Energy's El Salvador team tackles bici-power and biodigesters

D-Lab students and Amy Smith working on a "bici-blender," El Salvador, 2013.
D-Lab students and Amy Smith working on a "bici-blender," El Salvador, 2013.

Libby Hsu, D-Lab: Energy instructor and trip leader, reports on the Energy team's progress on their Spring Break projects in El Salvador.

Libby reporting from ASAPROSAR in El Salvador. I have great news for all of you. On Wednesday, we completed both bicycle-power machines and got them to make strawberry ice cream and shaved ice. We were a little worried about the ice shaver getting done, and stayed at the work site until it was dark out, adjusting it by flashlight until it finally started working. Little bats were flying around above us. The machines are both very durable and we are confident that, with a bit more tinkering, they can be used to sell desserts.We certainly enjoyed the ice cream!

Yesterday, we went back to Bosque La Magdalena and installed a biodigester. That, too, went longer than we expected. The rangers had already dug a hole in the ground, but we had to carefully make sure the slope of the ground in the hole was correct, dig inlet and outlet trenches, assemble the biodigester bag, and drill a hole in the masonry wall to connect the biodigester to the kitchen stove with PVC lines. Once the biodigester was in the ground, we sealed up the openings, brought over a motorcylce, and started filling it with exhaust, both to make sure it had no leaks and remove the oxygen from inside. As dusk fell once again, we were able to fill it with water and 5 huge bags of cow manure!!! The rangers were pretty amused as Emi and Sam started shouting ´mas caca!!!´ for more manure to be brought over.

The best part of the biodigester installation is that the rangers are really engaging with us and interested in learning about how it works and how to maintain it. Delphine´s educational materials were very useful and appropriate. We even had a visitor from the nearby village join us because he was interested in installing one himself.

This morning we will split up into two groups to finish up various work on the projects. Then this afternoon we are going swimmnig in a lake! Everyone has worked incredibly hard and we look forward to having a bit of time to relax before we come back to life at MIT.

(Pictures to come once the El Salvador team has better Internet)