Week 1: Students Radiate their Potential in the Excel-lent first classes

As the title suggests, the authors of this blog are engineers, not poets. Nonetheless, we were thrilled with the performance of our students and teachers during the first week of the program. The first week took us through two classes in each subject (we use a two-day block schedule to lengthen class time). After a great kick-off on Monday, the students were eager to see more – and our instructors delivered! In the water class, taught by Clay, David and Bismark, the students conducted careful experiments to study the flow of water through different sized holes, the rate of evaporation in the hot African sun, and the capillary rise of colorful stained water up an absorbent paper. We engaged in an intense scientific debate about the relationship between pressure, flow and the area of a conduit, where students vehemently criticized and defended each other’s results. It was classic science at it’s finest.

The electronics class, taught by Jerome and Theo, started with a refresher course on simple circuitry, but the students quickly outshone the simple LED-battery-resistor circuits. Jerome has since had the students designing electronic sensors to detect water. As a computer engineer from MIT, Jerome must be one of the most enthusiastic teachers I have ever seen, and the students are certainly enjoying it.

The energy class co-taught by Chelsey, Thabo, and Kofi started with a discussion of kinetic and potential energy. Students constructed roller coasters using bearings and rubber hoses to prove Newton’s Laws of Physics. In class two the students engaged in discussions of thermal energy. The main topic of discussion was modes of heat transfer. Students were introduced to conduction, convection, and radiation, before working with equations to calculate equilibrium temperatures from conductive heat transfer between solids.

The business technology class was co-taught by Chelsey, Thabo, and Allan. In class students were introduced to Microsoft Excel. This class was particularly challenging this week because the school was without power for hours each day. This meant that excel functions had to be introduced on a dry erase board. Unfortunately, this meant that some students did not have the opportunity to fully realize the functionality of the tools without the practical experience.

The design projects are quickly shaping up to be the greatest achievements of the ELiTE program thus far. In the past two years, we have seen the students design and build a comprehensive small-scale farm and tabletop hydroponics systems. However, with the broad support and enthusiastic students of this years program, we expect not one, but eight independent and fully constructed projects from our student body. The projects are split into a wide variety of categories. Two groups are working on computer software, one is producing a video of the program on final cut pro while another group is designing a new student networking and learning forum for the elite-education.org website. Another branch of students is designing electronics projects, including an electronic keypad door lock, an autonomous robot, and a solar cell phone charger. Meanwhile, a small group of students is busy learning Java to build a fully coded program by the end of the program. On the other side of the spectrum, there is a group designing a bamboo bicycle frame (in the spirit of Marty Odlin in NYC for those of you who are in the know), an electricity generating wind turbine and a passive water purification system. Reading over this paragraph, I can hardly believe that the students are doing all of this, but after speaking with each group over the past week I have full confidence that this year’s design expo will be a huge success.

At long last, we have reached the weekend. This past week was exciting, but also exhausting. The students are so eager to learn, about science, technology, college or our lives in America, that it is hard to stay awake when the sun goes down. Yet these past few nights, even in our cramped rooms on thin foam mats, I have slept soundly.

Thank you for reading, and stay posted for more!

Sincerely,

Clay (+ Chelsey and Thabo)

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