Wednesday, April 23, 2008

England Day 2 - engINdia Workshop

On the second day in London, I ran a workshop on engINdia at Imperial College. Hayley Sharp, from EWB had organized the workshop and planned for a small group of students to attend to allow good discussion. There were about eight students that came and the workshop went very well.

The first half of the workshop, I talked about how we had written the project descriptions and what we were trying to accomplish with them. We then broke into two groups and each group looked at two project descriptions printed off the engINdia website. They discussed what additional information might be needed, how a student could get started on the project, and general strengths and weaknesses of the description. The discussion went really well and people had some great ideas on how to improve descriptions. I'm hoping to implement a number of the ideas that were brainstormed, such as adding pictures to each description, providing an email address to get more information, and listing the engineering specialties to which the project applies.

One of the groups looked at the "Internet Education and Training" project description as an example, and at lunch one of the girls in that group told me it had really sparked her interest, and she'd like to look into working on the project and possibly traveling to Pabal in the future to work on implementation. It was so great to see students getting excited about these projects and coming up with solutions.

The second half of the workshop was focused on communication and implementation of projects. I talked about the various ways we communicate - through email, phone, website, etc., and how we had recently set up a wiki to allow students and people in Pabal to provide more detailed information. This would help us to make sure we don't lose information after a student finishes a project and moves on. We had an interesting discussion on methods for implementation and what engINdia can do to make sure proposed solutions are made available to the people in Pabal.

One of the girls in the workshop had been working on an engINdia project focused on biodiesel over the past year. Now, in two weeks, she is going to travel to Pabal to work with Vigyan Ashram to build the prototype and try to implement the project there. She's been working closely with people there via email and is really excited to visit. After the workshop I met with her to provide any advice I could about traveling to Pabal.

The workshop was planned to run about four hours, and actually ran a bit longer than that. It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm that students had. I'm really grateful to Hayley Sharp from EWB for proposing and organizing the workshop.

After the workshop, my mom and I went to meet up with our relatives. They live in Cornwall and had come up to London to visit for the evening. We met up with them at Sir Albert Hall, and walked to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum was huge and really beautiful. A lot of the museums in London, like in DC, are free of charge, which was really nice. We didn't have time to see nearly everything, but we did see Indian art, ancient sculptures, stained glass, silver and metal work, and lots of other things. We had dinner at a small Italian restaurant in South Kensington, and then said good-bye to the relatives. I had never met them before, so it was fun to spend the afternoon chatting.

Since we were in the neighborhood, my mom and I decided to walk up to Harrods. We shopped around for a while, and my mom bought a paperweight. I've been to Harrods a number of times, but always around Christmas for some reason, so it was interesting to see it without all the holiday decorations.

After shopping, I got in touch with my friend John Lau, who had been studying at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge when I was there. I couldn't believe it had been three years since I'd seen him - and an important three years, since we'd met during his first year of university and now he's graduated and working in London. We walked around Sloane Square and King's Street, and got a cup of tea at Picasso. He did a great job of fitting three years of adventures into three hours of chatting. It seemed like he had a great time during University, and a lot of the same group of friends that I had known were still keeping in touch. It was interesting for me to try to think over the highlights of the last three years of my life, as well, trying to pick out the important points. It was great to see John, which is probably why, despite my increasing sleep deprivation, we stayed out until about 11pm. (Also, I love that in England, they never bring you your check until you ask for it, so there's no real pressure to leave after you've finished your food/drink.) After that, my mom and I headed back to Whitechapel to stay at Monica's place again.

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