On Friday we gathered the students in the Science Block garden to celebrate their accomplishments over the past four weeks and showcase their design projects that they worked so diligently on each afternoon. Let me begin by saying that in three years of running programs in around the world, this is by far our most successful program to date! (More on this in a later post.)
When Clay arrived with the army of students and their projects at 10:00AM, all were eager to see what they had produced. The students were quickly organized into their groups, gathered tables and chairs, and put their work out on display. Although they had a minor scuffle with a confused security staff, the expo was set up in a timely manner.
At first, there was very little interest from passers by in what the students were displaying. People would gaze from their pathway to peek at the projects displayed on the tables, but few ventured across the lawn to get a closer look. We reminded the students that they must engage their audience because if they stopped to look, they must be interested! This tactic worked wonders. In a matter of minutes each of the tables were surrounded by university students, parents, and professors, all engaging with our students about their various projects. I sat perched in the distance overlooking the activity and was inspired by what I heard and saw. As two university students walked away, one looked at the other and said with great excitement, “Wow Ghana has a bright future”. This is exactly the type of reaction that we had hoped to achieve from our expo.
In all, eight projects were displayed. The first project was a model of a water processing plant. Dirty brown water could be poured into the system and would travel through one of four slow sand filters to remove the particular matter. Next the water would flow through a larger tank to allow for particular sediments to settle at the bottom before flowing into a boiler. The steam from the boiler would then be captured and condensed in another chamber, and finally, clear, purified water would drip out of the end of the system. Keep in mind that this was all built out of water bottles, a pot from a student’s kitchen and a couple electric water heaters.
The second group built a bamboo bicycle. Inspired by the Bamboo Bike Project supported by Earth Institute at Columbia University (the same organization that gave funding for our work in Ghana), group 2 constructed a bicycle with a bamboo frame. When people hear bamboo bike they often imagine a bike made entirely of bamboo. In reality most bamboo bikes, like the one constructed by the students are called such because bamboo is used for the frame member bars. To secure the members together, the joints were wrapped tightly with string to keep the shape and provide some durability before a cast was applied over the string to add stiffness to the joints. For the cast, students used an ideal mixture of sawdust, epoxy, and hardener as suggested in the EDC report produced by Professor Culligan’s Spring 2010 class at Columbia.
The third project was a wind turbine model built from soda cans and bamboo that could light an LED when the wind blew. The turbine head was supported by a bamboo stand, and rotated in a bearing. The turbine blades were made of shaped aluminum constructed from soda cans. The turbine shaft was made from sections of shaped bamboo press fit together. A pulley system was created using rubber bands and pieces of bamboo to increase the generator rpm’s and produce more current. Clay and I were a bit skeptical about the turbines ability to actually turn seeing as it was built entirely from recycled local materials for under $5. But to our surprise, it worked masterfully. Group leader Daniel Asare from Nsawam, Ghana has a bright future ahead of him.
The fourth group, termed the Robot Group, built two line-following robots using supplied kits. After a couple weeks of experimenting with electronics components, this group selected a particular schematic and followed an electronics diagram to construct their robots. The robot had a directional LED and a light sensor on its bottom that allowed it to measure the amount of light reflected from the surface below. The robot could detect whether it was driving over a light or dark surface based off of the amount of light was reflected from the LED off the ground and up to the sensor. The robot would drive forward until it could no longer sense the black line, at which point it would turn slightly until it sensed the line again, and then continue on its way. As with any complex project, they went through their fair share of challenges, specifically dealing with the calibration of the light sensor. Ultimately the group was able to display two working autonomous robots.
The fifth project was based on an electronic door lock. The original goal of the project was to build a simple circuit that could lock or unlock a room door for security. Soon into the project the group realized that a mechanical lock would be too difficult to construct, and they shifted their focus towards an electronic locking device for wired gadgets such as computers, TVs, etc. The group built its own numeric keypad and wired it to the input pins of an Arduino micro-controller. The Arduino board is an open-source computing device commonly used for hobby electronics projects. The students programmed a lock/unlock code into the built-in Arduino software and connected the output of their board to a transistor to function as a locking switch for any electronic circuit. We were skeptical of the progress that this small group could make on such a complicated project, but they cleverly simplified the project and produced a programmable electronic lock that worked beautifully.
