28/06/2017 Getting started

Today we got properly started on creating the workshops with the Rwandan team of university students and high school graduates.

The morning started with some fun team building games which were actually suggested by the high school girls. We were so impressed by how engaged they were from the onset!


After a quick introduction from Ellen into what the FemEng in Rwanda project will involve, we split into groups according to the engineering discipline that we study and discussed what our courses involve, why we enjoy them and our future aspirations. We then had a competition where we attempted to “sell” our engineering discipline with a small presentation to the high school graduates, who voted on which course they wanted to study the most. This exercise was great fun as everyone was very enthusiastic and engaged well with the young girls in order to capture their interest.


After this, we taught the girls a bit about Scotland and our culture and taught them how to ceilidh dance.

In the afternoon, we began some prototype workshop activities, looking at real life problems and how we can solve them.

The first problem was the Grenfell Tower disaster and how to best deal with the remaining unsafe tower blocks and the people who live in them. The solution that the group came up with was to put the residents into small groups and temporarily rehome them while the flats were being brought up to standard in manageable sections.

The second problem was looking into ways to help women deal effectively with disruptions to their daily life due to their menstrual cycle. The group came up with an idea for an App/Text message service called “PADDY” which women can use to access sanitary towels and painkillers when they don’t have any. The app would use location data to send out alerts to other women in the area who could help out other women in “emergency” situations when they don’t have easy access to sanitation products. The team then developed this idea to include a text service which would provide these benefits to those who don’t own smartphones.

The third problem was discovering ways to improve water sanitation and clean water availability. The group proposed to design a solar powered water pump that has a sensor mechanism that can be triggered when a jerry can is placed under the tap. This would reduce water waste and power consumption.

The last problem was looking at how to improve the internet in Rwanda. The team focused on how the internet can improve society. Their solution was creating an online database of the medical history of people in Rwanda, so that in an emergency, doctors could have immediate access to a patient’s blood type, allergy information, pre-existing medical conditions etc.


It was a fantastic start to the project and we had a great time getting to know the Rwandan team! We are very excited to work with the girls in the upcoming weeks.



Workshop Preparations

We have had a busy few weeks visiting our sponsors and collecting resources to use in our workshops. It’s been very interesting to learn new things for ourselves and be able to see how others have found ways to communicate these concepts in interactive ways.

STAR Refrigeration

Engineers at STAR got to be our dummy schoolchildren for the workshop ideas imagined by their director Dr Andy Pearson. Using simple materials such as glasses of water, a thermometer and a fan, you can easily demonstrate basic cooling principles. These simple ideas are ideal as they can be used in all sorts of environments and in limited-resource settings.

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STAR Engineers measuring the change in temperature of glasses of water in different conditions

We have also been given some whirling thermometers which can be used to work out the humidity of the surrounding air. By “whirling” this device around, you can see the influence of air on the temperature measured by a thermometer which has a damp piece of cloth attached to its bulb (the “wet” thermometer). Comparing this with the “dry” thermometer, you can extrapolate the values and determine the relative humidity of the air. They take a bit of elbow grease to get them going so we think it will be a really fun thing for the kids to play with, and also an interesting way for them to learn about the technology behind air conditioning!

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Another STAR engineer with the whirling thermometer in motion!

A big thanks to Andy and the Engineer’s Club at STAR for providing us with this workshop, the materials, their time and for sponsoring us again this year!

Ingenious Circuits!

Last week, a few of us went to Edinburgh University to meet the Ingenious Circuits team so we could trial prototypes of workshops they designed for us to take to Rwanda.

Once we arrived we shared our opinions on what public engagement means to us. then gave a presentation to the group introducing what FemEng is about and our goals for supporting engineering engagement in Rwanda, linking to how we aim to use the Circuits connection to achieve them.

Following our presentation, we had the chance to listen to the Proteus engineers tell us about the incredible research they are doing and learn about their work on creating a new, improved method of diagnosing lung diseases and infections. Having learned about the concept of the Proteus engineers work, we tried out the workshop they designed which links to their research. The workshop involved using a Borescope camera to see into a plastic set of lungs, where we identified different coloured small balls representing different types of bacteria.

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Some of the kit used for the Proteus workshop around diagnosis of lung diseases in new ways

Afterwards, Glasgow University’s Dr. Melanie Jimenez provided us with an overview of her research into using sound technology to diagnose malaria in blood cells and subsequently showed us the interactive workshop she created relating to this research. We learned that the difference in density of healthy blood cells in comparison to infected cells means that they will react to different sound frequencies, allowing them to be separated when a sample is being tested.

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Testing out Dr. Jimenez’s workshop around blood cells and sound technologies

Our final afternoon activity, Story Mapping, required us to identify the teaching tools that could be used to present these workshops to students. We did this by mapping out the different parts of the technologies, thinking of the different elements coming together as a whole.

The whole day was a great experience for us as it was informative and engaging and we can’t wait to test the new workshops in Rwanda! We are extremely grateful to Helen Szoor-McElhinney and Dr Melanie Jimenez for organising this event for us and giving us such great resources.


Low-Cost High-Specificity Diagnostics

Finally, we have been introduced to the new version of the low-cost paper diagnostic test that we took with us to Rwanda last year, courtesy of Dr. Julien Reboud from the University of Glasgow. These testing devices are designed to be very simple to manufacture and use, taking advantage of complex mechanisms and reagents to give specific results for diseases such as malaria. Devices such as these can then be used by non-expert staff, can be disposed of safely, and can give accurate results which determine exactly the types of medicine which should be used for the patient. In malaria-rife cities in Africa, there are many different breeds of mosquito flying around, which host a number of varieties of malaria parasites – these require different medicines to treat the resulting illness.


