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Field Testing

All mechanical engineering majors at Ohio Northern University are required to complete a year-long senior capstone project, where we take a project from idea to implementation.

This past summer, we met with Dr. Bonyo, a native of Masara, Kenya, and now a family doctor in Akron, Ohio. He told us that the clinic that he runs in Masara has a need for an autoclave (a device that is used to sterilize medical instruments). We choose to take on this project as our senior capstone project.

We were able to travel to Masara at the end of November. This allowed us to observe the environment that our autoclave would be used in, as well as research available materials, maintenance and care options, and work out our design details.

Designing an autoclave for use in Masara, Kenya

Mechanical Engineering Senior Capstone Project by Jameson Raines, Senior, Ada, Ohio

Proudly displaying ONU’s flag with their new friends are Kyle Kindle, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Ada, Ohio; Julia Kropp, a senior majoring in electrical engineering from Aurora, Ohio; Dr. Jed Marquart, professor of mechanical engineering; Jamie Raines, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Ada, Ohio; Garrett Maple, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Lexington, S.C.; and Zach Rouch, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Ada, Ohio.

November 26

“If you die, I’ll kill you.” That was my wife’s stern advice today as I left for the airport. A lot of people view Africa as a dangerous place, full of civil war, terrible disease and unknown dangers. But for the six of us, five senior engineering students and our professor, we are excited and ready to go.

We have a pretty diverse group. Julia is an electrical engineering student who has been to Europe. Zach is in mechanical engineering. He went to Italy last year with the ONU football team and is really looking forward to broadening his horizons with this trip. Kyle is a mechanical engineering student who has been on Habitat for Humanity trips the last few years. He is looking forward to helping people on the other side of the world. Garrett, a mechanical engineering student, spent spring quarter of his junior year abroad in Spain, so this is old hat for him. Dr. Marquart , our capstone advisor, has never left the county so I’m interested to see how this experience affects him. I am also a mechanical engineering student and have had the pleasure of traveling to Canada, Spain and China as part of the ONU Marching Band. ONU really has sent me around the world.

I think that we are all exited about helping the people of Masara Clinic. The pharmacy students who have gone in the past have all told us of their wonderful experiences. We are glad that the College of Engineering can do something for the clinic and we are grateful for the opportunity to REALLY take our education outside of the classroom.

We’ve successfully made it to Chicago. We have a couple of hours to kill until our flight leaves for London. Time to explore O’Hare and find some food!


November 27

We found food and joined up with the other SHARE Kenya contingent – ONU pharmacy students and medical students from Ohio University. We had a good flight to London. The airline food was airline food, I opted for the pasta over chicken. The movies were good, but I didn’t want to go to sleep after seeing Inception for the first time!

After we landed, some students went on a guided tour of London. They saw Buckingham Palace and several of the sites around the city. The engineering students elected to save some money and take the bus to Windsor Castle. $5 for a bus ticket and $15 for a ticket to the castle was well worth it. We spend two hours walking around and in the castle, going through the king’s bedchamber, the armory, the drawing room and other rooms. We saw the throne, suits of armor, hundreds of swords, muskets and antique arms. There was a room just for war trophies. It had the items from the Tipu Sultan of India (Battle of Seringapatam) and from various victories over Napoleon (Vitoria Waterloo, etc…). After leaving the castle we went to the 3 Nuns Pub for some fish and chips, mmm!

After a dozy bus ride back to the airport, several cross terminal train rides to collect the bags we had stored and to get our tickets we finally made it to our gate. I thought we were going to be cutting it close but we arrived in plenty of time.


November 28

We arrived in Nairobi at around 6 a.m. The flight was very good. I think the plane was nicer than our United flight (777 compared to a 767). We met up with Dr. Bonyo and went through immigration, collected all our luggage and crates, and breezed through customs on Dr. Bonyo’s word. We loaded our big luggage and crates on a bus that would take them to Kisumu. Apparently our plane wasn’t big enough for the luggage and us. We had a couple hours till our flight to Kisumu, so everybody had breakfast at a nice restaurant in the airport.  Our plane to Kisumu was small and cramped, so cramped that one person rode in the cockpit! That would NEVER happen in the U.S.

