It’s been over a week since I arrived at the Ghana Fab Lab. It took a little while for me to get a hang of how things work here (it felt strange at first to add something formal like a lesson to an unstructured place like this, where people come and go working on projects as things interest them). Also, since most of my teammates have taught here at one point or another, these students have already done many of the basic projects (saltwater battery, etc.).
I’ve since gotten more into the groove here, and have been working closely with a group of about 5 students on a few different projects. Most of what we’ve worked on has been centered around one big project: a Savonius wind turbine, which they made first steps towards while Anna/Maddie/Albie were here.
When we were unable to find a car alternator laying around to hook it up to, it made sense to try and make our own alternator/dynamo. The lessons were therefore focused on the science of electricity generation using magnets and coils.
First, the students played around with a simple hand-shake dynamo: shake the box of coils and magnets, and see that you get a voltage out. This was to challenge them to figure out the interaction between the two.
Then we built a mini turbine out of a sprite bottle to prove to ourselves that a spinning ring of coils and magnets would produce a voltage.
We then went over some additional science concepts/items that would go into the larger turbine, such as single versus three- phase voltage and rectification circuits.
Yesterday was a glorious day of completing the assembly and successfully producing a rectified-to-DC-voltage!!
This is a challenging project to take on, but it’s something that one can easily get excited about (most everyone that drops by the lab wants to know what it is/how it’s coming along). And I’m confident that the students now are familiar enough with magnets/coils that they could fashion their own dynamo to power something else.