The sixth project was a design for a solar charger to power a cell phone through a USB connection. This group was one of two advised by Jerome Jackson. The project goal was to build a circuit connecting three solar panels to the power input of a cell phone, with the appropriate circuitry to regulate the current and voltage. The group did an excellent analysis of current and voltage produced by a single solar panel. Next they calculated the necessary panel arrangements to produce a current and voltage that the cell phone expects. Although the group was not able to build a permanent system they were able to “design” a stand-alone system that would charge a cell phone safely and effectively.
The seventh project, also advised by Jerome, was conducted by the programming group. This group began the design process by learning basic programming with two software kits: the Eclipse Java developer, and Processing, a simple visual-oriented program based on Java and C++. Starting from scratch, the group made rapid progress and began working towards their final design project after the second week. The group designed and coded a user login and security system with Java that can store usernames and passwords and then grant access to authorized users. The system worked without a flaw during the design expo. The group took this goal to the next level by adding a lock-out system that blocks a specific username if a wrong password is entered too many times. This ambitious program astounded all of us at the design expo, especially those with programming experience. We are impressed with the progress these students made in such a short amount of time, and we can only hope that they will be available to help us as we develop our website.
The eighth project was a student website about the program. The website included student quotes about how the program has furthered their interest in science and engineering, along with pages for pictures and videos from the program. Some of the quotes include:
Daniel O. Asare: I have really been motivated not by the lessons taught but by our teachers. They have really done a great sacrifice to help not only the students, but the nation as a whole.
Rebecca Entwiri-Acquah: This program has motivated me to learn and experience things I’ve never come into contact with especially through the experiment that we had. I would like to thank the organizers of this program for such a wonderful project.
Mensah Rapheal : The program is very nice because it has exposed us to certain fields that we were not aware of. Its practical nature aids students to better understand the lessons taught.
Forgive Klu: It has really helped me a lot and in fact I don’t know what to say, but to say, I learnt how to arrange simple circuits, how to create a web site and above all how to arrange water alarm circuit on my own! LONG LIVE ELITE! LONG LIVE U.P.S.H.S! ELITE! AYEKOO.
The ninth project was a short film documentary of the four-week program recorded from a student’s perspective. Students spent the first part of the program filming and interviewing their classmates. The final two weeks were spent on the computer digesting the hours of footage into a few minutes and arranging the clips into a movie stream. The final product was a student favorite and included the most popular songs of summer 2011 in Ghana. The movie has been placed on Youtube and can be viewed here: [link to be inserted].
Each of the groups went above and beyond our expectations. However, a few students were recognized for their exemplary work throughout the program and design project. The awards are as follows:
Attendance Award: Awarded to the student or students, who through diligence and dedication, was present and on time for each day of the program. (Roberta Badwewa-Obed)
Excellence in Core Classes: Awarded to the student or students who consistently performed well in classroom lab exercises and on homework assignments. (Stanley Hayford, Miriam Sasu, Evans Essoun, Philipa Darko, Daniel Asare, and Daniella Arnan-Nkansah)
Design Honors: Awarded to the group of students who best demonstrated the concept of design. (Solar Charger Group: Justice Awudi-Kwame, Dadzie Akrasi, and Ernest Degraft-Johnson)
Excellence in Software Engineering: Awarded to the student or students who demonstrated an advanced understanding of concepts and applications in the field of software engineering. (Prince Austin, Foster Adorkor, and Evans Essoun)
Leadership Award: Awarded to the student or students, who through example, best exemplified the mission of the organization. (Samuel Agbeyebiawo, Ibrahim Inusa, and Akrasi Dadzie)
T.O.D.D. Kwao-Vovo Award for Excellence in Media Promotion: Awarded in the name of one of our founding members, the T.O.D.D. award is presented to the student or students who best promote the organization through media arts. (Prince Affrang and Emanuel Kemevor)
-Chelsey (& Clay)