Thursday, 29 May 2014

Last Day!!

Apologies for the delay in posting this! I had very limited access to internet during my last week in India.

Thursday, May 22nd 2014

Hello Readers!

I’m sad to say that this is the last blog post for the SWE Overseas 2014 trip! L

Our day began with a quick breakfast at our hotel in Delhi (Colonel’s Retreat). We then travelled to the Jama Masjid  -  a famous mosque in ‘old’ Delhi built by the same Mughal Emperor who built the Taj Mahal (Shah Jahan). We were required to leave our shoes outside and wear funny looking housecoats (these are required for all women visiting the mosque). Here’s a group picture of us in our housecoats:

Standing in front of Jama Masjid in our housecoats.
The mosque gave us a very good view of the Red Fort (which our guide had decided against visiting considering how we had been to 2 forts already).

View of Red Fort from Jama Masjid

Perhaps the highlight of our day today was the ‘cycle rikshaw’ tour that we took around some streets of old Delhi. A cycle rikshaw is a small 2-seater cart that is pulled along by cycler. This tour was a perfect way to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the city, firsthand. Riding through iconic the streets of iconic areas like Chandni Chowk and Delhi 6 was almost surreal. India has mastered the small business model, and this was evident in our cycle tour, as the streets were lined with small stores one after the other (sometimes so small that barely one adult can fit inside). As Naru (our guide) said, these shops may look small, however they make huge profits everyday. Here's a video of the cycle tour for you to enjoy:

After the cycle rikshaw tour, we headed to Gandhi Smriti – a house in the British colonial area of Delhi in which Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. The house originally belonged to the Birla family (a very prominent business family of India), but was handed over to the government soon after Gandhi’s assassination, to be turned into a museum. The museum had a photo gallery of Gandhi and his life which explained his philosophy and chronicled the last 48 hours before his assassination. 

By the end of our visit to the museum, we were ready to eat! So, we took a short bus tour around the government buildings of New Delhi (since it is the capital of the country). We were able to see the President and Vice President’s houses, as well as the Prime Minister’s office. We were also able to take a short photo break at the India Gate. The India Gate is a war memorial for all of the Indian soldiers that have fought in various wars. 

Our very last stop on the bus tour was the Lotus Temple. The Lotus Temple is a temple of worship for those of the Bahai Faith. The temple was built in the 80s and was beautifully constructed as a lotus in the middle of water (by adding pools around the temple). The interior of the temple is very simple with rows of seats in which visitors can sit and pray. 
India Gate
Lotus Temple
After the bus tour, we headed to our last meal as a group L - albeit a very good one! By the time we finished lunch it was time to return to the hotel so that we all had time to get ready for our flights. I had to leave the group early, as I am continuing my travels to Bangalore (my home town) - I miss the group already! 

SWE Overseas 2014 has been an outstanding experience through every step of organization, planning and finally travelling these last 2 weeks in India. Conducting the STEM Camp was a very fulfilling experience, and I’m excited to see how the camp will develop in the future. The camp and our travels in the second week gave us a chance to appreciate the perspective of those from a developing nation such as India - be it on education, food, art, etc. We also experienced the duality and contradictions that is so characteristic of India.

And with that, the tale of SWE Overseas 2014 comes to an end. However, not to worry, we'll be back! :) Till then, happy travels!

P.S: As per popular demand, please find elephant pictures below :-) 

Elephant pictures!!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Taj Mahal!

Hello blog readers! Only one more post left before we return to the U.S.! Today we woke up very early (before 5 am) to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. It was very beautiful and we were glad we went to see it so early as there were much fewer tourists.
The Taj was built by Shah Jahan, the same man who added the white marble to the Red Fort. It was built for his favorite wife when she died suddenly at the age of 39. They had married out of love, whereas his previous two marriages had been arranged. She had 14 of his children, but only 7 of them survived. It is likely that her death was due to complications during childbirth. It is said that on her deathbed she asked her husband to make the world aware of their amazing love, and thus he build the Taj Mahal. Both husband and wife are buried there, the tombs that you see when you visit are decorative. The actual tombs are in a secret chamber to prevent their bodies from being plundered if the city was conquered.
We took a horse and buggy ride on the way back from the Taj Mahal. Natalie even got to drive the horse! We returned to the hotel for breakfast and saw a woman we had befriended at the hotel named Mary. She is from Cornwall and visited the Taj at the same time we did. She was very a sweet, old lady and enjoyed hearing about our adventures. We wish her a safe trip back to England today!
At this point we began our 5 hour drive to Delhi. Our drive was uneventful, but as soon as we arrived in Delhi we stopped at Akshardam, the largest contemporary Hindu temple. It was built in 2005 with strict adherence to Hindu architectural principles, the first temple built this way in centuries. It took 7,000 artisans only 5 years to build the temple and the beautiful sculptures and carvings. Jackie was excited to see that the temple had a peacock gate with hundreds of peacocks carved into the stone.
Nearly 70% of tourists who visit Delhi also visit this temple. No photos were allowed, so unfortunately we don’t have pictures within the temple. However the memory of the very thorough frisking we each experienced in order to enter the temple will be engrained in our minds forever.
Once we were settled in the hotel we watched a Bollywood movie, Jodhaa Akbar. Akbar built the Red Fort in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri which we saw on our trip. The story involved Akbar’s marriage to one of his wives and the consolidation of Hindustan. Their marriage was arrange to form an alliance between the Mughals and another ruler, Jodhaa’s father. Akbar was Muslim and Jodhaa was Hindu, however, Akbar did not force Jodhaa to convert and ever built her a small temple within her palace. As the movie progresses he slowly wins over her love and also all of Hindustan. The movie was a little cheesy and we all enjoyed commenting on the hilarious special effects, including people getting stepped on by war elephants.

