Practice day!

Most of the teams managed to finish preparing their workshops yesterday, so today we decided to practice them in front of each other. It was a lot of fun and people were happy to see the hours of researching and making presentation coming to life. Jova, Nina and Nadine were travelling around the schools (they visited 23 schools!) in Kigali trying to invite children for the workshops next week.

It started off with Jess’ workshop about Aerospace Engineering. We learned about space shuttles and orbits. Jess also explained her final project for which she designed a futuristic airplane. In the practical part of the workshop we made paper airplanes and had a little competition. Kelly’s (Green Hills Academy student) airplane turned out to fly the furthest.


Civil Engineering and Architecture workshop was next. Catriona, Claudine and Alice gave us and interesting introduction to the topic and also explained why these areas of engineering are important to Rwanda. In the practical part we build towers using plastic straws and tape. Great construction were made and it was really fun.


After that we went for lunch. In the second part of the day Renewable Energy Engineering and Software Engineering workshops were run. Christie and Beck combined their workshops into one and it was really cool because most of it are hands-on activities. We were asked to place things like wind turbines and biogas containers on a landscape model. After that we build pipes system out of cardboard. The aim was to have the water (represented by a bead) running as slow as possible. The last activity involved building different water infrastructures out of plastic bottles.


The Software Engineering workshop was the last. In the presentation people learned what computer science and programming were, watched an inspirational video about “Hour of Code” program and saw how important and big technology is for Rwanda these days. In the practical part the participants did some Scratch programming.

The day was very interactive and people loved it. The ideas were better than we could’ve expected. We’re excited to see the rest of the workshops tomorrow. Architecture students will be visiting to see the 3D printer workshop.

~ Magda

Day 6: More Planning!

The day began with a delicious team breakfast at the newly discovered St. Etienne guesthouse cantine, after which we headed to KIST 4 fueled for the day ahead. The day kicked off with a fun game to get the teams awake and ready to work. We then split into our workshop sub teams to finalize our workshops. Preparations for the practical aspects of each workshop was done. After lunch each team set about making presentations for their workshops. By the end of the day the workshops were really taking shape and we are excited to test them out on each other tomorrow. Look out tomorrow for an update on how it goes!

After we wrapped up the day we headed to town to buy some workshop materials and some well-earned dinner. Overall it was a productive but very tiring day and the Glasgow team is going for an early night to re-energize for a fun day tomorrow.

Workshop Planning Day 2

It is with great tiredness I write this but today was too impressive not to blog about!

As the person responsible for the project, I feel so proud to see when it works out as I had planned. I’m completely blown away with how quickly we have progressed from not knowing anyone in Rwanda to creating comprehensive workshop plans with young women of a range of ages and backgrounds from this country. We had the most girls helping today than we have had yet, with 7 campus girls and 7 highschool girls, and everyone participated really well. The more practical aspects of the workshops had to be figured out with materials we bought last night – which was definitely harder for some groups than others – but by the end of the day we had tangible activities for each theme that we could present to each other. Currently the workshops are as follows:

  1. Software Engineering (Magda)

  2. Mechanical Engineering (Anna)

  3. Civil Engineering and Architecture (Catriona)

  4. Biomedical Engineering (Ellen)

  5. Aerospace/Aeronautical Engineering (Jess)

  6. Renewable Energy Engineering (Beck)

  7. Design Engineering (Nina)

  8. Infrastructure/Water Engineering (Christie)

Can you believe what a range of subjects we have?! The Glasgow girls are working super hard, with many of them arranging workshops based on degrees that they don’t study. A lot of research goes on after hours and we often spend time outside the workshop hours trying to advise each other on how best to communicate our themes and the practical aspects of our activities. Brainstorming happens at every place and at all times it seems! Throw an unfamiliar subject in with the language barrier and you can imagine how tiring these past couple days have been, with many more to come. However, many challenges have been overcome and I personally see such a change in everyone from when the teams first met on Friday. See for yourself the work done today and know that this was done completely unassisted! What a great bunch.

