Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Redefining this blog

This blog now includes all OSU ECOS "Adventures in Service-Engineering", not just those involving pedal-powered machines in Itzapa, Guatemala.

Who we are:
Engineers for COmmunity Service, commonly known as ECOS, is a student organization at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. The group was founded in 2004 by a handful of students in an Engineering Ethics course. These students strongly believed, and still do believe, that engineers should be held to the same standards of responsibility toward society as Medical Doctors and Lawyers. These professionals perform pro bono service, and so should engineers. ECOS is continually trying to find innovative ways to perform service in light of our comparative advantages as engineers. The ECOS website can be found here:

What we do:
ECOS works with any nonprofit, NGO, community, or individual in need which could be helped through appropriate and sustainable engineering. We work with groups from HIV/AIDS orphanages in Honduras to Child Care Centers in Columbus. Each project has a Project Leader who is supported by various senior ECOS officers, including the President, the VPs of Local and International Projects, communications and financial officers, our Faculty Advisory Committee, and Professional Engineers from Battelle Engineers for Community Service (BECOS) and other engineering firms. Our goal is to work to provide OSU students (of all majors) with a wide range of technical service projects which exercise their technical knowledge, leadership skills, and social understanding. This can be done through independent ECOS projects or projects absorbed into the College of Engineering or Office of International Affairs. There are many advantages and disadvantages to projects with course-credit attached. Thus, we try to offer a diverse range of options and formats for technical service.

The purpose of this blog:
We - the President or VP, VP of Local Projects, and VP of International Projects - all do a fair amount of strategic planning to further the ever-evolving vision of ECOS. Each of these three officers are responsible for posting one short weekly post to this blog describing such behind the scenes planning and vision evolutions which would normally go unseen. This is also a place for senior leaders to showcase the work of exceptional project leaders and significant milestones of successful projects. We hope requiring weekly posts will both keep these senior officers accountable as well as allow new members, professionals, and faculty to stay informed on their own schedule. At the most basic level, it is a place to get to know three new people behind ECOS each year.

I will be graduating and moving away from ECOS in less than two months. In the future, I hope you will enjoy this blog as much as I will.

President, ECOS

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back in Columbus


We have arrived back in Columbus and have been back for a few weeks. Since then, Christmas and Hanukah came and went, we rang in 2009, and the first week of our winter quarter began. Things have been pretty busy for us all, but now that we are back in the swing, it is time to get down to work and start the next phase of this project. But first, here is a brief wrap-up of what went down during our trip:

Where we were:
We arrived in San Andres Itzapa (or "Itzapa," as it is most commonly referred to) on Saturday, Dec. 13th. There was a sign on the entrance to the town that let us know that our two-hour busride had gotten us to the home of the organization. Walking through town with our back-packs on, we kept receiving directions that Mayapedal was "up the hill." Being from glacier-dominated Ohio, the word "hill" means something different to us than highland Guatemalans, but I won't doddle on that. Itzapa (from the municipality Chimaltenango) is a small-town on the order of ~10,000 people that more or less runs in a line with Guate, Antigua, and Lago Atitlan. I can't say that in our ten-day stay I became fully acquainted with the entire town, but I really enjoyed all of the Itzapans that I got to know.

Where we lived:
The Mayapedal shop becomes both the workplace and home for its volunteers. We had the pleasure of sleeping on the roof of the shop, and some slept indoors on the second floor. The living space is fairly tight-packed with 12 volunteers, and the workshop is far too-crowded for twelve people to all be involved in wrenching at the same time (a more ideal number would be 3-6 people working in the shop with Carlos).

What we did:
+Fixed bicycles
+Visited bicimaquinas in the field and talked to the people that owned and operated them
+Helped Carlos build an order for a mini-bicibomba (a small water-pump)
+Designed and built the mechanical and mounting devices for a mobile generator (an electricity-generating set-up that would create and store electricity during a normal bicycle ride)
+Organized and led a free bike-repair workshop (this idea was experimental and had not been done before at Mayapedal. Carlos and Johanna thought the idea could be really cool, so we tested it out. The feedback was great--a lot of people showed up and a number of Itzapa bikes left in much better riding condition than before!)

(Oh, we also were able to visit the colonial town (and old capital of Guatemala) Antigua and climbed a volcano (Volcan Pacaya, and yes, Joe almost fell into the lava). Those aren't so much Adventures in Service-Engineering, just Adventures in Tourism, so I won't detail those here.)

So, what is the plan for the upcoming quarter??? Good question! There is a lot that the team wants to accomplish:
+Fully document our trip in a complete, but non-traditional way. This blog and the accompanying website are the beginnings of that.
+Digitize all bike machine plans (both pictures and CAD drawings) for easy access and replicability.
+Design more bike machines with the help of Carlos for use in Guatemala, and design bike machines geared (pun intended) towards sustainable-use in Columbus.
+Get our shop-space ready to go for Columbus' own centro de bicitecnologia (Center for Bicycle Technology).
+Expand the people involved in the project (both within and outside of students at Ohio State).

There will be much to come in the way of pictures and videos. Stay tuned! - Ellis