When we got to Kisumu, the first thing we noticed was the airport (or lack thereof). It was just a couple shelter houses around a runway. We all piled into to busses to go to our hotel and settle in. The drive from the airport to the hotel gave us our first real look at Kenya. The motorcycles and bicycles, the mud houses, the street vendors—here a picture is worth a thousand words. Our luggage wasn’t going to be there for a few hours, so those of us who came prepared took showers and changed. After almost two days of traveling, a shower was amazing. We all went to the Nakumat, which is like a local Wal-Mart. They have literally everything. Kyle and I picked up an 18-liter jug of water to fill our water bottles with, as well as some peanut butter and bread. We spent most of the day napping, exhausted from the trip, but managed to wake up for a nice dinner of chicken, lamb and rice that we ate by the pool. Tomorrow we prepare the clinic for opening day on Tuesday.


November 29

We slept in till 7:30 a.m. and met for breakfast. We had a short meeting to prepare us for the day. Apparently were are now down to one bus, so nine of us had to pack into the back of small pick up truck for the one-hour ride to the clinic. The ride gave us another good look at our surroundings. As we got out of the city, we noticed young boys herding cattle along the road, and goats grazing in the ditches. A “Kenyan Car Wash,” as Dr. Bonyo called it, which consisted of parking a truck in the river and rinsing it off. There were people carrying five-gallon buckets of water on their heads as they walked to the well from their houses. The houses are mostly mud huts with corrugated steel roofs, as are many of the buildings. Some are block.

After about half an hour we turned off the “paved” road onto a dirt one. Here the going was very slow, the road full of potholes that could swallow a house. With rice patties on both sides and the mountains in the distance we continued for another half hour to the village of Masara, our destination. When we arrived the bus was already unloading the crates from its roof and the village children had arrived in anticipation of gifts. They were very grateful when one of the doctors gave them stickers, crayons and paper to color on while we set up shop.

While we’re setting up the rooms many of us spoke with the children. We talked about school, what they liked to do and a lot about soccer. After about four hours of unpacking our supply crates, we had the clinic ready to open the next day. Philip, one of our translators, also showed the engineers the powerhouse so that we could determine what kind of power source our autoclave would use.

We stopped again at the Nakumat and picked up Coca-Cola and Pringles to have with our peanut butter. Another nap soon followed. I spent most of the evening chatting online with Amanda, my wife, and Dr. Gentry from pharmacy was even nice enough to loan me her phone for a quick phone call. It’s starting to get late and our wake up call for tomorrow is 5:30 a.m. so it’s time to go to bed. Tomorrow the real fun begins.


November 30

We started our day at 6:15 a.m. with breakfast and left ASAP for the clinic’s opening day. When we arrived at about 9 a.m. there were already dozens of children waiting for us and adults lined up to be seen. We helped with the final preparations for about an hour and then decided to make the 30-minute walk down to see the main irrigation pumps. Three young boys, Billy (14), Vincent (14) and Eldon (3) offered to guide us. Along the way they explained how the fields worked, how the canal was flooded and controlled via the pumps and various sluice gates, ditches and side creeks. We also learned that Vincent wanted to be a doctor and Bill an astronaut. They were both doing well in school – learning science, social studies, math and algebra. Both of them were very bright young men. I hope that they continue to work toward their dreams.

After being shown the pumps we walked back to the clinic to learn that a child suffering from cerebral malaria had just died. It was very sad and hard on the medical staff for such a thing to happen on the first day. By the time the child was brought to them there was really nothing they could do. The rest of the day was brighter, as hundreds of people came for everything from glasses and vitamins to malaria and wounds. We finished up for the day at 3 p.m., telling everybody that we would be back tomorrow, expecting an even bigger turnout.

This evening we went to the small market where we bartered for various souvenirs and trinkets, small sculptures, artwork, clothes and games. After spending 3,000 shillings (about $40) on various gifts and souvenirs we walked back just as a large storm rolled in. We had dinner inside because of the rain and have no Internet so I think it will be an early night.


December 1

We arrived at the clinic early again today. Kyle, Dr Marquart and I worked most of the morning in the eye room. Trying to find glasses for people who either had problems reading or general problems seeing. They would be screened and Kyle and I would be given a slip of paper with the proper glasses for the person. It was our job to go through the hundreds of pairs of donated glasses and find four or five pairs that were as close as possible. It was really awesome to see the smile that people had when they found a perfect pair. They would look off in the distance and really see, or read from the paper we gave them without holding it far away or squinting. It was nothing compared to what the doctors, pharmacists and medical students were doing, but just knowing that it helped a little was really amazing.

After a late lunch (flat bread, called “chipata” stuffed with sunflower butter, honey and protein bar) we spent most of the afternoon talking with the kids about school and soccer. We also finished building the corn hole sets for the kids to play with. Hopefully we will have the beanbags done soon so that we can teach them how to play!