Now I know I have to eventually broach the subject of the 3D printer. You may have seen some pictures of us tinkering with it at the weekend, and we managed to fix one of the broken motors. However, after a thorough inspection of the circuitry and a few dry runs with Repetier, it seems as if we may have irreparable damage to the heating control of the Foldarap. Unless anyone knows of a plastic filament we can get by Friday that will melt at 35C, then it looks unlikely we can use it to print. However, the design of this RepRap allows you to see inside the workings of the printer, and see how easily one can be created. We will use this in the workshops to showcase the technology. Fortunately, the Design department have allowed us to commandeer their 3D printer for our workshops – we only knew this existed last week – and therefore we should be able to show something printing in front of the visiting groups. Even with our counterpart team we can see how fascinated they are with the technology and we hope this will be tenfold in the other schoolchildren we meet.

Another exciting aspect of the trip is the amount of interesting people we get to meet. Many of the lecturers here are from other countries, and there are many staff who are eager to investigate the project and see what we are doing. We met with the Vice Chancellor to discuss progress, and have had visiting staff often come in to meet us. Many plans are being thrown around and I wish we could write everything down here, but you’ll have to hold out until they happen! The Minister of Education is coming to see the project, which is a really big deal, and we are also potentially speaking to 1000-odd students at a vocational training school (TVET) next weekend. Eek!

In the interest of time (that I get to sleep for) I’ll conclude – everything is going well, despite so many potential disruptions, and the impact on everyone involved is clear. I’m so proud of my team and very grateful for all those who have supported us, be it now, before we left Glasgow, financially, educationally, or those who have offered to help in the future. I am definitely not doing this alone and am humbled to see where we are already, having only been away for 6 days!

Thanks to everyone who is keeping track of things, and I hope you find it as inspiring as I am. I keep forgetting that we get our exam results in a few days! There are so many interesting people and interesting things going on here, much more than I could have imagined, and it’s well worth the effort. I don’t even care how much I smell right now! Others might though, so I’ll wrap this up now so I can have a flannel bath, for everyone’s sakes.

Lots of love from all the FIR girls!



Day 4 in Kigali: Workshop Prep Begins

We woke up pretty early; eager to get over to the KIST building for the first day of our full “prep week”. We still had plenty of fresh fruit and birthday cake left over from the weekend, so the early wake-up call wasn’t too difficult to manage!

We had made a few colourful posters giving directions to the workshops and outlining the plan for the day, and set about hanging these up before the Rwandans arrived.

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The first activity of the day was a fun ice-breaking game to get to know the other girls a bit better, by asking random questions about favourite foods and embarrassing moments. It was really good fun and a great way to get everyone chatting to start the day.

Next, we had a long brainstorm about the list of proposed workshops and how best to deliver them. We also learnt a little bit more about the students we might be meeting and the language barrier considerations we might have to work with.

Then, we formed teams with a mix of Glaswegians, schoolgirls, and University of Rwanda girls to further brainstorm each workshop. The aim was to figure out in better detail exactly what to discuss/show in each activity, and what materials were required, in addition to making sure the workshops could be related to current engineering problems in Rwanda. With our counterparts we figured out how best to deliver the workshops in a manner which would be interesting, relevant and most importantly, understandable. Everyone agreed that due to the language barrier, the best approach would be to make the material as visual and interactive as possible. Finally, each group created a mindmap to represent their workshop and presented the afternoon’s work to everyone else for feedback.

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All in all, it was a really productive day and got the project off to a fantastic start. The girls were very engaged in their own themes and everyone learnt something new. Tomorrow we will be developing the workshops further and testing out the different practical activities we wanted to implement with materials we bought this evening. Expect lots of straws, beads, and maybe even a pregnancy test…

Day 3

Today we did some more exploring around Kigali before continuing with workshop preparation with the Rwandan teams tomorrow. Half of our group went to the local Anglican Church and the other half went to a nearby craft village.

