Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day 25 - Reflecting on the past and planning for the future

After the heady heights of the final presentations the participants began the less exciting process of lab clean up this morning. However, in the IDDS spirit, everyone chipped in with a smile on their face and before lunchtime we had completed a large part of what needed to be done. One part that that the participants did not enjoy was dismantling some of their prototypes! The Ropeway team, in particular, seemed sad to say goodbye to the transport system they had been working on for the past three weeks.

Once a semblance of order had been placed on the labs it was time for our final round of participant presentations. All in all I think there has been a total of thirty presentations this year and this has, without doubt, contributed to the atmosphere of sharing and learning that has pervaded at IDDS 2008. The diversity inherent within IDDS came across most clearly during these presentations and today was no exception with room 16-160 seeing presentations from Zambia, Tibet, America, Brazil and Mexico! Michelle and Marcio talked about the separate work they were doing in water testing and purification before Shamo talked to us about a project aimed at supporting education through English training programs in the Tibetan region.

Michelle talks to the group about the work she is doing in water testing

The group then broke for lunch and pizza before the next set of presentations. The eagerness that existed in the participants to share their ideas and experiences was plain for all to see and sparked many discussions among them and hopefully many future collaborations! After lunch Oswin presented to the group on the work he was doing in his home in rural Zambia with Heifer International in providing families with "no-interest living loans" in the form of cattle. Families then pass on the female offspring of these cattle to their neighbours and the cycle then becomes self perpetuating. Silvia then gave an extremely interesting presentation on Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, the University in which she currently lectures in Chemistry. The University's main focus is on region and country development and could well provide a model for many more of its type to emerge around the world. Finally, David Sokal presented research he had completed on a female condom that could be applied to developing countries. A lot of information to absorb in less than an hour!

The pizza didn't last long!

Oswin presents an aspect of his work in Zambia to the group

Jesse translates for Silvia during her presentation on her home University

David Sokal presents his female condom prototype

We then moved on to the most hotly anticipated announcement and presentation of the day - where would IDDS 2009 be held? There had been rumours floating around all week that the 4 week conference would be moving abroad and India, Brazil and Zambia had been mentioned but it was finally confirmed that IDDS 2009 would be taking place in Kumasi, Ghana. Organizers from MIT and from past and present IDDS' will work together with KNUST(Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) as IDDS moves away from MIT for the very first time. We were treated to a very enthusiastic presentation from George Fuachie, George Obeng, Crossman Hormenoo and John Quansah on KNUST and their hopes for the 09' conference. Participants will work closely with Swame Magazine(a collection of 80,000 artisans, engineers and mechanics in Kumasi and the third largest of its type in Africa) and will also have full use of the KNUST facilities.

The most obvious reason for re-locating to Ghana, however, is that participants will be far better able to judge the conditions and available materials in the developing world context. There are also plans to have participants travel out to local rural villages, like the one in which George Fuachie is a pastor, to talk to villagers about the problems they are facing and thus make much more informed decisions about the problems they are attempting to solve and the technologies they are attempting to create. Everyone involved in IDDS is hugely excited about the prospect of the summit being held in Ghana and the atmosphere in the room was laden with anticipation and excitement. We even saw where the 09' participants would be living!

The final evaluations for IDDS quickly followed the Ghana presentation and there was a huge amount of positive feedback from the participants on the conference and also some very important and much appreciated constructive criticism. We hope to use these evaluations as a building block towards the creation of an even more successful IDDS in Ghana. Participants were also informed of the funding available for continuation of their projects and for international collaboration and the process involved in each of these. Participants were particularly interested in this session as all teams were eager to continue their projects, having put so much effort in during their four weeks at MIT.

We all then returned to the dorms to prepare for the hotly anticipated talent show, due to take place later in the evening. The event was most certainly a highlight of the IDDS experience for me, with participants and organizers alike throwing off any inhibitions they may have had and showcasing a wonderful array of talents. The atmosphere in the room was so positive that it was impossible not to be caught up in it and this has positivity has been one of IDDS' finest characteristics for me. I even got up to perform with four of the guys but thankfully the video for this cannot be sourced and thus our dignity can remain intact!

Suprio sings a beautiful Indian song

The Bush room turns into an impromptu venue for a rock concert!

Alvaro and Francesca dance in Lobby 10 to music from IDDS' very own string quartet

As you can see from these short performances, of which there were about twenty, the IDDS group really are a hugely talented bunch of people. Unfortunately, one of our most exuberant and talented participants, Stephen Gerrard, had to leave for England an hour before the show but he still managed to make an appearance via a quite hilarious set of homemade videos. The crowd were in stitches of laughter as Stephen shared his talents with the group!

Stephen Gerrard displaying just one of his many talents

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