Tomorrow we will be exploring the many sights of Delhi and heading home at midnight! Stay tuned for our final blog post by our fearless leader, Shobhita.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Day 13: From Jaipur to Agra

Hello, dear readers. Today was another travel day, and now we are safely located in Agra. We left our palace in Jaipur with heavy hearts, but Agra is a new city to be discovered. Agra is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which is the largest state by population with 200 million people.

As the trip is about 5 hours by bus, we broke it up by stopping at a palace called Fatehpur Sikri. The palace is a remnant of the Mughal Empire, and was built by Emperor Akbar in the 1500s. The name of the palace shows a combination of influences. “Fateh” is Arabic for “victory,” and “pur” and “sikri” are Hindi for “city” and “mountain,” respectively.

Today was a hot day to be walking around a palace around noon. Our high was 42 C, which is about 107 F. We all made sure to layer on the sunscreen and drink lots of water. The path we walked was dictated almost entirely by the shadows we could stand in. But despite the heat, we were able to see a pretty spectacular palace.

The Hall of Private Audiences
Emperor Akbar was a fairly open-minded guy, so although he was the emperor of a Muslim empire, he was not strict about the influences on his palace. The architecture is a blend of Muslim and Hindu styles. Additionally, he regularly hosted religious debates in his Hall of Private Audiences. The Hall had two levels; on the upper level sat all those who were invited to speak in the debates, with the emperor seated above the center column. The lower level would fill with anyone who wanted to listen, but who were not invited to speak. One of the emperor’s three wives was also Hindu, and she was allowed to practice her religion in the palace.
Inside the Hall of Private Audiences

Next to the palace is a mausoleum and mosque. The walk over and back was treacherous. The entire way we were surrounded by street vendors, shoving their wares in our faces and following us down the road. Even within the courtyard of the mosque, there were blankets set up with all sorts of knick-knacks to be sold. It’s sometimes difficult to focus on what you’re looking at when you’re strategically trying to avoid a vendor.

When you wish upon a mausoleum...?
The mausoleum was a white marble building with a lumpy bed inside, covered in lots of colorful blankets. I could not make up my mind about what I thought might be underneath. When we went inside, we were asked if we wanted to make a wish. Several of us were given red thread, and the wishes were received when one ties the thread with three knots around the marble screen on the side of the mausoleum. We’ll see if they come true.

After another hour drive, we finally made it to Agra, and headed directly for the Red Fort. This fort was also held by the Mughals, and it was built in red sandstone, which give it its name. The fort was less for an army and more for the royal family. The Red Fort gives a clear view of the Taj Mahal, which we will visit tomorrow. The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan, and this man was also responsible for the additions to the fort in white marble. As we were walking through the red sandstone buildings, we ducked through this small, low door, and suddenly all of the buildings were white.
Near the end of his life, Shah Jahan was actually held captive by one of his sons, who wanted the power of the throne. He was kept in his private quarters in the castle, with the best view of the Taj Mahal in the entire fort. His quarters were elaborately decorated, with precious stones inlayed into the white marble. They even used petrified wood to create the decoration. He lived there for 8 years until his death, at which time a boat carried his body from the fort to the Taj Mahal to be buried with his wife.

This fort also originally housed the famous Peacock Throne, which was allegedly captured by the British when they seized the fort, and has never been returned to India.

After a really long, hot day, we relaxed in the hotel and are headed to bed early. We leave tomorrow at 5:15 am to catch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal!
First glimpse of the Taj Mahal
The Red Fort

Monday, 19 May 2014

Jaipur Journey Day 2!

Hi all!

