Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nicaragua - Day 23

Our third week in Nicaragua went really well. For the most part, students seem to be progressing well and making the most of their weekly hospital visits. In lab, we've been combining technical with non-technical experiences. One of our technical labs involved using our variable power supply to recharge a battery. Although successful, it was a little frustrating since the battery voltage does not vary much between discharged and charged. one of the non technical as we did was disgusting the nature of poverty and what it means to be a developing nation. We challenged are students and to define poverty and to discuss whether the existing metrics for being a developed nation or biased and if so how. We had some really nice conversations about whether poverty is an absolute or a relative benchmark, and the extent to which personal liberty and freedom are indicators of wealth. If you have money but you aren't free to spend it how you wish, then what's the point?

On Thursday we went back to the hospital in Nandaime. the first thing we tried to do was fix the microscope from the previous week which we thought only needed a new fuse. We install the new fuse and plugged it in and there was smoke and sparks! So we took the microscope apart again and took out the circuit board and discovered that it had been burned completely through. Charred to a crisp!
One seriously cooked microscope circuit board
In retrospect, I don't think that burning event was from our fuse attempt. I think that burning was a more significant event that happened when the gecko met its fiery end (see last week's post if you have no idea what I'm talking about). so that was a bummer, not much we can do there. on the plus side, we were able to fix several centrifuges and to put both autoclaves that we started working on back in service.
Fixing centrifuges is challenging because they typically contain three very stiff springs that must be wrangled back into place
We also cleaned and calibrated some more scales and even tried to fix a blender.

When you need parts, you must visit the local ferreteria, or hardware store.

On Friday we visited a central repair facility in Managua. There are a handful of engineers there who attempt to repair all the broken medical equipment from across hospitals in Nicaragua. some equipment is brought to their facility and some is fixed on site at the hospital. They are massively under staffed but they do some amazing work. The engineers are not formally trained, but rather learn in an apprentice style manner. But this system seems to work incredibly well, and everyone we interacted with could run circles around me with their eyes closed. They had a very well stocked machine shop, where they can engineer just about any widget of any size they need. they are also very creative in terms of rewiring and redesigning electronics is necessary.
An old school mercury thermostat that we spotted in a heater at the facility in Managua.
We showed them the picture of the fried microscope circuit board and they laughed and said that even if they had to redesign it from scratch with a reduced set of features, they would still get that microscope to turn on somehow. Super impressive. I'm not sure how much actual good we were able to do, although they gave us some work to keep us occupied. but we definitely learned a ton, and that's all that really matters.

So we have three lectures and three labs remaining, and then one more hospital visit on Friday. and that's it! The students will have officially finished their training and will move to hospitals across Nicaragua next week. I for one will be moving to a beach for 5 days where I intend to do very little engineering, and maybe try surfing again!

No comments:

Post a Comment