Solar Innovations Project in Tanzania – Asante Sana! I’m sitting in Kilimanjaro airport waiting for our flight to board. Two weeks in Arusha, three students, two faculty, fifty feet of wire, ten USB ports, two solar panels, four mosquito bites, one Masai village, eighteen tembo (elephants), two great-horned owls, twelve simba (lions), twenty teenage Arushian youth, countless friends, one fantastic experience.
For me, the project had two parts. The first was to build a solar charging station at VETA hotel with our technology students. The second was to identify future project opportunities that could support greater representation of women in engineering.
The solar innovation project was the key reason the team was at VETA Njiro. This project was an incredible learning experience. Collaboration between the NSCC team, VETA team and contractor was a necessity for success. The electrical design was brought by the NSCC team. The structure was designed collaboratively and was built by a contractor. Due to the complexity and timeline required by the initial design, mid-project the design was adapted to a simpler, more flexible design. Making a change mid-schedule requires support from stakeholders and team members. The ease with which the change was made shows excellent cooperation and mutual respect. We ended our second last evening in Njiro with our three dedicated students finishing up the final wiring late into the evening. And although the more important part of the experience abroad is not completing a project, it nonetheless felt victorious for our students to enter back into our hotel at 10pm with headlamps and grins stating the station worked.
The second part of the work for me related to representation of women in engineering and started with a meeting at the Tanzanian Engineering and Manufacturing Design Organization (TEMDO). TEMDO has the objective to research design innovation to help local industries to improve livelihood of the community. They work to improve designs that provide viable options for their customers. Intelligent, circular design was apparent in the use of local commodities and the goal of ensuring by-products were leveraged as much as possible. We saw examples of innovation where local residents used by-products, in this case, coal dust, to make coal briquettes in a sellable, transportable form from coal. We also saw three entrepreneurs using incubator space to manufacture their products on a larger scale basis. The products were peanut butter, spices and wheat flour. I was very impressed by the work at TEMDO.
The second meetings with Anne from Women in Technical Education and Development (WITED) in Kenya. Anne discussed some of the challenges faced by women in Arusha. The mandated of WITED main mandate is to encourage girls to participate in non-traditional roles. I was able to share my experience with some of the work I have done with women in engineering here in Nova Scotia and Anne shared the work that she dedicates much of her time to at WITED. Kellie was able to draw out ideas further and see where NSCC International could leverage work in future.
A major highlight for me was hosting twenty teenage students from community schools to participate in fun engineering-themed activities. We made scribble-bots, wind-powered turbines, and rock bridges and had a chance to go over the design of our solar charging station with the students. Our NSCC students gained new experience by helping to lead the activities. The Arushian students were very engaged and some even said they wanted to be an engineer some day!
The most poignant part of the experience was to be living and working in a place entirely different but to feel as welcome and comfortable as I would be at home. I was amazed by the hospitality our new friends in Arusha. Stan is a magician-coordinator that made things happen and never shied away from any request we made, even though he was filling the roles of three while we were onsite. Deo was a positive force, who dropped his own work to contribute to our project each day. Isaac used his knowledge and experience to raise our project to a high standard. Our contractor, Festo, built swiftly and efficiently, leading to his nickname, Fast-o. He also invited us to his home where we met his beautiful family. Festo’s wife, Gina, fed us peanuts and cold drinks, and one of his kids surprised Ben with a gift – a live chicken!
The three students, Loic, Ben and Jean-Marc were dedicated, motivated and worked hard to ensure we completed the project. We surprised Ben and Jean-Marc with a graduation ceremony on the grounds of VETA hotel the same day as the graduation in Halifax. We wanted to make sure they had a graduation to remember!
Cynthia was an amazing leader. She asked questions, ensured design standards were sound and let the students take the lead in their respective area of expertise. She was a great example to the students and myself. I am lucky to have Cynth as a friend and mentor.
I felt privileged to be part of such an extraordinary learning experience. I know each of our team members was touched by it and will inspire others here in Nova Scotia. I will continue to encourage our students and staff to take any opportunity they can to “go, learn and grow” with NSCC International.
Industrial Engineering Technology Faculty
NSCC Ivany Campus