Today was the second and final day of our journey through Jaipur! It was a JAM-PACKED day with plenty of water bottles, walking and most of all— fun! We realized it was going to be a busy day, but after a great night’s sleep and a solid breakfast, we set off for another adventure.

We started the day with a tour through the City Palace led by our dashing tour-guide Naru. Viewing the sweeping arches, beautiful adornments on doorways, and the grand throne room of the Maharaja and Maharina, it is very hard to imagine actual people once living inside palaces of such grandeur. We got to view the royal family’s old clothing, weapons, and portraits, but to me (and perhaps the rest of the group), they still don’t seem real. Still, the royal family actually inhabits part of the palace. We visited the courtyard of their private residence inside the palace grounds, but unfortunately we weren't graced with any royal sightings.

After the City Palace, we took a trip back to the Amber City and visited the Amber Fort. To reach the fort we took a harrowing drive in our tour bus through a winding mountain road. Once we reached the fort we were greeted by monkeys, red walls, and amazing views of the surrounding valleys. About 40 minutes and like 200 pictures later (50 rupee charge per camera still did not discourage us!), we left the fort and took an equally exciting and terrifying journey down the narrow, one-lane, twisty mountain road.

Goofing around within the Amber Fort walls

For lunch we stopped by CafĂ© Coffee Day, a less expensive and quicker version of Starbucks. Afterwards, we quickly visited a block print textile factory. Natalie was able to use her expert artistic skills and fists to help the factory owner stamp a lovely block elephant in 4 different colors for an adorable personalized handkerchief. The group then took to the market to try our hand at bargaining and shopping once again. I must say, with more experience and a mean stink eye, I feel much more confident with my bargaining skills now. From what I’ve heard from the rest of the group, other people have also been exercising their new-found bargaining skills and buying some killer souvenirs as well.

After the hottest part of the day, we then took a walking tour through the artisan and less-tourist populated markets of Jaipur. We had very informational tour guides who educated us on the culture, economics, and history behind the creation of the scarves, jewelry, textiles, and handicrafts that make this city so famous. For instance, we got to see a metal-worker sandcast golden pendants, visited street sweet shops, and had a 20 minute tea break with a very skilled Meena Kari (enameled art) artisan in his house and studio. We walked through crowded markets that were frequented more by Jaipur natives and local residents, rather than the more commercial markets that cater to travelers and tourists. It was a really cool chance to see what happens behind the scenes to create some of the beautiful goods provided in the city.

Examples of some of the goods and the atmosphere of our Jaipur walking tour

The day ended with another delicious and laugh-filled dinner at Niro. But the day didn’t actually end there—when we got back to the hotel, we had a Henna artist make beautiful henna creations on everybody’s hands and feet.

Tomorrow morning it is on to Agra to complete the second leg of our Golden Triangle trip!

Until next time,


First day in Jaipur!

Hello Blog Readers!

Today was our first day of sightseeing in the “pink city”, Jaipur. Our day started off on a long drive to the Amber Palace passing the old city section of Jaipur on the way. The old city was the second capital of Jaipur and is the section that is painted “pink”, a terracotta red color. Our destination, Amber Palace and Fort is situated in a protected valley was the first capital. To travel up the steep hills to Amber Palace a ride on elephants was required! This was THE day we had all been waiting for in our lives. The elephants were amazing and skilled - one elephant picked up money when thrown on the ground, while another gave its passengers a quick shower (by picking up water from the lake with its trunk). 
Elephants waiting for passengers

Amber Palace

The palace was huge with multiple sections including the royal apartments. There were 12 sets of apartments for the 12 wives of the Maharaja (King), each with a secret staircase directly to the maharaja’s own apartment. Clearly, the Maharaja knew how to manage his own household as well as his kingdom. ;).

Amber Palace

Amber Palace

On the drive back, we made two stops. The first was at a Hindu temple that was devoted to the Lord Krishna. The second was at a lake. In the middle of the lake was a summer house of the royal family that was accessible only by boat. We thought about striking it out by swimming to the house….somehow the idea was rejected.
Summer house on the lake

Our next destination was the Prince Albert Museum, where our group was turned into the museum display. Sitting at the exit, we could not have been more conspicuous. There was many requests for pictures, especially with our tallest girls, Natalie and Emily. There were many pictures taken without permission and lots of gawking to last a lifetime. Some awkward hugs and many pictures later, we decided that the best way to counteract the attention was to whip out our cameras and start taking pictures of those taking pictures of us. Whatever the local people thought, we thought our strategy was hilarious.
Our Paparazzi
Awkward hugs


After Mumbai, this was our first chance to shop for jewelry, clothes, textiles and handicrafts in a city famous for such things. Clearly being a group of foreigners, we attracted some funny interactions.

