Duck Duck DUCK!

This blog wouldn’t be complete without  stories of us meeting kids around the factory! Each morning as we walk through the village on our way to Rickshaw bank, we are greeted with numerous children waving to us and shouting “Hi! Bye!” (or quite often “Bye! Hi!”) After our work for the day is done, some children even follow us down the road a little bit before turning back home. We draw so much attention because not only are we newcomers to the village, but being white is somewhat of a rarity. (and by that I mean there are absolutely no other white people here- see Luke’s post, Two Way Tourism)

There is a group of children that must live close to the factory, because every day they stand at the gate and wave to us throughout the day. Sometimes their curiosity is too much so that the factory workers have had to (playfully) chase them away!

We’ve been getting to know some of them recently, though its been difficult having no language in common. We’ve done some hand motions and asked them their names (one of the few assamese phrases we actually know). Because of our limited language, we’ve had to resort to something more universal, dancing and games!

Last week, Micaela was successful in getting them to copy simple motions, like waving with different hands at the same time she did. Naturally, this turned into teaching them the chicken dance, the cupid shuffle, the hokie pokie, and other quality american dances… They didn’t quite catch everything we were doing, but at least we kept them entertained! We actually kept at least half the village entertained, seeing as at the end of our dancing lessons at least 30 people were gathered around us.

After we had run out of dances to teach them we asked the three girls were with (ages 7, 7, and 9)  to teach us a dance instead. One girl, a nine year old named Lotkey, showed us the Bihu dance, a tradtional dance in Assam. She was going way too fast for us to follow so Micaela and I looked pretty ridiculous trying to mimic her moves… Luckily a Rickshaw bank worker soon stole the spotlight (not only the villagers, but factory workers had gathered to watch us) after someone turned on music on their phone. It seemed like he was mixing traditional assamese dance with hip hop, and it was very entertaining to watch!

Finally, we decided to try to teach the kids a game. The simplest one we could think of, as you can guess from the title, was duck duck goose. We started off with just the three girls, and Micaela, Jess, and I demonstrated how to play the game. They seemed to pick up the basics of the game, though they bent a few rules, most notably yelling “duck, duck, DUCK!” repeatedly. One girl even thought she could outsmart the game- she would sit down in my place after she tagged me instead of running around the circle. Slowly, a few other girls joined the circle and learned the game.

It was a great way to end the day, and it was a great experience being able to communicate with no language in common.

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Power Project Update

We finally have our first power graphs, and they are beautiful!

Originally we planned on measuring the compression of the spring using an LDVT that we made. Unfortunately, we ran into a few problems: a limitation on the number of data points the LabQuest can record, an annoying secondary wave from our output coil, and a broken sensor. Said sensor was a voltage probe, which we cut open and fixed, but it broke again. Micaela and I are both confident that the LDVT could work, but given the limitations of LabQuest and our lack of electronic resources here in Guwahati to remedy some unforeseen obstacles, we decided to brainstorm ways (no matter how unreasonable or crazy!) that we could measure the position of the spring:

  • Mark the two ends of the spring with LEDs, videotape the spring in the dark, and use MATLAB to analyze the distance between the points (Shout out to Cindy Oh! A great solution, but not feasible if we want to get data on using rickshaws in real situations where the sun is shining.)
  • Similar as above, but use the video analysis capability of a program called LoggerPro to manually click twice per frame of the video, marking the top and bottom of the spring
  • Attach pencils to each end of the spring and feed a long strip of paper along the spring as the pedals rotate (Like a seismograph…my favorite solution!)
  • Attach a magnet to the bottom of the spring and measure the change in magnetic field as it compresses (We only have one magnetic field sensor, and we need that to measure angular velocity.)
  • Use a graphite linear potentiometer, which is a variable resistor (We like this idea, but it involves more time than we can afford.)
  • Attach a horn that changes pitch when the spring compresses, and record/analyze the pitch (Luke loved this idea…surprise!)

Since we had reached an impasse with the LDVT method and desperately wanted to come home with some good power data in hand, we went with the most feasible and simplest solution we could think of, despite it’s total lack of elegance: videotape the spring and use LoggerPro to manually click the points on the spring. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Micaela cranked out an awesome Python program that takes all of the data we collect and calculates the power put in to the rickshaw for the recorded ride.

To calibrate, we applied a number of constant forces (measured with our hand dynamometer) on the pedals and recorded the resulting spring displacement (found by analyzing an image of the spring), in order to map the relationship between force applied to the pedals and the compression of the spring attached to the chain. As our luck would have it, the hand dynamometer (which was working great several days ago) decided it didn’t like us anymore. Unscrewing the case revealed two broken wires. With no soldering iron, we tried to super glue the wires to the chip and learned that super glue isn’t a good adhesive when you’re trying to perform circuit surgery. Thus ensued a frantic excursion into the sea of Guwahati traffic and shops to find a soldering iron. With Jaswanth as our guide and translator, we quickly located a shop that sold us a $3 soldering iron with a clear plastic handle that more closely resembled a cheap plastic flashlight than a device used to melt wires together. After a few suspenseful minutes of watching the iron fail to heat up and wiggling its wire, Micaela was able to fix the dynamometer when the iron decided to work for a moment. After that, the calibration worked without a hitch.

Micaela with our awesome soldering iron and the dynamometer that she so expertly fixed.

