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Day 5: Final Day of the Summer Camp!

Hi everyone! It’s your girl Cathleen checking in!

Today was a day full of fun, joy, and sadness at the camp. It was our last day, and everyone woke up early in the morning and took special care in looking nice. Yesterday, one of the teachers gave us jasmines stringed together, which we all intertwined into our hair with braids.

Once we arrived at the school, we split up into two groups for the robots programming—half of us would be working on programming using the MINDSET program on the laptops for the robots we assembled the previous day, while the other half would be working on using Scratch, an introductory programming website.

I was assigned to the room that worked on using the MINDSET program. I got to work with two of my favorite groups—both groups that I helped work with previously during the camp. All of the boys were really eager to learn about computer science and were consequently very excited. At first, we had some minor difficulties (small program installation issues), but we were able to work our way through. We were given three main programming tasks: making the robot go around in a circle, making it move forward then backwards, and then making it recognize black tape along its path and stopping. Many of the teams caught on very quickly and were able to finish the assigned tasks within the given time, so we ended up assigning more tasks for them to work on afterwards. I think overall, the programming on the MINDSET application was a fun challenge for the boys. For the second session, the girls were equally excited and caught on fairly quickly with how to program the robot. This day was less chaotic than yesterday and things ran pretty smoothly.

Following the engineering activity, we met back in the main classroom with all the students. We brought American candy (KitKats, Three Musketeers, DumDums) to give to each of the students as a parting gift. We then took a break and went to the principal’s office to sign the Bharat Children’s Academy guest book. We noticed that there were signatures back from old SWE members and even from Dean Munson!

We eventually went back to the guest house to enjoy lunch. The staff at Walchandnagar Industries have worked really hard to make us comfortable.

The food was delicious, (picture of a paneer and vegetable dish we had shown above) and at the end, we even had mango ice cream, which hit the spot! Mangoes are in season here in India, and everyone on our team is so obsessed with them, which is understandable since they’re so sweet and tasty. When we leave from here, I’m definitely going to miss all of the food, from the various meat and vegetable curries to even the fries and fish sticks (plus, I have yet to get sick)!

At 3 PM, we headed back to the school for the Parent Exhibition and Valedictory Ceremony. At one point, news reporters from India Live! came to interview us. Akanksha talked to them in Hindi about all of the exciting and innovative activities we did this past week and Kirtana spoke in English likewise. The principal promised to send us the clip when it does appear on TV, so look forward to that! For the Valedictory Ceremony, there was first a musical performance called Jugalbandi. This performance consisted of the students first playing a traditional Indian song using a guitar, keyboard, voices, and traditional drums. They then played Que Sera Sera, which was really sweet and touching. After the musical performance, one of the female students did a traditional Indian dance for us. Her outfit was really gorgeous (silk/white with red roses embellished all along the cloth and intertwined in her hair with other jewelry) and her dancing was mesmerizing. I wish I could dance like her! A lot of graceful, yet intricate hand movement was involved. Following the performance, we played a slide show movie I had prepared last night. It essentially consisted of as many photos possible of all the children “in-action” this past week. I think they liked it, and they would laugh and giggle at certain pictures too. I think it made everyone in the room happy to see all the lovely memories we created over the week. They also presented their own compilation of photos, and by this time, I felt a bit emotional over everything.

After the presentations, the Michigan students did our own performance. We first sung the national anthem together on stage, followed by the Victors song. Then, we ended with singing the Cups song from Pitch Perfect. We had actually practiced pretty hard for this—7 people were sitting in front actually doing the motions with cups, and the rest of us sung the song. I thought the lyrics were fitting for the end of the ceremony, since most of it was “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”. Overall, I think our performance was decent and the children really enjoyed it. Afterwards, they were even attempting to replicate the clapping and hand motions from the song. The principal then gave us a really touching speech about how much fun the children had and all the memories created—to the point that some of the other SWE members began to tear up.

At the conclusion, we presented the principal and staff with chocolates from the United States, and they reciprocated with beautiful wooden name plates engraved with each of our names, with a clock on the front and a pen on the inside, as shown below. I am so grateful for the staff, management, and students at BCA! Thank you!

In reflection, this past week has been full of many new and wonderful experiences for me. I came into the program not thinking much of it, instead initially planning for more of the tourist aspects of India. However, I am leaving the program wanting to never leave. Working with the children and watching them learn about engineering has been so fulfilling and I am disappointed that the Summer Camp is already over. In particular, I grew an attachment for the group members I got to work with this past week, and while they may have learned a lot from me, I have also learned so much about the Indian culture and society from them. Honestly, this past week has been such an eye-opening experience, and I can say that this is the first time I have really been able to learn how to work with, teach, and serve as a mentor for young children. I will really miss each and every one of them. Walchandnagar Industries has been so kind to us students from the University of Michigan, and I will forever be grateful to be a part of this opportunity.

Next week, we’ll begin our travels around the rest of India, but I know I will continuously be thinking about these kids that I got to interact and develop a bond with for the rest of the trip. We will definitely be keeping in touch afterwards!

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