Uganda Flag

Photo of Collin Humphrey
Mechanical Engineering
Lincoln, NE

Photo of Dana Fuchs
Senior (5th year)
Mechanical Engineering
Columbus, NE

Photo of Josiah Johnson
Biological Systems Engineering
Lincoln, NE

Photo of Maggie Clay
Mechanical Engineering
Fort Collins, CO

Photo of Scott Schenkelberg
Mechanical Engineering
Omaha, NE

Photo of Zac Boyer
Mechanical Engineering
Gretna, NE

Photo of Zachary Gardner
Mechanical Engineering
Clifton, TX

March 21, 2016 - Uganda Blog Day One: The Team
After a very long series of flights, we got in the hotel late Sunday night and were treated to a traditional Ugandan meal of mashed plantains and lamb in mushroom sauce before we headed to our rooms to get some sleep. We woke up early and embarked on our first adventure in Kampala. After exchanging currency, we made our way to Kyambogo University for the sustainable entrepreneurship conference, a collaboration event between the University of Nebraska, Kyambogo University, and the Kinawataka Women’s Initiative organized in an effort to encourage entrepreneurship for community development.

We spent the day listening to professors and local entrepreneurs as well as meeting with local university students and entrepreneurs. We were served another traditional Ugandan meal at lunch. We all really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the local engineering students and were surprised by how similar their course load is, as well as how excited they are about their studies. They are extremely passionate about what they do, and it’s hard not to admire.

After attending the conference at the university, we went to visit Madame Benedicta’s facilities and listened to a number of prominent community members express how thankful they were for our involvement on their project. The children of the community were extremely excited to see us, and we spent time playing with them before we crammed into the fifteen passenger van and drove to an Indian restaurant chosen by our contact here. Tonight, the plan is to get some sleep. We’re all still recovering from jet lag, and we have a big day tomorrow.

Signing off,
The engineering team.

March 17, 2016 - Maggie
So we officially get on the plane Saturday and are off on this grand African adventure. Right now, I feel like I am all over the place. I have three a.m. panic attacks about bringing the right clothes, and then get really excited about taking pictures when I charge my camera battery. I think it’s hard with a trip like this to prepare because you really have no idea what to expect. I mean you can do the research about the area you are going to, you can prepare and pack, but it’s a completely different culture then what we have here. There is no way to mentally prepare for the experience besides just the physical preparations. I traveled to Africa once before, but this trip will be an all new adventure, not only because it’s with a much larger group, but also because it’s in a completely different area.

When we arrive we will be taking part in a conference at the local university, then going on a safari and lastly coming back to explore Kampala. Throughout the course of all this we are also expected to install the machine that we have spent this semester building. I think we are all worried about the time allotted to actually do this. At the end of the day, our job is to get this machine done and working to help these women out. I know the students will be focused on it, but especially in a foreign country, there always seems to be an unforeseen problem that pops up. We will do the best we can to prepare, but we may have to play MacGyver to finish it off. That’s just the job of an engineer though right?

Hopefully we can keep people up to date while we are over there, but only time will tell.

March 11, 2016 - Zachary
We leave for Uganda in about week! That's so exciting and nerve racking all at the same time. Exciting because I've never been out of the United States before, so I'm super excited to get to go and experience a completely different culture. It's also exciting because I can't wait to present our machine to Madame Benedicta and her people and see what their reaction will be. Plus, getting to go on an African Safari on this trip is a nice little bonus as well. But it's nerve racking because I'm worried that something might go wrong with the machine once we get over there. I have faith in my team members and trust all the hard work that we did before we shipped the machine to try and prevent things from going wrong once we get there. But until we have it all hooked up and flattening straws in Uganda, I'm going to be nervous.

Although I've been working with the machine that we are going to be installing in Uganda, I've also been spending time coming up with another machine design for flattening the straws that is much cheaper than the current design. The reason for this is because if they wanted to continue to grow the business in the future, they would need a machine that they could afford to build themselves. This new design seems to be going smoothly so far and it looks like we'll have a working SolidWorks model to present to them when we arrive! I'm just really eager to finally be on our way over to Uganda.

March 9, 2016 - Zac
I am very excited to go to Uganda in two weeks. There has been a lot of work up to this point for my part of the design team. I have been responsible for getting the old design put together and having it boxed up and shipped out. This has led to a few late nights and quite a few hours of work. This last week has been stressful but now the machine is boxed up and in the hands of the shipping company.

Going to Uganda and preparing for it has been a different experience. I am not new to travelling long distances but traveling over to another continent is something new to me. I had to purchase a power adapter to be able to charge my laptop and cell phone while I am over there since they have a different type of outlet than we do.

