Friday, March 12, 2010

Flickr Photo Collection

For more photos from the trip, please visit:

Friday, January 29, 2010

Post-Trip Recap of the Last Weeks!

Hello Loyal Readers!

Yup, we're home in the states by now. A whole 38 hours worth of air travel from Delhi to Boston. There were delays in Newark because of the snow as well as bumper to bumper traffic in the great city of Delhi. But Tina, Jessica, Brooke, and Adam are all safe and sound. Here is a backwards glance at what we didn't have time to blog during our exhausting last days.

In the airport on our way back to Boston. The security
didn't really like our rear axle of the rickshaw and wheels that we tried to transport home.
Oh, but we succeeded. A few weight fees later.

Nate Cooke taking pictures during our visit to an NGO.

Inside a slum dwelling during our visit to the Shri Naroti Lal Buddhist Society (SNBS)
who advocates education and health awareness in 79 slums of Agra.

This is a map that is drawn by a WSHG (women's self help group).
The WSHG meets once a week to be trained concerning natal health issues
like midwifery, new born baby care, and nutrition. They also collect dues (5 rupees a week)
to cover expensive hospital bills within the community.
Each of the 79 slums has their own map that marks the home of
women as well as women with
children under a year.

Upon arrival, they graced us
with bracelets that said "I love my India,"
flower necklaces, and painted bindis (dots on the head between the eyes).

An idea of what a lot of the streets look like.
The concept of trash can hardly exists here because
the social structure includes "sweepers" at the bottom of the barrel.
They are responsible for sweeping sidewalks and streets. It is generaly accepted
that trash should be dropped and the "sweepers" will take care of it.
(The caste system is supposed to be illegal but informally
runs in some parts of the country).

Trip Leader, Jessica Huang.

A view of the train station while we were in Delhi.
This is on our way to Agra where the group is going to interview an NGO. The train
was supposed to leave the station at 6:15am. Instead, it is pushed to 9:00am.
The 2 hour express train ended up being 5 and a half hours long.
No Biggie.
Then, on the way home, our train was supposed to leave at 6pm but instead left at 11pm.
We ended up rolling into our hotel around 5:30am.
Go trains and fog.
Read more about the effects of FOG in DELHI in the news.

A view from the cab on our last day in Kolkata on the way to the airport to
fly to Delhi.

Suprio Das shows us his double freewheel device
that drives his "electropump." On the very last day, we took many
pictures of the inventions he's been working on.

There is only one line that runs through Kolkata. It is the red line.
Ironically, there is a Park Street and Esplanade stop on it!
Here we are: underground, on the escalator, and gasping for the sweet smog air
of Kolkata.

We are on our way to the Electronics Market so we
can continue to quote prices for Bernard's cell phone charger.
Additionally, to Suprio's surprise, we will also purchase parts
for an entire cycle van as well as a bicycle.
In this picture, we are stranded on a bus for almost a half hour.

Adam explaining something (probably just saying "bam")
while in the garage door of Mr. Moulick's fabrication shop.
Tina and Jessica pretend to pay attention while smiling sympathetically.

From Left to Right: Suprio, Bernard, and Mr. Moulick at the
shop. In the middle, Bernard is holding his invention.
If you have ideas about what it should be called,
e-mail us!

Mr. Moulick and Bernard discuss the cell phone chargers:
How much will each part cost to manufacture on a scale of 5,000?

We triedto make some dried out Water Hyacinth into charcoal.
We didn't really think about the fact that a plant
with the word "water" wouldn't really dry out or burn very well. Oops!

Adam checks if anything is happening underneath.
Is it burning? Is it working? Is it...

We shoved sugar cane and newspaper in the bottom holes.
Suprio begins the burn.

Here is the set-up for the charcoal burn. We had all of the essentials
but ... ultimately, the water hyacinth failed to ever ignite. It just turned to dust..

The results from our village visit (24 hours later).
Our results weren't as accurate as we would have liked them
to be due to forgetting the sterilized bags in Boston,
but they were somewhat confirmed by our partners in Gobardanga.

Our group picture with some SEED boys. We taught them to put together
flashlights.. Well, actually, they were able to teach themselves
how to do that. Smart kids.

See! Light! The kids loved 'em!

Brooke in a circle lesson with the boys making some quiz boards!

Adam one-on-one with a student. It's like they're brains are mushing! (-rob)

Adam is attacked by the forces of LIGHT! by a really cute kid.
Tina helped all the younger kids put together their flash lights.

Again! The cute kid attacks! Jessica is his victim this time.

We made a circle to describe how electicity works.
You start some curent in a wire which is passed through the metal and supplies
POWER to the device you wish to make run!

The kids had a great time drawing.