Natalie went to jail?....for eating a chicken?

The conversation went like this with a shop owner who, no surprises, asked Natalie about her height.
“How did you get so tall?”
“I ate a lot of chicken.” (Natalie not really knowing how to answer this question)
“Did you go to jail?” he asked. However, Natalie heard “Did you go the gym?”
“Yes, I guess.”

A little bit later, Natalie realized she had said yes to the wrong thing.
The shop owner was very insistent that Natalie did in fact go to jail for killing a chicken, not listening to her multiple attempts to clear up the misconception.

Aggressive Bargaining

Throughout our two hour shopping trip, two of our group emerged to be an aggressive and intimidating pair. Ariana and I have this same thought process and technique, which involved yelling at the shop owners so much that they have to give in. and using illogical reasoning to addle their brains. I also realized that being Indian, if they realized that I wasn’t a foreigner, I would get cheaper prices. This led to inventing some Indian alter egos and if the shop owners compared all the stories I told, not 10% would match up.  The plan for the next day was for Ariana to bargain in a Russian accent as Svetlana.

Thus, our day came to end over a good meal with an even busier day in Jaipur to look forward to tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Hello blog readers!

Today was a travel day, with a six hour drive from Walchandnagar to Mumbai followed by a very short flight to Jaipur.

Random events of traveling:
Our driver got pulled over for a random security check.
Shobhita and Aditi tried to kill Jackie by keeping her in a hot car.
Aggressive driving is a way of life and road lanes are for the weak.
Car horns have a language.
Our plane was pumped full of some gas. We couldn't tell if it was some sort of air conditioning or just weird gas, but it was freaky. Jackie may have tried to convince us we were going to die and Shobhita wanted us to play dead so they would stop. It turned out to be condensing air, but it made the entire cabin look like it was filled with fog.

All in all, we made it safely to Jaipur. We were picked up by the Enchanting India tour guides and taken to the hotel. The hotel is actually an old palace that the family has turned into a hotel. It may be the most beautiful place I have ever stayed. The rooms are old world luxury with pillars and themes that make us feel like princesses. We ate a candlelit dinner on the roof tonight with an amazing view of the new city. Tomorrow we are taking a tour of the old city (the pink city!) and will see some palaces and visit the bazaars. We also had a surprise from the tour guides. WE GET TO RIDE ELEPHANTS. Apparently the only way to get to the palace is to take elephants up a mountain. The look on our faces was priceless. Natalie may have had a mini heart attack due to pure joy.

Till tomorrow!

Sarah Bonhard

Friday, 16 May 2014

Last Day of Summer Camp!

Hello blog readers!

Today was (sadly) the last day of camp in Walchandnagar.  The activity students completed today was building solar cars.  We taught the students a bit about sustainability, renewable energy, how to build the solar cars, and how to take data and analyze it.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy it, especially racing the cars at the end of the day.

I think my favorite part of the day is lunch time, because we get to sit and chat with the kids and they are super social and always ask us random questions.  I also learned how to introduce myself in Marathi! To say “Hello my name is ____” one says “Maza now Monica.” Turns out Monica (Monika) is an Indian name, so people asked me if I was Indian. Papa and Momma Walker, is there something you’re not telling me? ;)

After the engineering activity, we invited the parents of the students to come and see some of the projects that the students have built throughout the week. During the discussion, our favorite trouble maker, Anchu, snuck in and sat with the parents, which made us all chuckle.  We also got to see some of the students’ science projects that they worked on for school, including a submarine powered by syringes, a robot that picks up dirt, and a motor powered boat.  Then we got to see all of the kids’ art work from throughout the year, in an exhibit set up by the super enthusiastic art teacher.  My favorite were all the drawings of peacocks.

In the late afternoon, we had a musical performance from the students and a few of the teachers of traditional Hindi and Marathi songs.  They were fantastic, and I speak for all of us when I say that the songs gave us chills.  Next we all got up on the stage and sang our alma mater, Yellow and Blue, followed by the Victors.  Then we received a couple wonderful gifts from the school, such as a magazine of the students throughout the year, and a calendar/alarm clock.  The magazine included a page about SWE Overseas from last year, featuring a picture of Dean Munson visiting the school from last year.

Saying goodbye to the kids was really sad. L We would all be totes cool with staying here for another week. Or month. Or year.  We’ve all become really close with the students and this week has been truly life changing.

As I type this blog, we are all piled together on the floor making a thank-you card and present for our marvelous guide Krutika, who has basically been our mom during our stay at Walchandnagar.  We are going to give her a lizard and an ant made out of play-dough as a memory of a couple friendly house pets here. J Yeah we’re pretty weird.

Off to Mumbai and then Jaipur tomorrow morning, early!