The church was so welcoming, we had to introduce ourselves to the congregation and they sang us a welcome song. The church choir were absolutely fantastic, there was so much enthusiasm and passion. There was a pianist drummer and bass guitar too. It was interesting to see what services are like here and the differences to what we do in Scotland. We chatted to some locals who were so friendly and interested in our project which was really encouraging!

The craft village was a circular formation of huts which sold African souvenirs. The huts were very small and you walked in to have a look around at the products. Each hut was owned by a different person and there was lots of bright colours and animal themed gifts. It was tough to haggle with the salespeople but good experience to have. It was also the first time navigating around the city without help of our Rwandan counterparts.

We’ve also set aside time tonight to develop rough daily plans and workshop skeletons. More team building exercises and icebreakers have been planned so everybody gets to know each other more. We’re very excited to work more closely with our Rwandan counterparts tomorrow!

Here are our aims for tomorrow:

  1. Integrate teams together further, through games and planning exercises
  2. introduce ideas and get feedback and ideas from the other teams
  3. kickstart the brainstorming for what the workshops will look like
  4. leave with skeleton of workshops for further development the next day13348953_10210062878067640_175822236_n.jpg

It’s Magda our team member’s birthday today so we had a nice meal all together to celebrate!

Day 2

This morning we met up with three girls from the University of Rwanda Team who very kindly offered to help us gather our bearings of the city and get more of a feel of Rwandan life. They took us into town where we had a wonderful breakfast together and stocked up on the essentials. The food market was incredible. Watermelon, passion fruit, bananas, mangos and more.

After returning to the guest house, we caught up with admin and rested our feet before catching up with admin and having another wander about to gather more bearings.

This evening we are testing the 3D printer (after getting a bit bumped about on the flights), the 3Ddoodler and the DysonCool bladeless fan. We are getting really excited about talking to all the students!

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Arrival and Day 1

After a quick stopover in Amsterdam and a surprisingly smooth journey (successfully navigating Schipol airport) we have finally arrived in Kigali. We were greeted at the airport by Josephine Malonza, professor of Architecture at the University of Rwanda and co-ordinator of the Rwandan team members, who made us feel immediately welcome and at ease. On the drive to our accommodation at the KIST campus, excitement surpassed exhaustion. Gratien, our driver blasted Rwandan music as we struggled to peal our eyes away from the bus windows, amazed by the city’s bright lights and greenery in the warm evening darkness.

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we met with our Rwandan counterpart team members in the KIST’s architecture department which is housed in a tall modern building with a panoramic view of the city. The Glasgow team, UR team and high school students made introductions and an introductory talk was given by Ellen and Josephine.
We were then led on a tour of the Campus and its surroundings by the university student, taking us to engineering labs, design and masonry workshops and passing by local primary and secondary schools. We even stumbled upon some friends of the Rwandan girls who were practicing a traditional dance and kindly allowed us to stop and watch slightly awkwardly from the side – a lovely insight into student culture here at UR.
After lunch, we had our first open brainstorming session with the full team present and discussed initial ideas for the workshops. We had a chance to briefly show the Rwandan girls the workshop equipment we’ve brought before it was time to leave for our next appointment; FemEng in Rwanda’s opening remarks led by UR Vice Chancellor Phil Cotton.
It was great to officially launch the project and see such enthusiasm for its go-ahead from Professor Cotton and Professor Jolly, Director of Teaching and Education. We were also delighted to hear a few words from Michelle, from the College of Science and Technology (CST) who spoke about her experience as a women in Science in the USA.
From there we called an end to our working day and headed into town to sort out a few logistical things like getting SIM cards which will allow us to have better contact with our Rwandan team members while we’re here. We then returned to the guest house and enjoyed dinner. I’m writing this from the architecture department where we’re enjoying very sparse WIFI. Tomorrow we’ll have an Ethernet cable so should have a far more reliable connection which will allow us to update more regularly.
It’s all very new and exciting at the moment and feels like the start of something good. Thanks for reading
IMG_9187.JPGPicture outside the University of Rwanda headquarters with Josephine Malonza and Michelle.