Looking up at the entrance of SEED. This picture is worth
making larger and looking at in detail.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Aaaand we're back. Sorry for the delay. First a picture update. Then some words.

Results from the testing done on water from the tap in Kolkata. Blue is fecal coliform (e.coli) which can cause roto virus (severe vomiting and diahrrea that can sometimes result in dehydration or death) and red is regular coliform. There's a lot of both.

The slum that is tucked away and hidden right smack in the middle of the bustling Kolkata marketplace.
Hand pulled rickshaws lined up at the marketplace. Notice the compact stance of the rickshaw puller.

In the state of Assam- Gwyn and the cycle ventures team leaning out to check if traffic is coming. We are on our way to the Rickshaw Bank Sweat shop.

Suprio Das checking out the rickshaw prototype of a proposed double gear system.

Deceiving! Looks like protective welding eyewear, but it's not. They are working on the frame of the rickshaw.

Double gear system. Again.

Tina attempting to peddle a CRD rickshaw on the bumpy dirt roads behind the rickshaw factory. Understanding the product you want to improve is a lot easier on the ground.

Brooke as she attempts, also, to drive a rickshaw.

Brooke and Adam working on a design to protect the ball bearings from the dusty roads.

Since we last updated the blog, we've done a number of things:
1. Visited the Calcutta Samaritans
2. Welcomed Bernard of Tanzania to Kolkata
3. Packed our bags for Guwahati
4. Strolled along the Brahmaputra
5. Searched the electronics market high and low to locate the appropriate materials to make a magnetic induction flashing LED light system for the rickshaw
6. Worked alongside the Cycle Ventures class for a day or two in the Rickshaw factory
1. The Calcutta Samaritans were very helpful. We were very lucky to be shown through a slum that is located in downtown Kolkata. Amidst the buzzing marketplace, tucked away in an alley, lay the site. We saw the community center (two small rooms) as well as homes. They were very close together and were beginning to build second stories in illegal areas near the marketplace.
2. Bernard is 'poa' (cool in Kiswahili). Now that Bernard is here we get to learn four languages: Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, and Kiswahili. We are helping Bernard finalize his cell phone charger design that runs on a bicycle and looking into manufacturing.
3. We packed what we thought was important and forgot everything electronic that we needed to make an LED flasher for rickshaw drives at night run in the same way a speedometer on a bike does – coils! We didnt really finish it because the speaker magnet was inadequately large but will work on it later for fun. The flight was short. Guwahati is colder than Calcutta
4. The Brahmaputra is a really wide (2 mi) river that comes off the Himalayas and floodingly inundates Assam every year. This is why they have very wide sidewalks with huge sewers. Tina even got a chance to check out an island in it that has a Hindu temple as its main attraction.
5. We got an old speaker magnet, LEDs, many many meters of copper wire, and played with it for some time. Wrapping coil makes for great hang out time, especially when Indian cookies and sweets are involved. More to come on this.
6. The CRD (Centre for Rural Development) was one of our main original contacts but little has come of that. Instead of getting a chance to learn more about the overall NGO operations, we worked with the MIT Cycle Ventures class led by Gwyn Jones to help them redesign rickshaws. We spent two days helping them with structural analysis, design process, energy production and consumption, and positive negativity.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some pics from today and yesterday.

A fruit we'd not seen before. Uncle Suprio treated us, and T-Whoa evem ate the seed it was so good.

Our first official transport by cycle rickshaw meant we had to split up into two carriages. 3 out of the 4 pictured seem to be living it up.

Brooke's pride and joy shot of the day. Titled 'Peels on Wheels'.

Street food lunch - a bit of chibati (wheat tortillas) and tasty chickpea masala

Hand-pulled rickshaws are said to only exist in calcutta due to strict enforcement of ostrization everywhere else.

Nari Seva Sangha is a local NGO that employs and houses women off the streets, especially those that have been victimized by the prostitution industry. In the picture above one of the women is folding cardboard for paperbags. Other women make hand-woven cloth, botique prints, yarn, cloth prints, and sell all of the products at a small profit. The NGO itself is sustained by donations.

Ravens and sidewalk dwellers work together to pour more street garbage onto an already full truck.

Calcutta has a single subway line that cuts through the city.

Uncle Suprio platonically models the headdress meant to adorn the goddess Saraswati

The International Institute for Social Development, an NGO linked with UN programmes, rickshaw donations, and rural development gifted us with hats and showed us their organic vegetable-dyed cloth made in neighboring villages and sold internationally.