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Day 8: A lot of glue, newspaper, and fun :)

Hello People of the Interwebs!

For Day 4 of the Summer Camp in BCA, Emily, Jackie and I (Aditi) wanted to focus on Material Science & Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Civil Engineering.  For the first project of the day, we decided to introduce the world of Material Science and Chemical Engineering by creating "Bouncy Balls"; by combining glue, cornstarch, water, and borax (laundry detergent), students would be able to create their own bouncy ball. We had asked the school to provide us with the glue -- we needed quite a bit of it, and I'm sure TSA would not have approved of us transporting an obscene amount of Elmer's Glue to India. 

Emily and her polymer slime
The school provided us with "Fevicol," and quite a lot of it. Just to be on the safe side, we decided to test out the recipe in advance -- thank goodness we did. When we mixed the ingredients, we got a very messy, sticky substance. After testing different recipes we found that fevicol takes out the "bounce" in the bouncy ball activity. So we switched gears and decided to focus on the real concepts: Polymers! Instead of creating a bouncy ball, students would create 4 balls of varying recipes to determine the connection between the ingredients, and the physical properties of the balls.

Much like Emily in the photo above, we found that the students enjoyed getting their hands dirty, and experimenting with different recipes - we even had time for them to create their own. The school still has quite a lot of fevicol left...if you have any ideas on experiments/projects that will use it in mass, please let us know!

For the second activity, we decided to increase the scale, and focus civil engineering by building large newspaper structures! We briefly discussed civil engineering and construction management, then jumped into the project. 

Students were instructed that they needed to create a newspaper structure large enough to fit at least one of their team members inside. Each group was given a budget of 100 points - the team with the most points would "win" the competition. For the first individual they were able to house in the structure, teams earned 50 points - for each additional individual they earned 40 points. They had to strategically purchase newspaper, tape, and scissors from the "store" (aka the SWE reps in the room). We gave the students the following rules:

Taking a peak at Team K's structure
1) Only purchased materials can be used
2) Materials can only be purchased from the “store” - not from other teams
3) You cannot steal materials from other teams
4) You can spend more points than you have
5) School walls and desks etc, cannot be used
6) No person inside or outside can be touching the structure at the end
7) The teammates inside must be surrounded by the structure
8) To qualify for the competition, you must pay for an “inspection” (SWE reps verify that you followed the rules)

Team K and their Structure
There were quite a few successful teams - they understood that rolling the newspaper into tubes would allow for a sturdy structure, and there were benefits and repercussions for 1) making a structure for a sitting person vs. a standing person, 2) including one person in the structure vs. multiple, 3) purchasing items in mass vs. purchasing items incrementally. I hope that the students were able to grasp a larger understanding of engineering and how it connects to other fields (i.e economics and business) by participating in this activity. 

One of the winning teams: Team L
After a brief presentation on common majors, we had a discussion with the female students of the BCA school. We wanted to spend some time chatting with the girls, getting them to open up, and encouraging them to follow their passions. We also wanted to find out if they were interested in careers in STEM. We asked them questions such as "Who are your role models?" "What is your dream school?""What would you like to study in college" "Would you consider studying internationally" etc. We were thrilled to hear that quite a few of them were interested in pursuing engineering, and we were truly honored and touched when we heard some of them say that they would like to be like us when they are older.

After lunch, and the teachers' discussion, we went on a tour of the Walchandnagar "colony." We were able to see where quite a lot of the Walchandnagar Industries' employees live (and also where a few BCA students live), and the surrounding market place. We were also able to stop by Bharatgatta, a large park within the Walchandnagar Industries' company campus.

Colony Life

The main office of Walchandnagar Industries

This used to be a pool! Look at the diving blocks!
Beautiful Flowers

Mango Tree! You might Shobhita in one of these!  

Gates of Bharatgatta Park

After returning to the guest house, we made preparations for our last day of Summer Camp.....I really can't believe how fast the days have gone by!

In closing, we are having a wonderful time working with the students and teachers of BCA, and one another. I wish we were able to spend more time in Walchandnagar, but I am really looking forward to embarking on the next adventure with all these SWEet ladies! Special shout-out to all of you in Michigan -- my parents, grandparents and sister (Anjana) -- I'm missing you all like crazy! Can't wait to share more with all of you!

To all of you on the interwebs, stay tuned for more SWE Overseas adventures.


Aditi Rajagopal
Senior, Class of 2014
Computer Engineering + Entrepreneurship

All the cute faces <3

Taking lots of pictures!

Taking a break from class preparation :)

We really really like chocolate...we basically finished a whole box
Just for fun :)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Day 7

Day 3 in Walchandnagar was an exciting and packed day. During the morning session, we focused on Magnetism and Electricity and Computer Science. First, we had the students make electric motors using wires, batteries, electrical tape and super magnets. For those of you that have been keeping up with our adventures, these were the same materials that gave our group so much trouble at the Detroit airport. We finally got to unwrap all the materials from the packaging that said “THESE MATERIALS ARE FOR A SCIENCE CAMP FOR CHILDREN” and allow the students to experience the wonder of electricity and magnetism. Many groups ended up being successful, and some of the magnet coils ended up spinning very quickly, much to the students’ joys. The students put these projects away with the rest of the projects, in order to show their parents on Friday, and we then started the Computer Science activities.
Many of the students didn’t even know binary, which is one of the basic topics of Computer Science, so we were excited to teach them so much in the time we had. Once the children understood the topic of binary numbers, they solved all the word puzzles with lightning speed, and even spelled their own names with a binary to letter code, where ‘A’ was 0 in binary, ‘B’ was 01, etc. We then moved onto an error detection game, which had many of the students laughing and many of the teachers scratching their heads. This game involved having a 5 x 5 grid of white and black tiles, and adding the sixth row and column in such a way that when one tile was flipped, the person who knew the trick would be able to say which tile was flipped. Apparently in one room, some of the students were feeling mischievous and would flip more than one card when one of us would turn our backs. It didn’t take long to figure out that the students were just trying to gain some laughs. Needless to say, it was a fun and enlightening game that many students seemed to enjoy. The last computer science activity of the day was a deadlocking game, which exemplified how computers must share data in order to complete a task. Again, it seemed to be well enjoyed and ended the morning session well.
The second day of our Model United Nations activity went by a little less hectically, though there were some interesting developments. The point of this activity was to show how problem solving could be used in areas other than science and math, and how topics like history could be made more interesting by trying to understand the point of view of the country and asking questions such as, “What prompted them to this decision?”. Even with the stressing of these lessons, we still had interesting situations, such as when Poland and Germany suddenly became allies, even though Germany had just invaded Poland. Once we pointed out this fact, Poland agreed to give up half their army if Germany left the country, and then Poland broke ties with Germany, effectively leaving them with a minuscule army. Alliances were made, war declared, alliances remade and war redeclared, and at the end of the day the students walked away knowing a little more about World War II and understanding (more than) a little more about social sciences and the thought process that comes with this activity (and the intricacies that come with political decisions).

After this, we went back to the house, were we had some delicious authentic Indian food, and then were taken on a tour of the Walchandnagar shop by some of the younger, female engineers. Walchandnagar industries manufactures a huge range of items, ranging from missiles to naval ships to submarines and much more. The mechanical engineers of our group could not stop talking and I (a Computer Science Engineer) was in awe by everything I saw. The second I saw the first ceiling crane, which had a capacity of 5 tons, was nothing in comparison to the ceiling crane that we later saw, which had a capacity of 20.5 tons. In addition, we also saw an attentive cat at the quality control, as well as what seemed to be it’s child, meowing on a box, realizing that it had no where to go so it might as well sit there. Moreover, we were able to see the Asia’s largest lathe, which (if my memory is correct) was about 15 meters long and 7 meters in diameter. We were also able to see a gear box used in submarines for the Indian navy, which were 67 tons each. Fun fact: there are TWO gear boxes per submarine. That means each submarine weighs at least 134 tons - this is not including the motor, other equipment, and passengers. This means that a contraption that is meant to float and sink weighs over 134 tons - I felt like my mind was blown. Today’s adventures in the shop were ones of awe and humongous machinery and even larger products. I swear that half of the parts that I saw could easily fit a family of four. After the sweltering walk through the shop, we proceeded to talk to some of the younger female engineers in the company, to share experiences. It was great to hear that the percentage of women in engineering was higher than in the United States and gave me hope that things CAN change. Listening to their experiences and sharing my own definitely was a worthwhile experience. Afterwards, we went back to the school for a discussion with the teacher about higher education, where we compared our own system to theirs. After these enlightening talks we went back to the house to prep for the next day and receive some well deserved rest. This unexpected heat can really be exhausting! Nevertheless, we are all staying hydrated and all looking after one another on this adventure in India! 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Day 6- Second Day of Summer Camp!

Our morning started out with a delicious breakfast at 8:00 AM and the short trip to Bharat Children’s Academy and Junior College at 8:45 AM. We arrived at the school to find out that the students were watching some brief videos about World War II in preparation for our Model United Nations activity. Though we appreciated the teachers’ enthusiasm in trying to prepare the students about the history of the time period for which our activity was to take place, we were concerned that the students, with the history refreshed in their minds, would make decisions based upon what actually happened in history rather than thinking critically for themselves to decide what was best for their nation. To our happiness later though, we discovered that the students were still able to thing independently to come up with their own ideas! I discuss this in more detail below.

Once the history videos concluded, we began with our first activity of the day: the water balloon drop. The topics of Design/Build/Test, Newton’s Second Law, gravitational force, air resistance and impulse momentum were explained as integral parts of the activity. The students were responsible for building a container that would hold a water balloon and prevent it from breaking when dropped from approximately a twelve feet height. The students were very creative with their designs, and surprised us all by building far more spring-board containers than the containers with parachutes that most of our ideas revolved around. Testing the containers became somewhat challenging to begin with. As this was my activity, I had made a prototype prior to the camp that I had tested. My contraption had survived a fall of about twelve feet, but it had a parachute which many of the student groups did not have. I started the students dropping their containers from about twelve feet, but after the first few water balloons all popped, the students became discouraged. After trying the drop from multiple slightly lower heights, we finally found a good height from which to drop the containers. The students and teachers loved watching them fall to see whose survived!

The second activity of the day was a blimp activity. First, the concepts of buoyancy and propulsion were introduced. Many of the students had never seen a blimp before, and they were very excited and amazed by the pictures of different blimps. Their task was to create a blimp out of a helium balloon, a regular balloon, straws, paperclips, and tape that could propel itself for five meters. As most students had never before had exposure to blimps, they started off the activity a little confused. Once they figured out that the non-helium balloon was to be used as the means to propel the helium balloon, they were off to the races. One group even managed to fly their blimp twenty meters!

A highlight of our morning was during the students’ lunch break after the second activity. The principle’s young daughter arrived at the camp and treated us to the cutest version of "Que Sera Sera" ever!

After the students’ lunch, we proceeded with our World War II Model United Nations activity from the day before. The students were all very enthusiastic about the activity! One student representing Japan had made a sign the night before that said “Down with the USA!” and even had it written in fake Japanese script on the back! We quickly learned that we did not need to worry about the World War II videos preventing them from thinking for themselves. By the end of the activity, one classroom had decided that all of the countries except the USA would be in an alliance and would declare war on the USA. Though not historically accurate, we were glad that the students were thinking critically about what they thought was best for their country.

After heading back the guest house for a brief lunch, we were transported to our discussion with the teachers where we listened to a very informative presentation about secondary education in India. After that, we held an open discussion where the teachers asked us all of their questions about secondary education in the US.

When all of our meetings and activities were through for the day, we gathered together to finalize tomorrow’s schedule and activities. The camp has been so much fun, and we cannot wait to see what tomorrow’s activities have in store for us and the students!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Day 5- First Day of the Summer Camp!

We had a wonderful first day at the Bharat Children's Academy and Junior College, Walchandnagar for the summer camp.

Before heading to the school, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast that prepared us for the day.  With plenty of water in hand to stay hydrated, we made our way to the school to start the camp at 9 a.m.  When we arrived at the school, the teachers and students were near the entrance of the school to greet us and we each received rose, which was a pleasant surprise.  Then entire day, I was constantly impressed by how kind  and excited all of students and teachers were.

After introductions and getting settled, the science activity portion of the day started.  The first activity that the students completed was making a tetrahedral kite.  The students seemed to really enjoy designing, building, and testing their kites.  Some of the teams were able to successfully fly their kites, which was awesome.  There were other teams that even added fun designs to the tissue paper on their kites to make sure that everyone on the team had a role.  My personal favorite was when a group was having issues flying a kite, so in order to fix this one of the boys suggested attaching the kite to a rocket.  Although this may have been a little unrealistic, I appreciated his creativity!

The second half of the morning consisted of a paddle boat activity.  The designs that each group came up with were really innovative and they were able to test their boats in a small pool.  By the second activity, the teams were working extremely well together.  Near the end of the activity, the students were so engaged in the activity that they did not want to stop.  I was so happy they were enjoying the boat activity so much.

We had a short break in between the science activity and the social science activity, so the students had some time to eat lunch.  A few SWE members went around to talk with the students during lunch and it was great to chat for a little bit.  They even offered to let us try some of the food they brought which was extremely nice of them.

We introduced our social science activity today.  Over the next two days, the students will be participating in a Model United Nations activity that this focused on World War II.  It will be interesting to see how the students like it.  Make sure to check back tomorrow to see how it goes!

After we finished up the social science activity we had lunch back were at the guest house and then had a meeting with the teachers where they talked about the history and activities of the school with time for open discussion about different teaching styles and other topics.

With a long day, we had a short break to relax and unwind before putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's activities.  I think we are all excited to see what the next few days will bring for our group and the students that we are working with

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Day 4 - We’re in Walchandnagar!

