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