Tuesday started with another early morning, but this time after 8 hours of quality sleep. I watched the sunrise by candle light while writing this blog post, it was a great way to start the day. However, no one mentioned the swarms of mosquitos that come out at dawn! I ran back inside for some long pants and a sweater and settled in for some lesson planning and journaling.
I met Corinne and Tony for breakfast on the patio. We enjoyed yet another beautiful morning watching flocks of birds glide across the lake. Since we were lucky enough to have Waziri available for a ride, we made it to Zariki in no time. I spent the morning setting up my lesson on Solar Energy. When the students gathered for class I noticed a few new faces. In fact, my class size had doubled and there were now enough girls to equalize the gender ratio. This was a pleasant surprise, but I realized once we started doing another round of intros/ice breakers. We made it through with all the new students, and though the number of names I had to remember had doubled, the energy in the classroom was picking up.
We spent the day exploring thermal solar energy. Light from the sun can produce energy on Earth in a few different ways, including the conversion of organic matter into plant growth during photosynthesis, electricity generation from solar panels, and lastly (and perhaps most significantly) warming of the Earth. We started by trying to capture sunlight as heat, experimenting with a kit of solar ovens that Paige brought from the U.S. We began by finding the best way to capture sunlight: we hooked up a multimeter to a solar panel to measure the sunlight intensity and experimented with tin foil reflectors, different orientations, and coverage with transparent insulation to concentrate the light. After this task, we set about finding the best way to heat a sample of water in the enclosed oven. We set up an array of samples, from enclosed water-filled jump ropes, to cut-open soda cans wrapped in plastic bags and tin foil. These experiments were surprisingly conclusive and we managed to compile a list of solar heating guidelines that closely matched the instructions in the manual. Hooray!
Once our experiments were finished, we were ready to test out our solar ovens for real. Pat and Holly (two members of our ~15 person contingent on the trip) lead the charge to prepare ready-to-bake chocolate and blueberry muffin mixes for the solar oven. The cooking required some eyeballing and improvisation, and we were all fairly skeptical of the endeavor from the start. We shut the lids on our two batches of muffins and left the sun to start cooking. Meanwhile, I arranged the students into five groups and gave them the challenge to make the best DIY solar oven they could improvise from the materials at hand (pots and pans, plastic bags, aluminum foil, water bottles, tape, etc.). I tried my hand at the challenge to see if I could show them all a real engineer at work. I was confident in my superior technical abilities while we left the ovens to work.
During that time we gathered in the classroom and played Pass the Roll of Tape, a game I improvised to get the students to speak up more in class. Everyone wrote science-related questions on the board, and whoever caught (or was hit by) a roll of tape tossed their way had to go to the front of the class and voice their thoughts about one of the questions. I think the students started to open up a bit by the time we finished, and we were all excited to see the results of our DIY water heater competition and solar-baked muffins. Feeling very sure of myself, I made sure all of the other groups measured their water temperature first. Some of the designs were actually quite clever, employing a high surface area on a contraption of pans and water bottles to quickly heat the water. I should have noticed this earlier, because when my water was tested I found out that my design came in dead last. Oh well, I guess I’ll just stick to teaching. We took out the muffins to find them perfectly baked and deliciously fluffy, and I bitterly handed the winning group their well-deserved chocolate muffins.
The next activity on the agenda was another engineering challenge. This one was inspired by the fishing village Mwaburugu next to Zariki. The goal was to build a boat out of limited materials that would float the most weight in water. We took the whole group of students down to the waterfront for the competition. Students had Styrofoam, tape, water bottles, balloons and other scattered things to work with. We set the clock for 40 minutes of build time and set them loose. By this time our strange activity had attracted the attention of dozens of local children, so it became quite difficult to walk around and watch the students work. Tony, a film producer who has been speaking with ELiTE’s directors on a potential film shoot, did his best to capture the action despite the chaos. The testing was fun because many students were from the village and jumped into canoes next to the water to help float the contraptions. It became a little difficult to judge a winner after several rounds of tied results, but we all had a good time and got some fresh air. We headed back to Zariki once the ‘Zoruba’ (a large thunder storm over the lake) drifted onto shore
After class I packed up and joined Nicole Ellis back to Lamadi to get internet access. Nicole is a fellow Columbia alum who is at the start of a year-long solo trip around the world. She arrived in Lamadi about a week ago, but was side-lined by malaria and other fun tropical guests once we arrived. Her stories and plans were fascinating, and the local ginger beer (more ginger-y ginger ale) we picked up in town ended the class day on a good note. I went back to Speke Bay to join the rest of the gang for a relaxing evening and dinner.
Next on the agenda for blogging will be the remainder of the SITE classes! I may be out of the grid a little while longer, but I’ll do my best to get everything posted. Thanks for your patience!