December 2

We spent the morning traveling with Dr. Bonyo around Kisumu to look for fittings for our project. While we found a few prospective stores, none of them had the materials that we required, but it did give us a good cost idea. We made several stops and it amazed me at the controlled chaos that was driving around Kisumu. There were cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians darting around everywhere, but at the same time, everybody seemed to know what they were doing.

We got to the clinic at around 11 a.m. and were soon put to work in intake. This is the first place that people go when they arrive. We would take their history, vitals and find out why they were visiting us. Again, I know I wasn’t doing anything major, but I’m just glad to help. Zach worked most of the morning in triage and probably saved the lives of three or four kids that he spotted and got looked at immediately. He found a seven-year-old girl with a temperature of 107º that was just waiting for somebody to look at her.

After lunch I showed some of the boys the engineering work that we were doing. One of the boys, Billy, knew some of the equations that I had used and seemed to understand many of the new concepts that I tried to teach him. For a 14-year-old boy, he knew his stuff. I also showed them my calculator, something that they said they don’t see until high school. They were very impressed, especially by the games!

We went out tonight to eat pizza at the Mon Ami restaurant and it was very good. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day at the clinic. Hopefully we make it worth it.


December 3

It’s hard to believe that today is our last day. I don’t think that my pizza agreed with me, my stomach was upset when I woke up and for most of the day. But I still went to the clinic. I spent the morning managing what Mark called “logistics” – basically crowd control. But I am pleased to say that that I did it successfully (with a lot of help from our awesome translators).

Later we walked to the sugar cane fields with Vincent, Billy and Tobias and some other children. A very nice man showed us his field and answered all of our questions. He even traded us some stalks for a pack of gum. The kids really enjoyed it and enjoyed showing us how to chew on the cane. It was very hard and tough but VERY sweet. After returning to the clinic I spent the rest of the day scribing in intake.

It was very tough to say good-bye to the friends that I met when we left the clinic. The translators that we had worked with all week, the women who had cooked us lunch (and thought that Zach looked like a god), but especially the children. There were four boys that I felt especially close to. Billy was probably the smartest 14-year old boy I have every met. He took us to the  pump and cane field, identified plants and answered every question that we threw at him. Vincent was always with us answering questions. Tobias took us to the cane fields and explained how cane is turned into molasses and sugar. He wants to be an engineer. And finally Eldon, who didn’t speak a word of English, but I did teach him how to give a five and do a fist bump. We also found out that he is VERY ticklish.

Time to finish packing and get some sleep. We have one more adventure … SAFARI!


December 4

We got up early to catch our flight to Nairobi … only to discover that Garrett had locked his passport in the hotel safe and the man with the key was not there. To make a long story short; only in Kenya can you leave for the airport at 6:40 a.m. to make your 7 a.m. flight. We when got to Nairobi at about 8 a.m., we had yet more confusion with our safari company, who didn’t know when we were arriving, so after some phone calls we finally hooked up with our tour guide for the day at about 9:30 a.m.

After spending the better part of the morning navigating through the horrendous traffic, our tour guide, Jackson, took us back to the “Kensington Tours” office to drop of our luggage and then took us to a local restaurant, Tamasha, for lunch. The menu looked really good and four of us ordered what looked like a perfect Big Mac knock off – oh, how mistaken we were. Devoid of the special sauce and the middle bun, what we got was not quite what we expected.

Our sub par lunch was soon forgotten as Jackson took us to Nairobi National Park. Our tour van soon transformed into a Safari vehicle as Jackson literally “raised the roof” to allow us to stand and have 360-degree view from the back of the van. For the next three hours we drove through the park on dirt roads snapping pictures of zebra, antelope, gazelle, water buffalo, rhinos, ostrich and some of the most breathtaking landscapes that we had seen all week. We stopped halfway through to take a short hike with a park ranger along the river where he showed us turtle and crocodile, as well as pointing out the border of the land belonging to the Maasai people. The Maasai people are known for their traditional red robes and for the famed Maasai Warriors.

At the end of the safari all of us were pretty beat. Jackson took us back to the tour office to shower and relax until our flight. Only 16 hours of flying and eight hours of layovers until home.



I think that the people of Kenya are some of the richest people on Earth. They may be poor in terms of money, possessions and standard of living, but this poverty is nothing compared to there love of life, love of their country and most importantly, their love of their fellow man. Not just their friends and family but complete strangers. Almost every Kenyan I passed said “Hello” with a smile on his face. Everybody I talked to shook my hand like a close friend. These are not things that you find in the average American city. These people genuinely care about each other, and about us. I am ready to go home, but at the same time I never want to leave. This has definitely been the trip of a lifetime with a land, and more importantly a people, that I will never forget.