Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 13 - "How to" sessions

Way back in early July, at one of the first organizer meetings, we had planned a day of technology demonstration and dissemination. On Thursday afternoon participants had then been given the chance to decide which two "how to" sessions they would be most interested in attending. The options on offer in the morning session were Water treatment and testing, Pedal powered generator, Biogas digesters and Peanut/groundnut sheller and these were followed with afternoon sessions on Infiltration wells, Microbial fuel cells, Pedal-powered grain mill, corn sheller and a Pot in Pot evaporative cooler.

Past participants, organizers and mentors all gave hour long hands on tutorials on building and specialist techniques in which they had experience. The sessions were completely optional and as such it was great to see such a huge turnout from almost all of the participants. Bernard Kiwia had told me about his delight in being able to bring home pedal powered techniques shown to him by Carlos at last years summit and we are hoping for some similar interactions and technology sharing to come out of today's sessions.

John Shaba, a Zambian participant, with the water testing kit

Water testing in action

After the work sessions we split into two groups and took the participants on tours of Fablab and OLPC(One Laptop per Child). Fablab is a project which began in MIT and which aims to give ordinary people around the world the technology to design and make their own products. The lab already has sister laboratories in Costa Rica, Ghana, India and Norway and all the participants I spoke to enjoyed the hands on tour. I personally attended the OLPC tour and found the idea quite interesting.

OLPC's mission statement is to "To create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning" and we were given a brief synopsis of the history and vision of the project by two of OLPC's staff. Participants were impressed with the technology and the aim of the project but expressed concerns as to how many children and schools were actually using the laptops in an educational capacity. All of the ten dollar computer team attended the tour however, and found it extremely useful in the context of their project. They even stayed behind for over an hour afterwards to get as much information as physically possible out of the very open and friendly OLPC staff!

OLPC's interesting network system

Participants take a look around the cluttered OLPC office

We then organized a rather unusual trip to see an open air showing of Shakespeare's As you like it in Boston Common. Almost half of the participants made the trip, needing to let off steam after a long week. Once there, however, we couldn't actually get close enough to see the performance and were attracting dirty looks from some of the other spectators so we decided to go for an impromptu game of Frisbee in the nearby park. We even went about creating a human pyramid of sorts and had a lot of fun in the process, with Sunil Singh Jethuri, one of the Indian participants, inspiring the other participants through his effervescent enthusiasm. As you can see in the picture below, the space on top is reserved for him!

Participants adopt an unusual approach to the human pyramid!

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