After a day spent in the sanitized environment of the KCCR and the Credit Union Hostel, participants today had the chance to do what they came here to do – get their hands dirty! Yesterday evening they had the chance to pick one of six possible “build-it” modules that would be taking place concurrently throughout the course of the day. The options included a Solar Lantern, a Humdinger wind energy machine, a water pump, a hacksaw made from bicycle parts and a corn cob sheller. Some of these took place in workshops on campus, some in the hostel itself and the last two, of which I was a part, boarded a bus to Suame Magazine.
Our mission for the day...
This was my first time both in the centre of
Joseph hammering some aluminum to pieces
The speech that John Powell had given yesterday morning was instantly contextualized, as we saw first hand the effect that this grassroots movement had on the local economy. The Suame Model seems an exceptionally sustainable one, and even more than that, an intrinsically practical one too. All of the items that we saw being made and sold are things that are physically applicable in the daily context of Ghanaian life and thus, it is understandable why there is such a market for them.
After a quick stop off at the Information Technology Transfer Unit (I.T.T.U) workshop we finally had the chance to meet one of the workshop masters, a legend by the name of Stone. He runs a foundry a couple of minutes walk into the hub of the Magazine and we spent the day with him and his team of apprentices, learning how to make corn Sheller’s from heated aluminum moulds. We first set prepared the mould, heated the aluminum in the furnace, before pouring it into our moulds to cool into the shape we had set. After pouring the aluminum (I did the honors for my team) we decided to go back to the I.T.T.U. for the next phase of our build it, all the while secretly hoping we hadn’t messed up our aluminum casting!
Sean is given the crucial task of pouring the aluminum - no pressure!
David and Joseph, enthralled by the mould they have just made
Stone - The great man himself!
On the way back I had a very interesting chat with Radikha Bhalla, a Masters student in the Art College of Design in
Radikha adds some final touches to our mould
We arrived back at the I.T.T.U. at about 2pm, ready to grab a quick bite to eat, before learning how one can make a corn sheller through simple sheet metal. We spent the next hours cutting, bending, fastening and in some cases welding, before eventually having some prototypes to show for our hard work. Not before the Engineers had some fun with their token English student though. Gwyn Jones, one of this year’s trip leaders, is never one to pass by an opportunity for mirth and as I looked quizzically at the hole puncher for the sheet metal he quipped “Just imagine it’s an A4 sheet of paper and you’ll be fine”. The unsettling thing about it was that his advice actually worked
On our return to the Foundry some of us were horrified to see that our moulds had not quite formed in exactly the manner we had planned them. Due to the moist nature of the cast sand and mould our aluminum had not quite reached all the way around. As such we had something which much more closely resembled a horseshoe! Our names that we had carved into the underside of the mould were still just about readable so that provided at least some consolation. Overall though, we followed the Confucius wisdom mentioned earlier in the blog, and learned by doing, rather than simply observing.
Lisa, one of this year's MIT students, completely at home in the workshop
On our return we proudly (some more than others) showed off our new creations and it was interesting to see the range of work that people had done during the day. Patricia, in particular, was delighted with the Solar Lantern she had created as it meant that she would be now able to have light in her house in the evenings, and thus hold lessons for the girls at a more convenient time. She also already has quite a new range of skills available to teach them!
We reconvened in the KCCR Seminar Room to hear from some of the past participants about their experience post IDDS. Hayley started the ball rolling with a presentation on the impact that her experience in IDDS 2008 had on her personally and professionally, stating that the combination of practical prototypes and inspiring inventors is what makes IDDS so unique. Our second English past participant, Stephen, duly followed with a superb presentation on the work he and h
is Breast Milk team have been doing since the end of the conference. During the summit his team was working on a project to help reduce the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children during breastfeeding. Working in conjunction with a medical team from
The tough task of following Stephen’s presentation fell on the more than able shoulders of Suprio Das, a past participant from Kolkata in
He spoke to his fellow participants about the imminent danger they were in from a new sort of virus, one he claimed was even worse than malaria. The “IDDS fever” certainly took hold of Suprio during the course of last year’s summit, and has had a firm hold on him ever since. Within Suprio himself though, exists the ability to inspire and infect those listening to him with a passion for, and belief in, the power of technology and invention to significantly change people’s lives for the better. He told us that his wife had begun to despair that his whole house was turning into a laboratory and he gave us some interesting examples of some of the water testing and purification work he and Jessica have been doing over the past couple of months.
Jess and Suprio present their experiences to the group
He also told us one story which I feel somehow represents a perfect example of how valuable inventors and appropriate technology are to the world. On the verge of finishing up their latest prototype for the power pump, Suprio and Jess heard about a cyclone that had ripped through a nearby delta of islands and left thousands of people with severely damaged homes and without electricity. The two abandoned the work they were doing and instead began to adapt a hand pump that could help charge mobile phones, the only form of communication the communities had with the outside world and particularly important during time of crisis. They travelled up to the region with their prototype and soon found plenty of enthusiasm to encourage them that they had made the right choice in coming. Each of the villagers wanted to try the machine themselves, and were amazed by the practical solution to one of their very real problems.
The region, devestated by flooding
This highlights just how much of a change inventors can make in the world. The lack of bureaucracy associated with Suprio’s solution was inspiring. He simply saw a need, developed a solution, and delivered on that solution. At the close of his presentation he invited us out to try one of his latest inventions which is explained through pictures below. Apologies for the lack of video content in this blog – the internet connection over here simply doesn’t allow for it!
A trip to a local restaurant was to follow and the Jofel experience provided a lot more amusement than one might have imagined. Given that they had to cater for almost 100 people, the staff moved us upstairs to a huge open area floor, before setting up the table and chairs for the event. Unfortunately, they hadn’t factored in the thunderstorm that ensued and we were thus treated to the hilarious sight of about twenty IDDSters moving 100 chairs, 20 tables and 20 trays of food across a massive open plan hall, with rain streaming in from either side! In the end, it all worked out and was another great chance to talk further with some of this year’s wonderful participants. They are all excited about finding out their teams and design challenges tomorrow!