Kah Wei's Reflection on the Bootcamp Process

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(Note: This is a short piece to give a big picture view of what we did during the boot camp. Therefore, not too many details or nuances in the boot camp are addressed/included in this piece.)

The OSHW Boot Camp Recipe: From Zero to a Makeshift Lab

In this recipe, the “ingredients” needed are:

1 Cinematographer (made in Kyrgyzstan)

2 engineers-turned-educator (made in Nepal)

1 inorganic chemist (made in Thailand)

1 architect (made in Thailand)

1 economist (made in Malaysia)

1 skilled-skilled-electrician-turned-product-designer (made in Myanmar)

1 theatre artist (made in Taiwan)

1 performance artist (made in Estonia)

1 conceptual artist (made in Slovakia)

A dash of salt and pepper

1 tbs of sweet soy sauce


What can we create from this diverse mix of “ingredients” from a kitchen in Yogyakarta, Indonesia?

Warning: This is an experimental process and we are not sure what will come out of it. Adults, do not try this at home without any supervision. A note on ingredients: Since this is an experimental recipe, you can change the ingredients as you see fit.

Method

First, we mix all the “ingredients” together by making them “interact” with each other. This can be done through informal dinner sessions and an introduction session where all the “ingredients” will share their thoughts on the purpose of the boot camp.

In this recipe, we have defined the purpose of the boot camp to be building a low cost DIY lab for local people to solve their problems.

Second, we get the “ingredients” familiar with the process of scientific thinking. This is done through field visits to the river, local market, art village and the mountains. The “ingredients” are dropped in those locations and instructed to make observations. Without any structure, it will be interesting to see how different “ingredients” filter information. Armed with the observations, the next step is for the “ingredients” to develop research questions and hypothesis. Additionally, the “ingredients” are also asked to think about potential equipment needed to measure data that can prove or disprove their hypothesis.

Note that putting the ingredients in different environment (such as Turgor Village at the base of Mount Merapi and Kasongan, an art village) will be interesting to observe how they react in different space, temperature, pH and humidity level.

It is also very helpful to throw in a visit to the biotech lab to familiarize the “ingredients” with potential lab equipment that they will make but at a lower cost at the end of the boot camp

Third, we put the “ingredients” in a sterile environment where they can again interact with each other and run experiments. In order for something to be cooked up, we need lab equipment to carry out experiments. Since this is a boot camp recipe for creating low cost laboratory equipment, we will have a crash course on DIY bio lab equipment such as microscope, turbidity meters, centrifuge etc. Once the “ingredients” get a basic idea of how everyday items or simple, low cost materials can be used, we can set the ball rolling by having the “ingredients” build their own lab equipment (in this recipe, we built a spectrophotometer) with materials found lying around them.

Fourth, leave the “ingredients” to sit in a mixer bowl for a few days. At this point, we will observe creative energy from the “ingredients” as they brainstorm ways to run their experiments and start hacking everyday items. This will also be an interesting time to observe how the different “ingredients” work together and create new flavors.

In this particular recipe, the experiments that came out were focused on microbiology where we cultivated bacteria from the field sites such as the river and local market and then observed the bacteria's behavior. Note that, the experiments produced are dependent on the type of “ingredients” you have so you may get other types of experiments if you try this recipe.

Results after 10 days

The results of this recipe were an interesting mix of something tangible and intangible. One was the appearance of some DIY lab equipment such as microscopes, spectrophotometer, magnetic stirrer and others. Another was a visible shift in mindset towards science. At the initial phase of preparing the “ingredients,” the words used to describe science were “closed,” “far away,” “out there,” and “not recognized as part of daily life.” However, after 10 days, the usage of words for science changed to “accessible,” “possible to use science in everyday life to solve problems,” “reachable,” and “understandable.” The third result was that this recipe allowed for the possibility for a person with or without a science background to build a lab, discover a different way of understanding the world, and use those insights to solve problems that are relevant to their context.

Discussion

After testing this recipe out, there are several aspects of the recipe that need some tweaking to create better (tasting) results. Stay tune for Part 2 of this recipe which will focus on how to make a better OSHW boot camp.