On December 23rd, Emi Watanabe and I went to Kampala, Uganda for about 3 weeks. The goal of this trip was to work with Paola de Cecco and Village Energy to help fix the three 3D printers they have (a Rapidbot and two Printrbots), teach solid modeling skills, and work on the designs of the solar products they are creating. The purpose of these solar products is to enable local entrepreneurs by manufacturing the products locally, training cell phone technicians on how to use and set them up, and sell them to the more remote villages of Uganda that need them. We funded the trip with a crowdfunding campaign through a nonprofit organization, ReAllocate. We were funded mainly by family and friends, something that I find extraordinarily incredible and I appreciate so much.

The reason I went was because the opportunity to be helpful presented itself. Paola was in need and between the skills of Emi and myself, we hoped that we could be helpful. I have a degree in mechanical engineering but I'm doubtful that the skills necessary for a project like this are due to the lessons I learned in the classroom. The skills that are necessary are the skills I've learned through internet communities that are working on open source designs (both hardware and software). The skills I learned tinkering with electronics in a small apartment while going to school. The skills I have gained by growing up in a rural area, in which the idea of self reliance was deeply established in me by my parents. The skills I have gained by spending over two years teaching electronics, making, and troubleshooting to students aged 8 to 40 years old.

I'm hopeful that philanthropic endeavors will be the next progression of the maker movement. The time in which those of us who have learned so much and have been enabled in ways that we didn't think possible a few years ago, can go out and teach others, enabling them the same way that we have. The democratization of knowledge that has been given to us through the internet has allowed us to learn rapidly. Through internet-based open source projects like Arduino and Reprap, I foresee huge strides in what we, as a global society, can do. We now have the platforms to work together, determine and create possible solutions to real needs around the world. It is getting to the point were we don't even have to invest a lot of money or even time to begin doing it. We are so close that it is already starting to happen. By globally collaborating on these open source projects, we can build and change so much faster than any other point in history. 3D printers have been around for a few decades, but it took the open source style of development only a few years to turn it into a disruptive manufacturing movement. Cost has been drastically reduced, quality has increased hugely, and it has enabled large numbers of new businesses built on the creation of these machines. So, we have access to the knowledge, we are getting access to the tools. What are we going to build with them? At this point, I don't know, but it has the potential to be huge.

Step 1: Preparations

One of the hardest parts is trying to anticipate all of the tools and materials that will be necessary for the success of this trip. Before we went, we had a few Skype conversations with both Paola and Frank. In the last conversation, Paola said that we shouldn't anticipate being able to find anything we might need in Uganda. Tools, nuts, bolts, tape, micro USB cables, and more. There is also a limit as to what we can bring on the plane. I tried thinking of everything that would be good to have and this is the list I came up with and brought:

1 Kg of 1.75mm PLA - 2 rolls total
Printrboards - 2 total to replace the ones that had been fried out in a strong storm
1.75mm hot ends for the Printrbots - I wanted to set up all the printers to be using 1.75mm filament
Digital calipers
Micro USB cables - 2 total
Electrical tape - 3 rolls
Hex keys - both metric and SAE
Wire cutters and strippers
Flush cutter
DSO Nano Oscilloscope
Bag of zip ties
Screwdriver set
Small pliers set
Super glue - 6 tubes
Painter's Blue Tape - 5 pack
Vice Grip Pliers - Recommended by Michael Shiloh, a faculty member at CCA amongst many other things. I don't think I've ever seen someone so happy to see a tool than when Paola saw the vice grips.

I loaded all these supplies into a backpack along with a few clothes, miscellaneous cables that I had laying around, a small notebook/tablet computer, an inexpensive unlocked cellphone, malaria pills, and a camera. I took the BART to the airport trying to convince myself that, "I think I have everything I'll need....".
<p>This is great stuff. 3D printing is going to revolutionalize the world.</p>
how to get in touch with you. I need help on setting buyinh and working in a 3d printer in my garage.
<p>What are you hoping to do with the 3D printer?</p>
Hey thanks for replying. Mainly interestedin knowin th basics of it and printout some household usables itemas made of plastic, steel, rubber etc. <br>Currently i don't even know the abc of it and am looking for someone to help me out set this thing up in my garage and know all components of making it run, the cartridges, <br>let me know if we can talk. i am an individual not a company, so i will be trying to understand the basics and working on these printers. I am a mechanical engineer and understand CNC machines, 3D, CAD etc but not programing that much.
<p>your think so nice.i am also try to give motion to mannual screen printing I need help</p><p>from you.</p>
<p>Sounds like you guys had quite an adventure! :)</p>
<p>keep it up..and change the world!..i also wanted to have this kind of rigs..I really need your help for this on how to set this up..:) </p>
<p>What are you hoping to do? I might be able to point in a helpful direction.</p>
<p>I've wanted to do a home-based project like this for a long time, but I worry about design security. I read some stuff about secure online storage and vpns on vpnexpress.net but I wonder how you dealt with keeping your designs from being stolen online?</p>
<p>It's not an issue when you release all your designs to the Creative Commons with the hope that people will use and modify your design. I understand and respect your reason for protecting an idea but if you spend all of your time protecting an idea, it limits the amount of time you have to come up with more ideas. </p>
good one
<p>I am an American in the land of opportunity and I can't get Solidworks because of price and I have not been able to get a 3D printer. You live in a 3rd world country and are making a business out of it. Bravo! I pray that God is with you on your venture and you teach and grow!</p>
<p> Long way to go , to give folks a hand . It shines , it truly does .</p>
<p>You guys are amazing!</p>
<p>You guys are amazing!</p>
<p>What an amazing experience!</p>
<p>Mega Awesome job! </p>
<p>Awesome! Congratulations.</p>
<p>Congrats, very Impressive.</p>
<p>Props for helping others, how was Africa?</p>
<p>You are remarkable human beings.</p><p>Done a description with link, in by Blog:</p><p>http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2014/01/torno-cnc-torno-littlebits-strawbees-e.html</p>
<p>Good Work!! </p>
<p>What a great selfishless act to go overseas and help others. Someone so young to be using your skills to help developing countries embrace technologies. Well done.</p>
<p>1000 Respect. </p>
We need more people like you in this world!
Good luck to Frank.
<p>Thanks for showing such a great effort and helping not only the 3D-Community but also the persons in need for help!</p><p>They dont have a donation-Page or PayPal-Adress to send a few $ to?</p>
<p>Great work!</p>
Excellent!!! Wonderful work
Great stuff!

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Bio: I spend my time somewhere between engineering and art.
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