Both self and peer review were used to provide feedback on the project. The team successfully met all their objectives.

The final product is the team's original creation.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

The project was born out of very little and has been online for a short period of time, but has several enthusiastic users worldwide. The project enables users from around the world to express their feelings, share their opinions and voice their concerns. There are several personal stories, opinions and articles being submitted for publication on this website. Feedbacks we have received show that the information offered has been used in some schools. By using information and communication technology (ICT) to bring together people from various places and backgrounds, has confirmed that it is possible to get the reality of patent wars on AIDS drugs to everyone. The website is also published at Oracle’s ThinkQuest library ( and gets several hundred hits a day. The website is increasing awareness of the issue by allowing users to open their hearts and speak their minds.

Our hope is to successfully bring together users from several different countries, giving them a voice and place of their own in cyberspace.

Feedback received from users for additional services to be offered indicate the enthusiasm with which the project has been received.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

Please see answer above.

The following plans/wish list is based on feedback we have received from our users.

Petition Tool: We would like to add a tool where users can create, sign, and share petitions (regarding HIV/AIDS and patent wars) within their community to take action and make a difference with issues they care about.

Polls: Add surveys/polls to improve the website based on user responses.

Projects Tool: We would like to create a tool whereby our members from around the world can register the HIV/AIDS related projects they are involved with. The intent of this tool will be to provide an opportunity for members to highlight their project initiatives, objectives and the goals they are trying to accomplish. The intent is also to provide a unique space for each project where they can post their progress and short/long term goals. This will also provide an opportunity for users across countries to collaborate online to help each other accomplish their goal and also to achieve global visibility.

Newsletters: Include monthly newsletters.

Showcase: The showcase will serve as a web-based platform and resource to showcase local opportunities, expressions and perspectives that truly reflect the diversity of our network.

Member/Group Search: Ability to create a random member(group) search or search based on similar interests, language or location.

Promote AIDS-awareness and issues with patent battles: 1) Allowing users to compete on educational opportunities relating to the issue.

2) Allow users an opportunity to create wallpapers/banners or the like by making something related to aids-awareness and sending it to us by e-mail.

3) AA Messenger: Our version of AOL Messenger

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

This site would not be possible without the support and encouragement of many! We would like to thank them for their support!

Our families: Thanks to all our families for putting up with late nights and long hours, for being so supportive, and for being candid when it was most important.

Deborah O’Connor & Nagi Mahalingam (coaches): Mrs. O’Connor and Nagi worked hard by giving us guidance, instruction, feedback and also offering psychological support when needed. We would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication. They kept us motivated and offered insightful comments throughout the course of the project.

Bruno Rijsman and Teru Sato (photographs): Our team extends its thanks to Bruno Rijsman, whose wonderful photographs from his travels were extraordinarily helpful in the site's design. Deepali Jain: Many thanks to Deepali Jain for her role, in an unofficial manner, as a mentor, guiding us whenever we hit a web design stumbling block.

WHO and Oxfam: Our team would like to thank the WHO and Oxfam for allowing us the use of many of their lovely photos, some of which were used in the flash introduction, and others in the gallery. Many thanks to for allowing us to syndicate the daily HIV/AIDS headlines, as well as for the interviews that they provided to us.

ThinkQuest and Doors to Diplomacy: Our team would like to thank Doors to Diplomacy/ThinkQuest for the amazing opportunity they have provided for students around the world to connect and to discover the world of modern methods of education. This program truly encourages people from different cultures, religious backgrounds, and countries to develop a greater understanding and tolerance of what's different from our own daily lifestyles. It has been a truly great experience.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

There are several resources available online for HIV/AIDS. However, is the only website (as far as we are aware) that explores the basics of AIDS, the patent issues relating to AIDS pharmaceuticals, simultaneously facilitating daily exchange of information by providing users a voice and space of their own. Although the newspapers and other forms of media had basically beaten the subject to death, the message was not coming through to the audience in the intended manner, nor was it catering to the various age groups. Our team realized that lifeless facts are simply a waste of time and effort: people need to see that AIDS and patent issues are real before any substantial changes are made.

While the primary mission of this website is to provide an avenue for people throughout the world to share their concerns and voice their opinions on the issue, it has been, to our surprise being used as a source of educational information in India and some African nations. We have received several feedbacks on how the website has helped users. We have also received requests for additional features.

This project has proved the power of the Internet and the power of telelearning. It was truly an amazing and rare experience. It is a great example of how a virtual community can unite and help each other.

This project recently won 2nd place (for 19 and under) in Oracle’s ThinkQuest April 2004 competition [] and is receiving several hits/day.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 3568)

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