Monday, January 11, 2010

detailed update !

hello loyal readers,

for those interested, here is a more detailed entry on what we've been doing thus far in india (for the rest, enjoy additional photos!):

our team left boston last tuesday to arrive in delhi wednesday evening (long flight + 10.5 hours ahead ).

our january in india will be generally split up as follows:
  • boston -> newark -> delhi -> kolkata
  • 1.5 weeks in kolkata staying with our community partner suprio das and his wonderful family
  • 1 week in guwahati, which is in the state of assam (east of bangladesh )
  • back to kolkata to continue meeting with local groups + work with dlab cycle ventures on developing the pedal powered cell phone charger
  • then back home kolkata->delhi -> newark -> boston
our team consists of [view prior entry for a family photo of us!:

jessica: our team leader who has worked in honduras, ghana, ecuador (including the galapagos islands) and the list goes on . she graduated from berkeley with a bachelors in civil engineering and business... and now we call her mom even though she's only has 2 years on us.

gwyn: is one of the instructors of a development lab course focusing on pedal power appropriate technologies. he's leading his own class currently also in india but we're going to reunite with him in guwahati. he's the dad of the family.

now, the children: adam, brooke, tina. we're all seniors at mit studying civil engineering+urban planning, civil & environmental engineering, materials science and engineering respectfully.

there was a lot of waiting time in terms of getting to india. we're listening to a learn hindi software in the newark airport...

for our 1 day in delhi we (the cycle ventures team, our team, and another team comprised of graduate students) met with the national government's ministry of science and technology for a discussion regarding how to go about promoting and supporting innovation--specifically we discussed solar power assisted rickshaws

a photo of gwyn and dr. sarmah talking with the individuals of the ministry.

afterwards, dr. sarmah generously treated all of us to a home cooked meal at his home.
here is a photo of dr. sarmah (orange sweater) and his 2 children

next morning, we left early to catch our flight to kolkata (calcutta). our plane ended up being delayed for several hours. ironically, we almost missed our flight because we got caught up reading the alchemist as a team (which we later discussed on the plane as our first makeshift book club session). pictured above, we are intensely focusing for our game of spades ( a game adam taught us the rules of/made up).

here are the victors of the game with their prize: ice cream.

at the kolkata airport, uncle suprio (our community partner that we've been communicating with and working with throughout the semester) greeted us at the airport. we were met by the busy streets of kolkata defined by their distinct yellow cabs.

also, another common scenes: cows + garbage

a shot of a street in the 'suburb' of kolkata where uncle suprio lives and where we are staying.

this is our comfortable home, complete with mosquito nets. yes, we all feel like princesses sleeping under them. brooke is busy preparing our field notebooks.

one of the first NGOs that we visited was SEED--an organization that works to educate, rehabilitate, and also house abandoned children/orphaned children/etc. we met to see if the organization was a viable NGO to form a partnership or relationship with MIT d-lab for future projects.

pictured above are several girls in the girls home.

next we traveled to the location of the boys home to see the accommodations and structure.

here we are meeting some of the young boys.

mr. alam--the founder of SEED-- took us also to see the slum area that he works with specifically.

this is a seed location within the slums. (baby in the back is being sunned)

seed specifically targets the slum region. an organization we are meeting with tomorrow--called the kolkata samaritans--works specifically with those living on the streets. (2 images above)

sunday morning, uncle suprio surprised us by obtaining a rickshaw that we could test ourselves. one of our projects deals with a pedal powered cell phone charger and a general goal we have is to improve the design of the rickshaw.

here, brooke is taking adam and me for a ride.

jess is taking a ride now...brooke is running in order to capture the rickshaw on film.

a photo of us examining the rickshaw structure to better understand the design and also consider the methods of how to disassemble and bring a rickshaw back to mit.

uncle suprio took us to see an artisan community. we were very impressed at how quickly and intricately they made these goddess statues for the upcoming hindu holiday.

we also visited a jain temple nearby (3 pictures above). jainism is one of the many religions that started in india.

enjoying/purchasing some snacks.

here are some photos (above 2) where we are testing out the water testing kits we brought. this wednesday we'll be traveling to a village to show water testing methods (specifically for e-coli and arsenic).

we also visited the local metal/rubber/polymer working shop to get some quotes on polymer injection molded cases.

we also visited a repairman (working on the repair of a refrigerator).

here is a picture of some indian sweets--

one idea that was thought of was finding some purpose for the abundant hyacinth in india (notorious for being a dangerous invasive specie) we collected some by the lake...

to bring back to dry. the goal is to figure out quick drying methods and carbon content for the possibility of making charcoal briquettes from the organic waste.

so that's the update for now!

things to come:
  • visiting / meeting with calcutta samaritans --a local ngo that works to support and help those living on the streets
  • visiting/ meeting with an organization for women that provide them with income generating work such as paper bag making
  • trip to the village for water testing
  • bernard arrives from tanzania to lead the cell phone charger project


mit d-lab india team