"Transport is necessary in achieving a wide range of objectives including economic growth, personal welfare, governance and empowerment as well as security." ~ P. Njenga & A. Davis, Drawing the Roadmap to Rural Poverty Reduction

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Returning to Africa

So, I've been out of the habit of updating the blog for 9 months now, and since I'll only have internet access intermittently for the next few months, I figured now is as good a time as any to start talking about my project, right?

Actually, the past 9 months have been the busiest yet, but they've turned out some very interesting results. Since my last post, I've developed an adjustable, affordable sports wheelchair for kids, a $4 data acquisition hardware package compatible with FreeMat (good for high school science classes, the software is free! [as in freedom]), a dynamic model of the muscles of the human leg in 3D (I had no idea there were 47 muscles in a leg), a modular recumbent bicycle that can be broken down into its own backpack (with attachable ergometer for human power capability measurements) and lastly, the vehicle I'll be building this summer. It's been a busy year.

Jess is home on vacation for now, so it's been good to see her. As apprehensive as one can get about suddenly spending all sorts of time around their loved ones who have been gone for a long time, whenever Jess and I can see each other, it's like sitting in a familiar sofa. It's been good to have her home and start planning a wedding! Crazy, I know.

So, over the past 9 months I've learned a lot. Actually, I'd guess that I've learned more than I ever have before in such a short time. I've learned about the developing world, appropriate technology, some rather advanced engineering principles, but most importantly, I've learned that I really love doing my own research. It's one thing to learn principles in a class, or to read books on a classical subject, but the real fun lies on the cusp of human knowledge - it's the stuff we get to research! It's like what I'm doing right now with my human leg model - there are some elements in the programming that I'm not sure will work at first, mostly because the subject hasn't really been scrutinized. I love this quote: "Undergrads think they know everything, grad students know they know nothing, and PhDs known nobody else knows anything." I'm learning every day just how much we really don't know. It's amazing.

Well, I'm off to Africa. Look forward to posting from a different hemispere!

No comments: