TReND in Africa Workshop Visit
Photo by Agnieszka Pokrywka
Last week, MCI Neuroscience paid a visit to the TReND in Africa (“TReND”) workshop taking place in Cape Town, South Africa.
TReND (www.TReNDinAfrica.org) is an NGO run by an international network of research scientists. It aims to increase scientific development and collaboration in Africa. They achieve this through educational workshops, equipment donations, a volunteering programme and an outreach branch, to name a few. Education, they believe, is the best way to combat the inequitable growth of research and technology in Africa versus in more developing countries.
The workshop in Cape Town focuses on building your own lab equipment. Teams from African countries and Germany were invited to apply with their ideas. The selected teams were flown to Cape Town to participate in two weeks of collaboration, training, skill-sharing and building.
In our visit there, Andre, one of the organisers, explained that the goal is to reduce the cost of doing good research. For some experiments, equipment can be built easily with a bit of know-how. Moreover, there is plenty of open-source material available online which can be used towards creating a piece of equipment at low cost. The open-source forums also allow for idea sharing and collaboration around the world, reaching solutions more quickly.
As an example, a team from Germany (consisting of Lisa Thailheim, Dr Rober Richter and Alessandro Volpato) aimed to determine the concentration of DNA in a given sample in a cost-effective, quick way which would minimise waste. They have developed a device half the size of a shoe box which can be controlled with a cell phone and some modified wires, and it also costs about 50 pounds to make.
Another team, this one local, was made up of of Dyland Stevens, Adam Howa and Danielle Seeger. They are working on 3D printing a nest which can record the weight and take motion-triggered images of the bird living within it, allowing monitoring of specific birds to become easier. In a similar vein, two other teams are creating cost-effective rat behaviour boxes to eliminate issues surrounding surveillance and accuracy of data collection.
To better understand the sensory world of insects, a mixed team hailing from Malawi and Nigeria is developing an amplifier capable of accurately amplifying nerve signals in insect antennae. The team members are Elizabeth Bandason, Olukayode James Adelaja and Elliot Hez.
These are just some of the projects which were ongoing at the workshop. The scope and creativity of each of them is impressive. Each team makes their solutions sound incredibly simple, downplaying the weeks of work which have gone into building their devices. We at MCI are excited to see the final results, as well as what else comes out of this NGO and the extremely important work that they are doing.