Monday saw us preparing for the week’s activities: unpacking suitcases full of lycra (AKA the fabric of spacetime – of which more later!), posters, decks of cards for our signature “extreme astronomy” ranking/sorting games, materials to make rockets, martian landers, and books about influential women and minority rocket scientists, astronauts, physicists, mathematicians and astronomers.
Next order of business, to explain our curriculum and (exactly what to do with all the lycra) to Haitian students Dayana and Ralph, and slightly bemused UMass Lowell medical physicist Cecil, who generously donated his spring break to come and participate.
Ralph and Dayana had translated most of the cards into French, but it remained to hold an impromptu seminar on the life and achievements of Katherine Johnson, Valentina Tereshkova, Subramanyan Chandrasekahr, Mae Jemison, Annie Easley, Vera Rubin, Emmy Noether, Frederick Gregory, and others. Researching these pioneers, its hard to see why all are not household names…… well we know why, and that’s the point.
Around mid-day we hosted a team of 10 students from University of Vermont, led by the inimitable Dr Tom, and their Haitian hosts from a vocational/trade school in the mountains an hour’s drive from Les Cayes. Much cross-talk about housing, bio-bubbler and alternative fuel projects of both centers. After 3 hours or so had flown by it seemed we had all learned a lot about what works and as importantly – what doesn’t, when attempting to assist with technology and business development in 3rd world counties. As at home, the situation varies between city and rural area, and so must the solutions.