Ecuador ’14 Week 7: Cloud Forest and Cloud Storage

Hola from Ecuador! Here’s what we got up to this week at the Mindo cloud forest, in the TECHO office and Quito’s Interactive Science Museum.

LINDO MINDO

While we were lounging in our bus seats, snaking round windy roads and taking in the stunning view of the Andean wilderness, we heard a shout from the bus conductor, whom we’d alerted of our destination. “Mindo!” he gestured to us, so we stumbled to the front of the car and clambered off in the middle of the motorway. We found ourselves facing a large sign which read “Mindo: 9km” and pointed towards a side-road off the main highway. Slightly bewildered, we decided to ask around about how to get there – but almost immediately, a pick-up truck driving by stopped to offer us a lift, and we hopped into the back for a $2 ride to Mindo.

Mindo is located in the midst of a beautiful cloud forest. The main street is dotted with cheap hostels, restaurants advertising their menus in English and artisan souvenir shops. If you walk (or drive, or take a pick-up truck ride) along, you’ll soon cross over a bridge – from which you can watch people white-water tubing in the rapids below – and enter the forest. The trail ascends gradually, and our second pick-up truck driver dropped us off at the ziplining start-point. After strapping on harnesses and checking in our bags, we were hoisted up onto the ziplining wires – and within seconds, I realised I was rapidly zipping through the air, for 100 metres from the start to the finish point, with nothing separating me from hundreds of acres of cloud forest below. The entire weekend was an adrenaline junkie’s paradise – and I think I’m hooked…

Riding to Mindo in the back of a pick-up truck; The employees running the zip-lining chill out over the cloud forest; The road leading from the main street in Mindo to the extreme sports and forested area; Alex trying out the (absolutely terrifying but ultimately thrilling) Tarzan-Swing

 

PROJECTS AND PI

We’ve long since returned to our far less thrilling apartment in Quito, to complete the final fortnight of our placement. Throughout the past week, we’ve been working long hours in TECHO’s offices on the Raspberry Pi, the mini-projects we’re setting up for next year, and the Placement Report we’re writing. We’ve typed up a total of sixteen Ecuador projects for the society to tackle – three on the permanent house, seven on TECHO’s new transitional El Oriente design, and six for information systems (i.e. the Raspberry Pi and Monitor Wizard – which is a nifty little device designed to monitor the temperature and humidity conditions in a TECHO house, and upload them onto a server or ‘cloud’). We’re getting teams of people to work on everything from the El Oriente pile materials and structure to the permanent house’s energy efficiency – so there’ll be a lot of new innovations coming out from the Society next year!

We also linked up the Raspberry Pi prototype we’ve already built with offline versions of Wikipedia and Scratch as well as KA Lite, in preparation for our meeting at the Quito’s Interactive Museum of Science (Museo Interactivo de Ciencia). We presented the newly refurbished model to the staff and directors of the Museum on Friday morning, to get their feedback and ideas on how it can be implemented for educational purposes in Ecuador. We’ve made several key contacts who we’ll be keeping in touch with over the following year, to receive expert feedback and advice, as we develop the Pi system in Ecuador.

After the presentation, we took a short tour of the Museum, which designed to entertain kids with a lot of fun and interactive physics games – ultimately, the Museum staff and the rest of the EcoHouse team (all of whom are engineers…) ended up explaining various scientific theorems to me. This Thursday, we’ll be running a workshop at the Museum for a group of schoolchildren to find out what they think about KA Lite and the Pi, and what they want the interface to look like – more about this next week! 

The physics section in the Interactive Museum of Science; Demonstrating the prototype of the Raspberry Pi to Museum staff; Getting feedback on the model; Making a presentation (in Spanish!) about the capabilities of the Pi and KA Lite

 

Over the weekend, Karan, Sarah and Alex drove off to Cotopaxi and attempted to climb one of the world’s highest active volcanoes – utlimately, only Karan puffed and panted to the misty white top. Here’s one of the breathtaking photos he took on the way there.

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We’re nearing the end of the placement – just one more blog post to come next weekend! After our children’s workshop at the Museum and some final work with TECHO, we’re planning on spending the weekend in Baños. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Ecuador with its active volcanoes and hot springs – as well as tons to do in the way of bridge-jumping, horse-riding, and extreme sports (as I said, I’m in need of another adrenaline hit). Stay tuned!

— Eleni Courea