The primary goal of our relationship with the Annie Walsh is to improve their science labs so that the faculty can deliver a richer STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) experience for the girls. The government of Sierra Leone is committed to encouraging more females to enter these fields as well. Resources are a problem. But resourcefulness can go a long way to overcome those. That is something to continue to work on in the future.
Last year with the help of contributions to a “Go fund me” site we were able to ship a neat electrophoresis kit designed for STEM education. Thanks to the folks at Bio-Rad for developing the kit. We could not use the kit last year since the labs were still being refurbished. As expected the kits had not been opened when we arrived this year, so we were anxious to use the kits this time. There were still hurdles to overcome – distilled water is a given in most science labs but there is no still or other water purifying system; no reliable electrical supply or Bunsen burners for heating solutions, and no balance for weighing reagents. With a little “eye-balling,” the key reagent, agarose, was measured not really weighed, we decided that the local bottled water would probably work for our solutions (all part of experimentation) and there was a coffee pot and power across campus in the computer lab. Bringing the water to a boil in the coffee pot worked great but alas did not quite get the agarose into solution after walking back to the biology lab. Returning to the computer lab in the hopes of reheating the solution, we found that the power had gone out. After thirty minutes or so of waiting, we gave up for the day.
The next day, going back to more basic means of heat, Mr. Kamara, the biology teacher, showed how they heat materials. With a little skepticism we set our flask on the “burner” and before long had a nice boil and successfully dissolved the agarose. From there out it was pretty smooth sailing. As you can see the electrophoresis worked perfectly.