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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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 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 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!