Friday, May 28, 2010

Diana and the Children

Diana has a gift with children. She is so enthusiastic, animated, and encouraging that kids are drawn to her like a magnet. While we were in Honduras, her favorite days were the ones when she got to play with the children.

When we were working we were sometimes inside a security fence which, unfortunately, kept us from the village kids. Diana hated the fence because it kept her separated from them - both physically and metaphorically.

One particular family adopted Diana. Four sisters and a little brother lived nearby and invited her into their home. She bought them all gifts and gave them to them on the last day: a car for the boy and dolls for the girls. They had no other dolls and had been wanting one a long time. They all named their dolls "Diana".

Diana, you inspire me. You reflect the love of Christ as you interact with these children, with our team, and with me. Your spiritual maturity and sensitivity was highly valued on this trip, as was your willingness to do any task, however mundane. I will miss you.

(Diana begins her Master's degree in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell next Fall.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lawyer Advocates for Orphans

Friday night we had dinner with Hector and Maria Aguilar. Both of them are Honduran lawyers (abogado y abogada) and Hector was the police judge for the city of El Progresso for four years. During this time, he relates that he "touched misery with both hands" as he heard case after case of child abuse, prostitution, and alcohol addiction. He and his wife have committed their careers to serving the "least of these" by assisting orphanages with their legal requirements and many other tasks. His English is the best I have heard in Honduras, and we sat captivated as we listened to his story about how he is using his gifts, experiences, and opportunities to build the Kingdom of God. I was glad my students got to hear it.

Hector's daughters crawled up on him as he spoke to us about his work, his calling, and the plight of the orphans and abandoned children in Honduras. His girls are named Ixchelle and Mia, both Myan names.

Coincidentally, it was Hector and Maria's eleventh anniversary, so we sang to them when someone else produced a cake from nowhere. I like it more than the beef tail I had for dinner. :|

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Working Wednesday

Our team of Engineers with a Mission students has been working very hard to design and construct a small hydro electric generator for the Promise Home orphanage in Honduras. For the last three days we have been chopping, grinding, and welding steel to build the framework for our generator. Promise Home has an exciting array of power tools to help us in the process.

This photo shows the notes from a brainstorming session I had with Lance, Renee, and Diana. I like this picture because it shows my cool boots.

I love the smell of fresh-cut steel in the morning!

This is Ben. When he and I got to fire up this gasoline powered chop saw we nearly had a testosterone overdose.

Diana was the first person to learn how to weld using the arc welder. Go female engineers with power tools! Be empowered!

And here is Rachel welding! She was a natural at the task, but even though she and Diana and I were all welding, we were all very slow because we lacked experience. In the end, we hired a Honduran welder for the day to help us get caught up. But he wasn't as cool as us.

This little sugar pie is Cindi. She is five. I like her.

Lance is grinding some metal parts from which is building a framework for our hydro turbine. Later, he and I went to a local machine shop to have some work done on them. I like having the students take ownership of a sub-project.

William is having a great time and styling in his bandanna. His project for the day is to design and build a steel frame to hold two large drainpipes that will be installed into the dam.

Not shown is the work being done at the river. More pictures of that soon. Oh yes, and we took Renee and Isaac to the hospital with a insect bite infection and upper respiratory infection, respectively. No problema.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Team Building in Honduras

On our first full day in Honduras, the Engineers with a Mission team went to Rio Congrejal for (mild) white water rafting and team building! I took this picture of a Macaw, the national bird of Honduras, that lives at the Jungle River Lodge on the river near La Ceiba.

Our team consists of John, Lance, Aimie, Rachel, William, Jon, and Isaac (on the back row) and Diana, Renée, Kathleen, and Ben (on the front row). Everyone was excited but a little nervous before the three hour trek in the world famous river. Sic 'Em Bears.

Every body lived and was wet, tired, and hungry afterwards. More importantly, the team came together significantly through the event, which was part of my plan! Later that day, on the way to El Progresso, our bus broke down. The U joint in the drive shaft failed, but we were able to get to a mechanic. We were on the road in about an hour and a half more, but in the meantime we played games on the side of the road and continued to come together as a team. Things are going well so far.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Poetry Recital

The second grade poetry recital at Jono's school was hilarious. One after another the kids got up on stage and read a poem of their choice to a crowd of about 150 parents, teachers, and peers. Jono's poem was called "Point of View" by Shel Silverstein. I made his prop, the "turkey feathers" the night before.

Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless
Christmas dinner's dark and blue
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey's point of view.

Sunday dinner isn't sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the viewpoint
Of a chicken or a duck.

Oh how I once loved tuna salad
Pork and lobsters, lamb chops too
'Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner's point of view.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Climb On

I teach a junior-level engineering class on the subject of Engineering Design with another professor, Dr. N., who is a mechanical engineer (I am an electrical engineer). Still reading? Every semester we dream up a gizmo, a thingy, or a widget that the students have to design. This semester it was a rope-climbing robot.

The robot had to start at the base of an eight-foot-long rope and climb to the top. When it encountered the "ceiling" it was to stop on its own and, if applicable, retract itself to within one foot of the ceiling. They could not use wheels to climb, they had to use a grasping motion like a climber. The video shows our testing and some spontaneous racing that occurred on test day! Their designs were great and I must say that I'm proud of them!

Austin Swimming

A couple of weekends ago our family went to Austin for a big swim meet. The University of Texas has a world-class swimming pool and the kids enjoyed themselves. This picture is from David's 100 m butterfly race.

Outside of the swimming complex is an antique oil well, the first one on the campus of a Texas college. Jono and I wandered over to take a look at it. He is naturally attracted to machines; it makes me laugh.

Not much else to say about this. Witty comments and funny stories next time...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Honduras Bound

I am leading a new team of 10 engineering students and one faculty colleague back to Honduras next week. Lord willing, we will be installing a hydro electric generator in a new orphanage called Promise Home, near El Progresso. (See from where I borrowed the very cool logo. The white part in the hand is in the shape of Honduras, and the five stars are in Honduran flag.)
They already have a long section of PVC pipe (called a penstock) that brings water in from the nearby river. They also have already built a power house for our generating equipment. Below you see the inside of the power house. There are three pipes coming in from the river. The one on the left is 6" in diameter, the other two are 8". For the next year or two, we will only use the smaller one. After the water flows through the generator, it exits the power house via the concrete "bathtub" in the floor. There are two large drain pipes there that bring the water back to the river, downstream from our inlet.

This is the outside of the power house. You can see the 6" pipe running off to the river. The last image is a model of our "Pelton Runner" which is the water wheel gizmo that serves as the interface between our generator and the actual jets of water. Lance did a good job on this.

More posts about our trip coming soon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Return to the Blogosphere!

Hello people! The rumors that I no longer blog but only Twitter and update my Facebook page are vicious lies from those bent on discrediting the fine name of Orangehouse. You may be wondering where I have been. More likely, you haven't noticed that I have been gone. More likely still, no one is ever going to read this. I can only say that I have been busy and that when I do sit down to write, I end up staring at the blank page and thinking about all the things I should be doing...

Here's a story about our family trip to Cameron Park last weekend. We played soccer and baseball and David and I rode our bikes on some of the trails that run beside the confluence of the Bosque and Brazos rivers. We have been talking about doing this for a year or so, and last weekend the weather was perfect. As we rode on the beautiful trail we noticed the river level was up from the recent rains. After about two miles, the trail dipped down and was covered by a swollen inlet from the river.

It didn't look very deep, so I suggested that David ride across first to test the waters. He easily powered across the inlet; the water was only about a foot deep. He got his shoes a little wet, but had no problem getting across. After reaching the other side he saw a sign that warned of falling rocks. Since I didn't really want to get my feet wet, I called him back across the inlet. "Let's go back" I said, as I started to pull my phone/camera.

Suddenly, his entire front tire plunged into the water and he flew over the handlebars into the river!

The above photo is about two seconds after he went in head first. He scrambled out of the water and left his bike. You can see the back tire sticking up in the next picture. It looks like a floating log or a piece of debris.
So it turns out the inlet was deeper than we thought. Soon we deduced that the first time David rode across (without a problem) HE RODE ON A SUBMERGED BRIDGE! Coming back across he wasn't so lucky and rode off the side of the bridge. Surprise!

Happy for the adventure, and soaking wet, I made him pose for another picture where the two rivers meet. Hoop dee doo.