Yesterday we finally finished the calibration and did a test run, and last night we analyzed the data. This morning, after making a few more measurements of the crank and spring, we inputted all our data into Micaela’s program and were rewarded with a gorgeous graph of time versus power. It’s great to finally have some good hard numbers and graphs to show for all the work we’ve put in over the past three weeks! We plan on doing more tests and analyzing the corresponding data for the rest of our time here.

Our setup: Camera, pivoting spring contraption, LabQuest (yes, it's upside down), magnet, and magnetic field sensor.

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Republic Day, Roti, and Rickshaw Races

Today is India’s Republic Day, and thus a national holiday. Although most shops, factories, and offices were closed, we decided to work today since we are nearing the end of our time in Guwahati. Apparently there has been some violence in Northeast India on Republic Day in the past, so Dr. Sarmah kindly offered to drive us to and from the factory.

Since Gwyn felt that it wouldn’t be safe to venture out for food today, some of the factory workers cooked some delicious roti and spicy potatoes for us. Curious as to how roti is made, our team gathered around the makeshift paint can stove to watch the workers turn flour and water into the traditional Indian flat bread.

Later, some of us tried our hand at rickshaw pulling. Being accustomed to riding a two-wheeled bicycle makes pulling a rickshaw somewhat more unintuitive that I had expected. However, after a little practice, I was able to maneuver the oversized tricycle well enough to participate in a mini rickshaw race around the cramped factory grounds.

I’d say it was a good day!

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Welcome to the Ricksaw Bank!

If you’ve been on this blog for more than about 30 seconds, you’ve probably heard mention of the Rickshaw Bank Factory. As we’re spending so much time here, I thought I’d give you a virtual tour of the place.

Click on any image for some more information, and expect more to be added to the Gallery as I take them.

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Passing the Time

Living in a far off corner of India for the past few weeks has been a very refreshing break from cell phones, the internet (except if we venture to the CRD office in the evening), and digital distractions in general. So, how have we been entertaining ourselves in the cool yet humid evenings? Most recently, our CROSS WORD PUZZLE ADDICTION. We started out with the one from an English language newspaper, and relied on Jaswanth to bridge the cultural gap for clues about cricket or Bollywood celebrities. Our downfall was when Jess brought out a book of 150 puzzles — the clues aren’t very cerebral, but we’ve been enjoying them and ripping through at an alarming pace. Group puzzling is the perfect accompaniment to our delicious Indian breakfast that pretty much amounts to fried dough (pori bhagi), sugary sweet coffee, and some rather spicy omelettes (amounting to $2-3 total). I should also add that we’ve got a bit of a book club going on — special thanks to Syd for the miniature library she brought along with her 🙂 We’ve been passing around the Hunger Games series, The Da Vinci Code, Sing You Home, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Little Princes, The Fellowship of the Ring, and Tom Sawyer among others — resulting in some pretty spirited discussions.

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Two-Way Tourism

Guwahati isn’t exactly the most popular tourist location in India, and our activities keep us well outside it’s center. The Rickshaw factory, another hour’s walk away is in a village constructed of mud and bamboo, so when I say we haven’t seen any other white people here (save for some of the Olin team that left a week ago), we really haven’t seen a single Caucasian since we left Amsterdam. The people here seem to express the same sentiment. Every time we walk through the village surrounding the factory, we are greeted by waves and “bye”‘s (the one English word they know) from children peeking from behind bamboo fences, and as we leave we are followed by an ever growing band of them. Frequently, we are stopped in the streets by a local with enough English skill to ask “Where from?”. We shake hands, get our pictures taken, and try to explain what we are doing in Guwahati. Test riding any rickshaw now requires at least two people; one will be fully occupied with fending off a mob of children clinging to all parts of the frame. This afternoon I was stopped en route to lunch by a man running across the street to grab my arm. Once first contact had been achieved he regained his wits and proceeded to shake all of our hands excitedly.

This weekend, we went to the Assam Zoo. You all know where this is going. If we had worn cowboy outfits and brought a sign reading “Americans” we would not have been any more conspicuous. Every group picture we attempted to pose was instantly cause for a line of locals who wanted to join and get a picture of “Me at the white people exhibit.”I am sure that our faces are now spread across Assam.

On a serious note, working for an NGO that is directly in the center of the action has been a powerful tool for our connections with the people our designs are affecting, and for the betterment of our India experience. On our daily walk to work, we come into contact with people we otherwise never would- an old-time (by our standards) blacksmith who Gwyn met last year and whose work we stop to admire, children who may grow up to escape a small village and attend one of Guwahati’s growing universities, and most importantly: the non-English speaking, people moving, trash collecting, illiterate, India supporting rickshaw drivers.

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Last night we ordered some, caved in to the pressure of discovering that they have Domino’s here too. Even though it tasted more like Indian food than Domino’s it was a night well spent. Indian food is spectacular, Spicy, and full of delicious fried things, but pizza has been sorely missed.

On another food note, soda here tastes distractingly more sweet. This is no surprise as everything here has extra sugar in it (See my Jan 16th post), but I was shocked to find that the actual sugar content of Coca Cola in both the US and India is ~3.25 g/oz. Maybe everyone else has already realized this, but the difference is due to our respective local crops. Perhaps corn syrup is no match for the sweetness of real sugar cane sugar, but I have always felt that Coca Cola was sweet enough already.

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