Rapid Manufacture

As many of you may have guessed, the radio silence for the past week is an indication of the high amount of activity as opposed to lack of it! Alongside the obvious stresses of making sure we have all we need to live for three weeks in a completely different part of the world, we are also finalising the workshops and gathering the materials required. This particular part of the planning has been a little more taxing than expected, as detailed below. However, the team are buzzing to get going and enthusiasm is running high on both sides. Now, onto the interesting part..

The Story of the Foldarap

Friday, 11am: We finally get our hands on our donated 3D printer from the Rapid Foundation in association with University College Dublin. Unwrapping the mysterious package whilst on Skype to our Irish helpers, one of them asks “is anything broken?”. I jokingly reply “well, the bit of paper you stuck on top of it has a tear in it!”. How we laughed, until I realised the true extent of the DHL-induced damage on our delicate package.


More and more pieces of shattered green plastic appeared in the box, and it was clear that the RepRap was in need of a serious repair job. On a Friday before a bank holiday Monday, I despaired, knowing we wouldn’t gain access to a 3D printer until at least the Tuesday. Frantically I begin phoning and messaging everyone I can think of who could help, but no one was capable of fulfilling my desperate request to have 8 parts made the following day. It looked hopeless but it never crossed my mind that we would not get it fixed, I just wasn’t sure how easy it would be. (TLDR: it wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t really fixed).


Saturday, 5am: Awake at dawn’s crack pondering our options, I remember chatting with a founding member of the UoG JetX society the previous week and discussing his 3D printer. Praying he is still in Glasgow, I get in touch, and a few hours later I am given a hopeful reply: “In Glasgow and ready to print!”. We were saved! All I needed was to re-print the parts, screw them on and we’d be fine.

Saturday, 10.30pm: Alas, I was wrong again. The parts had just finished printing, and I took the printer to our saviour’s flat so I could check nothing else needed replacing. Thanks to the “Overlord” and its operator Chris Triantafyllou, the broken parts were no longer a problem and we took the Foldarap out of its box again to have another look. Chris is shocked at the extent of its brokenness, and we get into securing the new parts onto the frame. I suspected we would be finished in an hour or so, if we didn’t rush. It was just like putting together IKEA furniture. Right? We decided to reprint one of the feet of the printer which had also taken some damage, but this was going to take 3.5 hours. “I’ll get it in the morning!” I say.

Sunday, 1am: Turns out that when you 3D-print things, they aren’t always perfect in terms of the dimensions required. Every hole and edge needed drilling to make it fit, and even then still needed a good bash to get it in the right place. We were tired and making mistakes, so jobs had to be re-done a number of times. I was flagging, Chris was flagging, but the end felt near, and we kept going. I expected to be finished by 2am.

Sunday, 2.30am: One of the most difficult things about fixing the printer was that the intended sequence of construction steps was definitely not aligning with our order of doing things, so we often had to take much more apart than the number of pieces we were replacing. Enthusiasm had faded and we were now just working to get it finished as soon as possible. The foot had almost completely printed, so we test the electronics as we wait for the Overlord to finish.

Sunday, 3am: The new foot is really not keen on attaching to the frame, and Chris is going back and forth trying to adjust its dimensions so it fits on the corner. We can barely speak for the tiredness, but at least by this point we know the electronics are working, albeit slightly pathetically. Almost all the motors move and there is a definite heat increase when we turn it on (or so Repetier says). Chris drills a hole in his jumper. The foot goes on.


Sunday, 3.30am: We conclude that we’ve done all we can without some more guidance from our suppliers, and I take the Foldarap back home. I’m unsure how to feel about it – there is a balance of frustration with its condition, and a feeling of ownership and determination over the little creature. Then again, I just felt really tired.

To be continued…