Approaching the Finish Line

Today is Sunday, and the ELiTE Ghana 2011 SITE has come to a close. Chelsey and I are now in a hotel in Koforidua after a long day of travel. However, we will get into details of more recent events in another post. Instead, I will briefly describe the fourth week of the program to keep all of our readers up to date. As I reflect on the past seven days I am astonished to consider how much has happened. Final classes, finished design projects, overdue exploration and a scramble to get everything wrapped up before Friday filled our week to the brim.

When we posted our last entry, we were unwinding from a long and rainy weekend in Cape Coast. I neglected to mention our activities of the weekend: we were rained in for much of the weekend, and we spent a large chunk of Friday and Sunday watching movies indoors. On Saturday morning we managed to bring in a fair share of the students to UPSHS to catch up on design project construction. Once again, their motivation astounds me. Later in the day we snuck off to a football (soccer…) game in nearby Kwapro that was highlighted by some hilarious, yet painful, minor injuries across the board. Chelsey nearly completed a back-flip, I slide-tackled the opposing teams goalie in the muddy pitch and Mohammed pulled a Three Stooges maneuver by getting hit in the head by both a boot and a ball during the game. Nothing serious though, and we all laughed it off at the end of the game.

On Sunday we decided to try to find a fish market to cook the fresh catch in the afternoon. We had heard from a fisherman in Cape Coast that the best seafood could be found in Elmina. This same fisherman was selling giant twenty pound sea snails on his head, but that’s another matter. We took a route taxi to the nearby town and stepped out of the cab into a full-blown Maritime rain storm. Unfortunately, by noon we were too late to find any of the day’s catch. Feeling a bit defeated, we spent a couple hours eating lunch at a hotel over-looking both the Elmina Castle and the main entry canal for the deep water fishing vessels. It was an interesting afternoon despite the rain, though the chilly weather (even by North American standards!) left me feeling pretty exhausted for the rest of the day.

On Monday we cancelled regular classes to spend time working on the design projects. By the end of the afternoon we were finally seeing the projects come together into visible form. Tuesday and Wednesday capped off our final curriculum classes, and took us another step closer to the design expo. The water class spent some time working on a complex back-of-the-envelope calculation I assigned for homework reminiscent of the case problems familiar to anyone who has applied for a consulting job. A couple of the prompts will be posted later on the facebook page. Chelsey worked on an Excel-based problem from his green building class in school that combined the business/computer class with the energy class for both days. The students tackled a problem that was used as a Masters-level engineering class midterm, and we were pleasantly surprised by the students’ poise with the problem. Though no students made it all the way through, a few came very close to the final answer after the two working class days. Jerome spent his remaining class catching up with the students to the R-C flasher circuit that he introduced in Week 3. By the end of the day, all of the students had completed the fundamental circuits of the class and most were experimenting with different resistor and capacitor values, and circuit arrangements. Jerome also continued his after-class programming lectures at a nearby internet café.

Thursday was again spent working on the design projects. The students’ goals were so ambitious that we wanted to make sure that they would be satisfied with their work by the Friday ceremony. Oh, and it wouldn’t be hurting our cause if they managed to make their projects a bit easier on the eyes (and camera lenses) as well… The students made great progress on Thursday that shone through the final ceremony on Friday. We also took a few video interviews of the students to gauge their reaction to the program. Hopefully we can post a few of these in the next few weeks.

Besides class and design project, the ELiTE staff held a meeting with the newly-founded ELiTE University of Cape Coast student chapter to hold brief elections and establish our working relationship. The showing was slim but dedicated, and we expect good things from Michael (the group’s elected president) and the rest of the team. We spent the remainder of our time scrambling to assemble support and materials for the final event on Friday. I won’t get into details about the last three days now, so keep your eyes out for the next posting about the final ceremony and other happenings. Oh, and we’ll put up a few more pictures soon as well. Until then, thanks for reading and stay in touch!

Best,

Clay (+ Chelsey)

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