Day: July 21, 2017

The Final Countdown

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to put our impromptu speaking skills to the test. We had been informed of an informal question and answer session that we would be participating in earlier in the week. We were told to not worry about it and just show up for the event. What we envisioned was having a conversation with small group of students discussing what we like about India and talking about Michigan Tech. From our expectation, we were in for a little surprise.

The best part of the surprise was that the room the event was in was air conditioned. We have gotten so used to being without air conditioning that when we enter an air conditioned area, it makes everything better. The group of students that we were interacting with was also much larger than we anticipated; it almost seemed like we were acting as a panel for a class. When the professor for the class introduced us, he mentioned the students in the class were interested in hearing about the graduate programs at Michigan Tech. With all of us being undergraduate students and having not prepared anything for the session, we were far from experts on this topic.

We went around and each introduced ourselves. We talked about the projects we’re doing here in India. Sarah went through a slideshow Marcello had put together of pictures of life at Tech and in the Keweenaw. Then the floor was opened for questions. The students asked about clubs and sports at Michigan Tech, what our favorite things about India are, if there is a masters program in biomedical engineering and if we knew any Tamil. While the session didn’t go exactly as we anticipated, it was a lot of fun and the students did ask engaging questions.

We were also able to cover lots of ground with the solar and water filtration projects during week four. With the water filtration system, all the supplies needed to complete the project were purchased. The inflow and outflow storage tanks were cleaned, the pipes were cut and attached, and the sand and gravel barrels have been filled. When attaching the pipes, we ran into an issue with the connectors we decided to use. Initially we planned on having straight pipe connections and attaching them to the barrels using epoxy. The connectors we used created a slight slanted connection that we troubleshooted by using hose for the slanted pipe connections. For week five, we need to wash and dry the charcoal and replace a joint from the outflow storage tank to the overflow pipe. We also need to put up the chicken wire and tarps to monkey proof the water filter and it should be good to go!

For the solar project, the wiring was completed from the panels to the classroom. The low voltage direct current fans were put together and installed into the classroom. The LED lights were put together and installed into the classroom as well. The students are able to utilize the solar power for the lights and fans in the classroom at all times and power the computers for part of the time. We actually got to see the solar power system being used on Friday during a regular power outage.

None of us can believe we’re already into our final week. Time has flown in India and we’re not quite ready to leave. We have enjoyed every second thus far and are eagerly anticipating what week five will bring.


Third Times’ A Charm

On Monday afternoon while waiting for the car to bring us back to KVCET for lunch from the school, we had the chance to meet the students! Third times’ a charm as they say and three weeks of us coming to the school on a regular basis must have been enough time for the students to get comfortable enough to show us their school. We were sitting on the steps outside the main office when a group of students approached us and began asking us questions: our names, where we are from, what our friends’ names are, etc. One student asked us to visit their classrooms. Once they grabbed on to our hands, everything happened very quickly.

Initially we tried the “buddy system” when going into the classrooms but the students had full control. We all ended up in different classrooms but the excitement when one of us entered a room was the same. All the students were waving, smiling and wanting to shake our hands. They all shouted questions at the same time which made it hard to converse but didn’t take away from the fun. Some students asked us to dance, others wanted to see American money and all of them wanted to be in a selfie. Being surrouned by their excitement and energy gave all of us a new perspective on why we’re doing the projects we’re doing. Getting to meet the students also made going to the school each day to work on the projects even more enjoyable.

During week three we were able to make lots of headway with the solar and water filtration projects. For the water filtration system, our initial plan was to clean the barrels and replace the biochar. After emptying the gravel barrel and attempting to clean it, we made the executive decision to replace the system. There was also lots of sun damage and cracks in the pipes and since we are putting a roof over the system, we felt its longevity would be lengthened by replacing the components. We spent the remaining week purchasing supplies,  measuring the barrels and cutting the holes for the pipes to complete a dry fit of the system.

For the solar project, the school is currently having two buildings added so the construction workers offered to cement the stand for the panels to the roof for us. We were also able to get the stand painted and prepped for the cementing to be completed. Miscellaneous shopping trips were completed as needs of parts and tools arose.

We also were able to discuss plans of the garden project with the headmaster. We designed a vertical garden to be put on the side of the building below the water filtration system so that the runoff can be used to water the garden. The headmaster was very pleased with the plans and is excited to see the final product in place. He showed the plans to one of the engineers working on the construction of the new buildings at the school who was also very excited about the fact that a garden could be put in at the school. The engineer volunteered to take the garden up as a personal project, using our plans, and has offered to carry out the construction of the garden.

With the progress we made during week three, we were able to come up with a timeline for our remaining time in India. We are confident with where our projects currently stand and we are excited to see what our final two weeks bring!