Version 1 from 2016

Version 1 of this test was just a strip of wax paper with filter paper gaps, designed to separate the DNA from the sample and mix with the reagents in such a way that the last square of paper will reveal a colour result that determines the breed of malaria parasite present.


Version 2 showing the paper element similar to version 1, alongside the new casing containing indication strips

Version 2 incorporates a new casing element, allowing for a control test to be triggered simultaneously, alongside a simple “positive/negative” result (for the presence of any parasite) and then a specific result depending on the breed of parasite. This can be altered depending on the disease being tested for, and looks similar to a basic pregnancy test, very like those you would typically find in Rwanda.

The addition of these different elements onto the standard paper design allows for the result to be more readable and definite, as well as giving a flexibility in terms of the possible diseases that can be diagnosed from it (e.g. if a disease has 5 different forms, there could be 5 different results presented by just adding more strips into the design).

Although we obviously aren’t going to be testing real human DNA, Julien and his colleagues are hoping to be able to set up these devices to allow different results to be displayed using dummy chemicals; this should add a very interesting element as we are then able to get the participating children to process the results of their “test”.

Big thanks again to Julien for making up these devices for us and taking the time to familiarise us with the technology.

Watch this space – soon these donated resources will be put to good use!


FemEng at the Next Einstein Forum’s Africa Science Week

This past Saturday 10th June, the association of girls in architecture Akagoroba and the FemEng 2017 group represented the University of Rwanda at the Science Expo (celebrating Africa Science Week) organised by Next Einstein Forum in Kigali. Josephine Malonza, our supporting lecturer at UR was invited as an exhibitor. Here she tells us about the experience with the help of some great photographs of our team in action!


The expo is a celebration of science and technology across Africa, and to encourage more citizens of various age groups to get involved and interested in science. We made the schoolchildren participate in a tower challenge, and gave FemEng stickers to the winning teams. Some schools also participated in mind-mapping of various exit careers from Medicine, Engineering, Computer Science etc. Our exhibition was to promote STEM especially to young girls.


FemEng Rwanda 2016 t-shirt on display


Tower Building Challenge! Adapted from Civil Engineering & Architecture workshop last year



Annick Agasaro introducing the FemEng project to the girls are who won the Tower Challenge. Notice they already have FemEng stickers on their blouses.


Olga Sebashyitsi explaining the Kigali wetland project and environmental planning. Too many questions from curious students of Lycee Notre Dame de Citeaux (a participating school in FemEng workshops in 2016)!


Arthur of Zipline taking to FemEng girls. Zipline is one of the companies supporting our 2017 project and the team will visit their Muhanga firm during the workshops.


Annick Agasaro, one of the FemEng 2017 project team wearing a new hat (UR Architecture) – I personally hope to model a biomedical engineer out of her, with the help of Ellen Simmons.


The girls got creative and created ‘mind mapping’ of career options in STEM. Most of it was done with visiting schools at our tent.

Josephine has been working really hard along with the Rwandan teams to prepare for our visit, and we appreciate her tireless support. Exhibiting at this expo was a first for FemEng and it’s great for our peers to be working together prior to our arrival. We can’t wait to join them!


T-19 days!

UR/High-School Team

The team in Rwanda have already started meeting together and getting to know one another, in addition to discussing concepts for our workshop and learning about last year from Josephine Malonza, the Architecture Lecturer from URwanda who brought this whole project together.

Currently, the student leaders in Kigali are looking at the schools in the area and deciding how to design our schedule to maximise our coverage! There are hundreds of possible schools for us to visit, so we have to make sure we are able to go to as many as possible in the four weeks we are together, with the goal to continue this work once the Glasgow team have returned home.


The first meeting of our UR student team last week, with a smiling Josephine 3rd from the right!

This year, the entire team (Rwandan students and high-school pupils) will be housed next to the UR campus to allow for us to all spend more time together, less time commuting… and hopefully get more sleep! We look forward to bringing our teams together in a few weeks time and working alongside these leaders in STEM.


Next Einstein Forum’s Africa Science Week 


The Rwandan side of our team are busy preparing for the Next Einstein Forum’s Science Expo, as part of their Africa Science Week, working alongside the UR women in architecture student group Akagoroba (which Josephine founded previously) to talk about our initiatives to bring more women into STEM. Members of our high-school team will be working on producing content to show the variety of careers which can emerge from STEM subjects and the UR students will have a chance to talk about their current subjects of interest, particularly environmental planning, renewable energy and rural electrification.

We are honoured to be invited to be a part of this event and look forward to hearing how the team enjoy presenting on the 10th June.

Read more about NEF Africa Science Week here!


Most of the URwanda & High-School Team 2017 meeting to plan for the NEF Science Expo this week – spot the model of Kigali wetlands in the foreground, which will be used to demonstrate environmental planning on Saturday


Sponsorship from Great Wall-Subaru-Isuzu

We are pleased to announce our recent sponsorship from a branch of Great Wall-Subaru-Isuzu Motors!

Our sponsors are very valuable to us: but we would’t mind having some more! If you would be interested in sponsoring our project or donating funds to enhance our work, please email femengrwanda@gmail.com!


Upcoming Workshop: Ingenious Circuits with Proteus and RAEng

On the 14th June, the Ingenious Circuits teams from the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh are coming together to show us prototypes they have designed for us to take to Rwanda. We’ve seen some examples already and they look amazing!


A sneaky peek at some materials used by the group for workshops around visualisation of lung disease

Learn more about the Proteus group here!

A big thanks to the UofG Social Media team who will be promoting our blog throughout the trip!