Prof Teaches Robotics, Automates Ugandan Farm

Carl Twarog (center), professor of Animation/Interactive Design, spent the month of January in Uganda in the service of Oysters and Pearls, a not-for-profit organization that integrates technology and science in schools that are inclusive of the blind and supportive of opportunities for women in education.
During a two-week Ugandan summer break, 70 high school students in Gulu were immersed in beginning or advanced robotics, engineering for the empowerment of women or business applications for the empowerment of the blind and visually impaired.
Twarog was a member of the advanced robotics team. He and his students lived at a Gulu high school and were actively engaged from 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily. “We had to take the computers away from students and make them go to their dormitories,” Twarog reported. “They would work all night if we let them.”
Students built models using bamboo, wood, banana leaves and water bottles. They milled printed circuit boards, created circuits and calculated voltages, and ultimately constructed an automated door closer, an automated fan system, a solar cooker, a solar traffic light, an automated water pump and a self-navigating automated car that relied on distance and sonar sensors.
The offering was the largest robotics camp in Ugandan history.
Organizers hope the knowledge and techniques created in Gulu can be replicated in Sudan and Rwanda.
In addition to robotics, Twarog served as a team member participating in farm automation projects through the Ugandan organization “Ideal Farmer’s Cooperative.” He installed and demonstrated prototypes for projects at select learning farms.
Using temperature probes, Twarog helped develop a feedback system to warn farmers of the onset of fermentation in silage. Because of the fragility of the food supply in the area, he also helped create an automated cooling system for milk cows. Since temperature spikes cause significant declines in milk production, Twarog’s automated system allows farmers to have flexibility in their work schedules, which will boost their productivity.
Twarog gained a few words in the local language, Acholi. He ran with an Olympic hopeful, bought passion fruit in the market, faced down a black spitting cobra in a lavatory and took a lot of photos.
“The children loved getting their pictures taken,” Twarog said. “I’d snap a shot and show it to them on the viewscreen.” Later, the professor would print the images and gift them to the subject’s mothers.