Electricians, carpenters & painters (oh my!)

23 07 2019

We have finally finished preparing the Tech Centre room at Our Dad Elementary School! It took a lot of different people and professional skill sets. First most important, we needed to get power to the Tech Center room. This required splicing into a power line with permission from a neighbouring church. It had to also be inspected for safety by the town. It also required finding an electrician and having conduit installed and run down/through the walls and to find and install switches outlets and fixtures.Next up, locks. The door needed quality security locks on the outside doors as well as the windows. The facility is on the second floor of the building so it enhances security significantly. This part wasn’t a challenge as we had planned this when the room was initally constructed. We are using metal lock boxes as storage for the time being until we can construct a locking cabinet with shelves in the back of the room. Again, thia was planned ahead during the construction phase so there is an indent in the wall for this purpose.

We drew up plans last week for furnishings and had a local carpenter come and see the types of material finishes and size that we were looking for which we had at the Hackerspace. The size of the furnishings needed to be specific for elementary school students and accommodate the computer workstations as well as the STEM kits which have many small pieces. With a small room we also had to find ways to maximize the available space and consider what was in the budget for this year vs. next. We think we’ve come up with some good options and the furnishings look great! It was exciting to set them up.

We brought a mini data projector from Canada and an Intel stick computer, that are going to be used in this room so we needed to mask off a wall painted white to create a screen. This did not take much time and we will do the second coat tomorrow.

We went to a local fabric shop to pick up some fabric to have dust covers made for the computer monitors. we don’t take the fabric to a tailor who we know and greets us daily that works just out front on the sidewalk next to the Hackers for Charity computer training center. she said she would have them ready for us by the end of the day.

Two of our senior students went on a mission with us to find two last computer monitors that we need to set this place up tomorrow. We were really worried that it was last minute (we have been calling around all week) that we would never find anything for a reasonable price or possibly find anything at all in town. Well the boys saved the day because the first place they suggested had great prices and exactly what we needed. They got to pick out the monitors and tested them in the store. With that last step settled it was back to Hackers, monitors in hand to layout all the equipment we would be taking tomorrow.

Before all of this, we actually had an early morning appointment with the director of studies at Jinja Senior Secondary School. we needed to review the program that his students are involved with at the hackerspace and their school schedule changed this past year requiring many of the students to be in class until 7 p.m. during the week and until midday on Saturdays. this was a massive problem as it gave them almost no time to be doing any extracurriculars including robotics. as it turned out many of those days they are actually finished classes at 4 p.m. but since some students have extra lessons or revisions AKA homework classes all students have to stay till 7. the exception to this has historically been the football team as they get passes to practice miss classes leave campus etc so we wanted the same treatment for the robotics team (who have actually won more medals than their football team). this was absolutely no problem because the school was heavily promoting and proud of the achievements of their students from the robotics team in part due to and the push on STEM education from the Ugandan government that began this past year. since this program gives such a tremendous opportunity to students and fits with the government’s vision it has become more and more welcome this past year. the director of studies was extremely reasonable it took no convincing at all and we now have a clear schedule for the students going forward this year.

Now fast forward to 5pm when we returned to Iganga to the all girls’ secondary school. Alex picked us all up at 4, and we loaded the demo bot into the car and headed out on the hour drive.

This workshop was jam-packed! The girls were PUMPED! We divided the 75 girls who could make the session into teams of 25 because we had brought enough parts and batteries for three robots. These girls are incredibly eager and fast learners and they work together and cooperated even in these giant teams far better than we ever anticipated! In fact, it was really shocking to see that none of them drifted away or disengaged like we would see back home in this situation.

Modelling for our outreach students how to keep things moving and how to engage kids who weren’t working directly on assembling the robot with tasks like collecting and inventorying team parts, documenting/diagramming, running back and forth to the spare parts table, trying out the software needed to code, analyzing the example bot, test driving it etc — so everyone got to have their hands on equipment. These ladies were absorbed and determined for a full 2.5hrs. The girls wanted to skip their dinner hour to stay longer!

Between the 4 of us and the 2 teachers, we were able to get the students well on their way and they are aiming to have something finished in time for Wednesday’s National Science Fair. When this goal was stated to us by teacher Paul and Silbert, since it was Monday evening, we kind of blinked in disbelief.

Our outreach students really want to help them reach this goal so they have agreed to head back out there tomorrow night after setting up the Tech Lab. Hopefully they can help the girls finish enough of their creations that will have something functional to show and present for the National Science Fair the next day! (For the record our outreach kids accepted the invitation before we had a chance to veto it so it looks like we’ll have to make it work!)

This blog post has being all over the place….which is basically how today was! It likely needs a proof read but we have 4 minutes of wifi left so that’s not an option!


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