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First Day of Camp

Today was the first day of the Summer Camp that SWE is putting on for the students here in Walchandnagar. When we arrived at the school, we were greeted by intricate designs made with colored sand and made our grand entrance as the local students around us clapped in rythm and handed us roses - this was very unexpected and impressive. After a short welcome speech from the school's principal, we began our first day activities.

The first activity of the day was the human knot game, which served as an ice breaker for us and the students. In groups of about six students and one SWE volunteer, we stood in a circle, grabbed a hand opposite to us, and tried to untangle ourselves back into the original circle without letting go. This activity was a fun way to both become comfortable with the group and test communication skills. After the activity, we explained to the students the importance of communication and teamwork in engineering. Beyond this discussion, many students had questions for us regarding the University of Michigan, Engineering, and life in the United States.

Next, we did the penny boat activity. The goal of the activity is to make a boat out of a given piece of aluminum foil (about 6x6in) that can hold the most pennies in water. This activity was simple, but it emphasized the "design build test" method we use in engineering projects. Many of the groups began by folding the aluminum into the classic paper boat shape, but they soon realized that this design was not the best for holding the most pennies. After a few design iterations, the students found the most successful design to be a flat, short, square platform, and the highest number of pennies held by one boat was 72.

The last activity of the days was building a solar water heater. The activity began with a short presentation about sustainability and heat exchangers. After having been explained the importance of sustainable engineering and the emphasis on using renewable resources in engineering design, the students began to brainstorm designs for their solar water heater. The materials we provided were a black piece of paper, aluminum foil, two paper cups, duct tape, straws, tubing, and a thermometer. When we started to see groups build their project, we were all pleasantly surprised at the creativity in each design, as many groups did not use the materials in ways we had expected them to - some groups had innovative ideas that were better than the designs we had come up with. I think that, more than anything, this shows the importance of having diverse teams when tackling a problem, both in terms of ages and backgrounds. The projects were all very successful, some even producing a 10 degree C rise in temperature.

After our day with the students, we returned to our house for a lunch break, the highlight of which were jalebi, which is sweet fried dough, and pao bhaji, which is bread with chick pea curry. After lunch, we returned to the school for a session with the teachers. The session began with a presentation from the school's principal regarding the demographics of the school as well as the different subjects taught and the festivals celebrated. Next, we broke up into smaller groups, with about two SWE members to six school teachers. During this time, we spoke with the teachers about a broad range of topics, about everything from academic curriculums as the University of Michigan to the role of women in the Indian and American cultures. Speaking with the teachers was sometimes challenging because of the language barrier present, as the teachers spoke English with heavy accents. Additionally, the English taught locally is British English, so our American accents made it even more difficult for them to understand us and vice versa.

Overally, our first day went very well. We were all very tired once we came back to the house, and some of us took naps as soon as we got home. In the late evening we gathered for dinner, which ended with vanilla ice cream with diced mangos, which tasted so different (and better) than the mangos I've had in the United States. We are looking forward to returning to the school tomorrow for our second day!

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