Today we caught an 8 AM train from Mumbai to Pune.  The way there was exciting because we decided to use taxis and the only room for luggage was on top of the cars.  There were four of us in my cab and we watched nervously as the driver piled on Kirtana’s suitcase, and then her other suitcase, and then my backpack, and then Megan’s bag, and then Allison’s backpack.  It definitely didn’t look like it was going to all stay on top of the cab, especially in Mumbai traffic.  But the driver secured it with a little piece of string, and magically all our luggage made it to the train station.

The train!

Views from the train

We were in a sleeper car for the train ride and we all crammed onto the bottom bunks so we could see the pretty mountains out the window.  Once we arrived in Pune we were picked up by cars from Walchandnagar and made the three hour drive here!  We managed to not hit any of the goats in the road on the way.

Our lovely house in Walchandnagar

The summer camp at Bharat Children’s Academy starts tomorrow and we’re excited!!!  But we did have a lot of preparations to do this afternoon to be ready for our outreach activities tomorrow.  We met with Principle Kshirsagar of Bharat Children’s Academy to discuss our plans for the summer camp.  The managing director of Walchandnagar Industries also stopped by with his wife and chatted with us.  We sat outside so I got bitten by 298379567 mosquitos.  Good thing Ariana’s mom made her pack a bug tent!  I’m bringing that next time I go outside.

Camp preparations

Speaking of mothers, all of the SWE Overseas members would like to wish their moms a Happy Mother’s Day.  We’re thinking of you here in India!

For our moms: 

It’s been 4 days since we left our homes and there are so many interesting stories to tell! First of we all have made it to India safe and sound and with all of our luggage, and for those of you who know what we packed that was a feat in itself.

Day 1: Megan vs the batteries
As Megan was handing over her luggage to be checked in Detroit airport she happened to mention that she had some very large batteries in her bag.  This caused almost an hour delay as they had to call several workers and managers to check hand books and regulations. The end result was the magnets being split into several bags and Megan sweating.
Monica vs the guy on the plane
While attempting to let Sarah out of her seat to go to the bathroom during the plane ride to Amsterdam Monica managed to full on punch the guy sitting in front of her. This later resulted in him vomiting all over himself and the people sitting next to him.

Day 2: Jackie vs the hole in the ground
Upon arrival in Mumbai, Jackie, Allison, and Ariana went to the bathroom while everyone else waited for their luggage. Allison pointed out to me (Jackie) that the last stall was open and I went to it only to find two steps up to a hole in the ground…. I was not prepared for this. After trying several VERY awkward hovering positions I finally accomplished what I was set out to and exited. Ariana and Allison were waiting for me and I was shocked at how at ease they were with the whole situation. I told them that I was not prepared for that and they looked at me questioningly as they had toilets. I apparently had the lucky stall.
SWE vs the cheerleading competition
While at the airport in Mumbai waiting for the other half of our group, Sarah, Monica, Jelena, Megan, Natalie, Aditi, Kirtana, and Emily were asked if they were here for a cheerleading competition. When they replied no they man continued to wish us good luck at the competition.

Day 3: 
Jackie vs Jelena
While roommates were assigned randomly Jelena was lucky enough to get me (Jackie) as hers at the hostile in Mumbai. Turns out that Jelena is a very heavy sleeper and while I attempted to wake her in the morning by calling her name and then lightly shaking her she still made no response at all. So I decided to pet her face, to which her response was jumping up freaking out and asking me why I didn’t try to shake her first. Then the next day she said she would set her own alarm. But it didn’t go off… so I went straight to petting her face.
While looking for our other SWE members rooms we were walking down the hallway together and Jelena mentioned that she thought one of them were in room 308 so as we approached the room I knocked on it and ducked around the corner leaving Jelena standing in front of the door with a look of panic on her face as she frantically searched for a place to hide, finally deciding to run down the farthest part of the hallway.

SWE vs Bartering
One of the most fun parts of being in Mumbai was the shopping! We got to barter with the locals on prices of items and it was so much fun to compare with each other to see who got the best price. For the record we do NOT like big balloons….
Things I’ve learned in India:
1.       If you take pepto bismol after every meal it will reduce your chance of getting diarrhea (Thank you Ariana)
2.       Do not give candy to strangers (Thank you Shobhita)
3.       Traffic lights are just for decoration
4.       A motorcycle made for one person can easily fit a family of 4 people
5.       You honk your horn if you want to
a.       Pass someone
b.      Are approaching a car
c.       Are stopping
d.      Are going
e.      Are turning

6.       If you don’t like the how the traffic is going in your lane feel free to go into oncoming traffic

Written by Jackie Priestley

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Only 3 more days till the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Overseas delegation departs to India to conduct a STEM camp for high school children in Walchandnagar! Check back in for regular updates on our trip!