I am excited for our other adventures we will be having over there. There has been some chatter about seeing local plays, enjoying some local cuisine, and maybe even lion riding but we will see if that last one is a joke or not. So my official status for this trip is nervous but very excited.

March 8, 2016 - Collin
Our project has almost come to fruition - its nearly two weeks away. I am both excited and the tiniest bit scared. The culture shock will be insane and the challenges will be demanding but I am consoled in that the fact that the bulk of the work was carried out here on the ground. Countless nights were spent staying up neglecting other responsibilities in order to finish this machine before the ship date. In fact, we missed our ship date and were able to get another carrier to pick it up on one day’s notice. This isn’t some box of cookies - it’s a 250 pound crate full of aluminum and steel. You can’t just drop it off at DHL. We had to arrange for a crew of men to take it away in a flatbed then fly it express across the Atlantic to a third world country. It’s been stressful to say the least. But its all been worth it to represent our university, to gain experience, and most importantly to support Madame Benedicta in her efforts to provide for the people in her care. This is my first opportunity to have a profound actual impact on the world and represent the country of America in a positive light.

February 23, 2016 - Dana
As Josiah mentioned, we have passed the one-month mark to our departure. I’m sure many of us on the team hardly noticed it passing as everyone has been hard at work on the project. With all this dedication to the machine, I simply hope no one forgets to bring their luggage.

It’s the last semester of my senior year, and I’m happy to say that so far it has felt more like an exercise in industry than an academic endeavor. This project to bring a design to fruition began on the very Monday that started the semester, and we’ve been at full throttle meeting deadlines while dealing with adversity ever since. Being the naïve young engineer that I am, I certainly approached the semester expecting a dozen things to go wrong, as we are working off of an existing design that is not our own. To my surprise, many more than a dozen things can go wrong in an engineering project, and this has been a valuable lesson for me during this last semester of mine. Alas, we are engineering students, and this is the sort of stuff we live for. I sense a real attitude of responsibility and ownership for this project in my colleagues. We have been applying our various talents to different areas of the project, and the degree of teamwork in this group is phenomenal. I can certainly say that I don’t know what we would be doing if not for the skills of each group member.

As I write this blog, we are undertaking a very pivotal point in the project – assembly and testing. It is really a rewarding experience to see the machine come together. With the help of Dr. Bauer and his electrical engineering students, we hope to see the machine come to life relatively soon.

For each of us, this project has challenged our technical ability, our ability to communicate, and our ability to manage. We have undertaken a variety of tasks such as speaking with vendors, testing design ideas, preparing drawings for fabrication, and committing to design changes. For a project of this nature, it is always risky to make commitments to design ideas or changes to the design – especially for young engineers. This has really been a test of our confidence in our own skills, but the good things to come from the success of this project drive us forward. We look forward to bolstering the capacity of the recycling efforts of the Kinawataka Women’s Initiatives with this project and making a major impact in the community where they do their work.

February 23, 2016 - Josiah
I committed to this study abroad experience in November, but only in the past few of days has the reality that I’ll be leaving the country for the first time in my life really started to sink in. It’s not that I haven’t done anything to prepare for my departure. My physical self has done plenty to prep for the trip. For example, I’ve been attending the weekly engineering team meetings all semester and contributing to the design for Kinawataka Women’s Initiative as best as I can. I’ve been documenting the team’s progress using an engineering design software UNL is piloting and meeting with the software’s developer to provide feedback on his product. I’ve spent every Wednesday night of the past two months with Dr. Osiri and the united business and engineering team to discuss broad topics related to the trip and international businesses like Madame Benedicta’s. I also met with physicians and received the cocktail of vaccinations the U.S. C.D.C. deems necessary for traveling to Uganda.

But this combined physical preparation to remind me of the experience to come did not penetrate my psyche as much as passing the one-month-until-departure mark several days ago did. Such a phenomenon always seems to accompany planning for something of this magnitude. It seems the mind readies itself for such a significant experience at its own pace, independent of the logistical details that demand immediate attention.

At any rate, the dozen of us will be leaving for Uganda in less than a month, whether we’re mentally prepared or not. Truthfully, there are still plenty of logistics to distract us and prevent reality from sinking in for a little while longer. Half the engineering team is busy assembling last semester’s design team’s straw flattening machine, and the other half is designing a low-cost, simpler alternative to present to Madame Benedicta as a supplemental solution to the straw flattening problem. The business students are occupied with the business plan and exploration of international markets for Madame Benedicta’s products. Additionally, we all have plenty of personal logistics to tend to before departure. I would be very surprised if anyone had started packing yet. I expect this next month will be a busy one, filled with uncertainty and excitement surrounding its eventual climax.