The third week of the Ghana SITE 2011 has come and gone, and we are now approaching our final week. This past week was long and eventful and provided a good focus for our work in Ghana this summer. Each day was busy from dawn to dusk with a tight class schedule, design project work, a series of meetings and a few other notable events. Yet our hard work paid off, and today’s post will highlight some of the greatest successes of the trip.
The week was packed with a full set of classes. The Electronics classes finished some impressive transistor-based circuits that generated a variable flashing signal, and the students finished the water meters they started in Week 2. The Business/Math class developed students’ Excel skills with a class on graphing and another class on data analysis and regression. The students also spent two water classes purifying water, with an assortment of experiments spanning distillation, chlorination, sand filtration and heat treatment. In the Energy class, Chelsey worked through the principles of mechanical advantage, with one class on the function of gear trains and another class about pulley systems. As you can see below, this class was quite thrilling!
Aside from the morning classes, our students and mentors were hard at work constructing the program design projects. Despite the typical challenges of an engineering project (cost overruns, design modifications, tool failures), all of the projects are really starting to shape up. A few projects stood out, both for their great achievements and nagging design problems. The electronics projects have nearly finished their basic designs. The group building a water purification system startled the ELiTE staff with their ambitious designs, but they have managed to build an efficient system that may even capture some attention beyond our program. Meanwhile, the bamboo bicycle team has had an extraordinary amount of difficulty assembling their bike frame. The process alone requires some careful patience and craftmanship, and the group has been hard pressed to find some essential materials. However, in the last two days they have made significant progress and we can expect them to deliver an impressive product by the end of next week.
The team’s most dramatic success have occurred outside of the classroom. Jerome, one of ELiTE’s most talented instructors to date, set-up an extra-curricular programming class to extend the computer skills that our students have touched on in class. His evening classes (after we officially dismiss students for the day) have pulled in at least a dozen students from the program, and he has some promising ideas that may lead to a year-round online curriculum. We are still working on these plans, so stay tuned for new developments in the next few weeks. At the same time, Chelsey and Clay have been working with Kester Quist, one of our local organizing partners from the University of Cape Coast, to set up a local student chapter of ELiTE at the school. On Tuesday we received a generous welcome from more than a dozen student leaders in the science and engineering departments on campus. The support we have received so far is a strong indication of the gains we hope to achieve locally over the coming academic year. We will follow up with more information after our second meeting on Wednesday. In further news, we have reached out to Cape Coast Polytechnic, a nearby certificate-granting institution specializing in applied science and technology. A dedicated group of Poly students attended the program last week to learn about ELiTE, and we look forward to the new relationship.
The week ended on a strong note with a successful field trip to the Aboadze Thermal Power Plant. In typical Ghanaian fashion we packed our 50 students and instructors into a government bus built for 30 for the one-hour trip to Takoradi. Thanks to the help of Roger and Bismark, two helpful teachers from UPSS high school, we managed to arrive at the plant on time and in one piece. We received an excellent tour from a mechanical engineer named Geoffrey Barnes. Aboadze is one of three principle power stations supplying Ghana’s electricity grid, and Geoffrey provided a wealth of information for the students. The students were brimming with questions, and the instructors managed to get in a few of their own before we left for the plant driving tour. The tour itself was quick but awe-inspiring. We saw first-hand what a tanker-load of oil looked like when we drove around the reservoir tanks. We also passed the cooling stations and water processing facilities that feed the steam lines and cooling water streams. Although we weren’t authorized to walk into any of the turbine rooms, the students and instructors had an incredible time. After the plant tour, we drove to the Takoradi national stadium to visit the sporting landmark. After a quick photo stop we packed up the bus and returned home.
The third week was exhausting for the three ELiTE faciliators, but also inspiring. We made it over the hump of our trip, and now have only the final week and follow-up travel ahead of us. We have reached the section of a trip when nerves start to fray and tired travelers start dreaming of their return. Personally, I have started to look forward to some familiar comforts back home. We faced a downpour this weekend (to anyone on the East Coast: feel free to commiserate!) that left us craving sweatshirts and hot water. Yet today the sun has come out and our laundry is finally drying off. By another stroke of luck our in-house water lines even started to flow! The rest of the day promises to be relaxing and productive, and we may manage to sneak in a Star or two over dinner. In sum, we made it through the bulk of our program and it’s only downhill from here. Once again, thank you all for your dedication to our blog and our work, and stay tuned for more news.
Clay (+ Chelsey)