MANAUS, Brazil – You might not know that Nokia’s biggest single social project in the world is in the city of Manaus in the Brazilian rainforest, where Nokia also has a factory.
The Nokia Teaching Foundation (the Brazilian name is Fundação Nokia de Ensino – FNE) celebrated its 25th birthday last year as the 8th best school in Brazil for secondary and professional education and is a five-time winner of the best professional school in the northern region of Brazil.
So why does Nokia have such a big project in the middle of the Amazon?
A short history lesson
In 1985, the Amazonas State Government and Manaus Free-Trade Zone held a seminar to discuss the lack of skilled labour for data-processing jobs in the region. Until then, no technical school offered such teaching in Manaus and the authorities decided to create, in the short term, an institution that would satisfy this demand. It created the Center for Professional Training in Computer Science (CEPI), offering a data processing course.
In 1987, it received support from Sharp Electronics and was renamed the Matias Machline Foundation. It moved to the premises of a state school near the factory and established a selection test, focusing only on students from the elementary school. In 1992, in another pioneering initiative, 70% of the seats were reserved for students from public schools, a rule that continues today.
In 2001, after negotiations with the State Government, Nokia took over as the school’s maintainer, restructuring the institution to make it more innovative, such as launching the telecommunications course. It was renamed the Nokia Teaching Foundation.
The FNE will soon undergo a major expansion to increase its capacity. The project includes the construction of a new 14,000ms campus in the same location of the existing buildings. The construction will incorporate sustainable features; such as solar energy, water reuse and using the wind to cool the building. Over €16m ($21m) will be invested in the FNE expansion, which will support around 3,500 students – 130% more than its capacity today. The number of teachers will more than double, from 27 to 60 professionals.
Niklas Savander, Executive Vice-President of Nokia and the Nokia Teaching Foundation team present the cheque for the expansion.
Niklas Savander, Executive Vice-President of Nokia, was in Manaus to present the FNE with the cheque and said: “There is an explosion of young innovators throughout Brazil who are creating new developer applications, new manufacturing practices and new mobile services.
“As a company with strong ties to the community, we believe it is important for Nokia to continue to foster this growth through investments in educational efforts in Brazil. Therefore, expanding the Nokia Teaching Foundation in Manaus is one of my proudest moments as it helps support the creative students who are fuelling so much great innovation in Brazil and around the world.”
The expansion has been designed with the surrounding landscape in mind, and with a view to using the best green technology available. The architect, Marcelo Correia adds: “Everything was made considering the environmental side.”
Controlling the temperature is a major issue, as the average daily temperature is over 30°C all year round. Marcelo explains some of the details of how they do this:
- The building design is ‘like Swiss cheese’ – full of holes so the wind can pass through and make it cooler. This also lets the sunlight enter the building in a balanced way, helping to avoid the use of lights.
- Because Manaus is very close to the equator, the sun is almost directly overhead. The building has been designed so the sunlight is balanced so there is not too much light on one side and none on the other.
- The halls are external covered balconies, which creates a cooler shadowed area.
- Solar panels cover the roof, which convert sunlight into electricity.
- Rainwater is reused and water from the building will go into a modern sewage treatment plant. There is an idea to use special trees that purify water in the treatment. The water will pass through these trees, which help clean the water (please note this is still in the planning stage and not certain to go ahead).
- Trees planted in the car park create shadows for the vehicles.
- The school will plant 74 trees throughout the campus.
The building design is cost effective, and some clever extra touches make it almost magical. The yellow corridors you see in the picture are not covered, so when you walk along them you feel you are almost walking in the trees. The sport fields face the protected Amazon forest so students can enjoy being close to nature, and the school’s design was inspired by Greek amphitheatres.
Artist’s impression of the Nokia Teaching Foundation expansion for 2013
The design of the school is that everything is open, integrated and directed towards each other, with a human touch, bringing to mind Nokia’s strapline ‘Connecting People’.
This piece was originally written by Luis Joly, who works on the Nokia Brazil blog.