Mini-Kiln first prototype

Making a mobile oven, or mini-kiln; for melting plastics originally but whatever you need to bake. Pick or make the right caster wheels for the sort of mobility mini-kiln usage requires.

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mini-kiln with flexible tube to LPG cylinder attached.

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Plastics constitute a significant portion of the Agbogbloshie waste stream, moving through stages of collection, sorting (by type and colour), cleaning, shredding and even in some cases molding into pellets. (See Plastics blog post). With at least 7 micro-factories by our count, Agbogbloshie is a key part of the plastic recycling industry in Ghana, and integrally interconnected with both local and global production cycles. To date, the failure of Agbogbloshie’s industrial ecosystem to add value to plastic material recycled on-site is a lost opportunity for local manufacturing.

Building on our experiments with plastic during AMPQAMP and drawing on the knowledge and expertise of oven fabricators based on the ground in Agbogbloshie, we are now co-designing and prototyping a mini-kiln. This week, William Mensah completed fabrication of the first  prototype in Accra Timber Market,adjacent to Agbogbloshie. The mini-kiln fits the standard module of the AMP spacecraft and is one of the first tools from the AMP tool-set developed to plug into the community workshop.

mini-kiln in accra timber market, fiber insulation exposed before top sheet fixed in place.

The prototype, is composed essentially of a frame of angle bars,  inner and outer layers of sheet metal with a layer of what is locally called “fibre” (PUR foam insulation sourced from air-conditioner dismantling). We didn’t finish until evening, but couldn’t wait to test. Hence using shredded plastics from Agbogbloshie, we  made new recycled plastic tiles, heating the the plastics to their melting point, and allowing them to cool. We intend to carry out carry more of such low-high tech plastic experiments soon in our spacecraft. Stay tuned for more and be sure to share with us, your innovative ideas regarding plastic recycling.

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Plastic tiles made by using the mini-kiln
Plastic tiles made by using the mini-kiln (From the left: HDPE, PP and PET recycled plastics)

Notes:
+Need to add chimney, temperature gauge, and calibrated gas control.
+Cost compare with 2-module wide unit, cylindrical drum cast concrete or clay insulated.
+Link with rotational plastics moulding machine:feedback-enabled temperature controls.

Jerry outreach

Could Agbogbloshie begin to supply low-cost upcycled computers to children in Old Fadama? Could this scope expand beyond this territory to other parts of Accra and to the under-privileged in Ghana? Could this net expand to cover the entire African continent? Imagine upcycled computers, supplied to all parts of the world from Agbogbloshie. There is a promising  future for this and needs to start somewhere.

As part of engaging the Agbogbloshie community and STEAM professionals, AMP organized a ‘maker workshop’ to teach e-waste workers how to make a Jerry and install software on it. After a rainy morning, the AMP team arrived in Agbogbloshie in the afternoon. Most of the work-spaces in the scrap yard were partially flooded. Being Friday, and a majority of the e-waste workers being Muslims, they had just arrived from the Friday afternoon prayers. Since prior arrangements had been made with Sam Sandow (AMP agent in Agbogbloshie) and Zack (E-waste worker), the workshop started in one of the computer shops in Agbogbloshie located near the entertainment center.  It is owned and operated by the Nigerian called ”Emeka”. The very same person from which components were sourced for the Jerry workshop in Kokrobite. The shop has shelves on which one would find hard drives,  mother boards, circuit boards and many others.

Emeka's computer shop in Agbogbloshie
Emeka’s computer shop in Agbogbloshie

Upon arrival, the team pitched tent and Daniel (AMP intern from  creativity group KNUST) briefly introduced the Jerry concept to the community.  After we explained the concept to Emeka, a monitor, keyboard and mouse, were made available for us to use.  He also gave us a compact disc (CD) with an operating system. The team  installed it and  allowed the participants to familiarize themselves with the Jerry whilst interactively exchanging ideas with the AMP makers collective.

It’s highly informative and exciting to think that, these same e-waste workers who are among the most marginalized and least literate are actually computer literate- and that some of them are even self-thought. This reveals how much youthful potential is being lost to class stereotyping and the resultant marginalization.

The team later presented the concept of the Quadcoper to the workers by Samuel Amoako (AMP intern and student from KNUST). It was then flown on the football field to demonstrate how it will help AMP map Agbogbloshie and also monitor air pollution levels.

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AMP collective on the football field in Agbogbloshie…About to fly the Quadcopter

All through history, some of the most fascinating discoveries have come about as a result of conversations between two unlikely parties or people from highly divergent backgrounds who would ordinarily not interact. The creation of a community space where such interaction can happen and spark new genius via the crafting of the  ground breaking ideas and objects is one of the central objectives of AMP.

As usual, the workers were busy with their activities: dismantling, loading trucks with scrap metals etc… but some were able to spend time with us and expressed their interest in making one themselves. One of the common questions asked was..whether the plastic will melt when the computer overheats? We answered them by discussing the physical properties of the type of plastic used, such as its melting temperature which is about 130oC and it’s combustion point which is between 340oC to 380oC. Another major concern was the market for the product and the price one should be sold. In effect they appreciated the fact that, parts of old computers can be sourced and used to make a server that works and are cheaper. The AMP team hopes to transfer the knowledge in assembling Jerry computer to making a Jerry Laptop (‘JerryTop’) in the near future.

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Listening to Agbogbloshie

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Sam interviewing e-waste workers in Agbogbloshie

Agbogbloshie has suffered incredibly from the single story syndrome, imposed on it by the media and those with the opportunity to tell its story. Beyond the e-waste, the burning and the hardship, that usually characterises the gruesome descriptions of this urban enclave and its surroundings, there are several industries and practices within this urban site that gives it the kind of rich urban flavour that the space has. One major way of way of dealing with this threat of the single story, is to engage directly with a people. To see through their eyes and to feel what they feel. At AMP, we have made it our lifetime goal, to change first, the story of Agbogbloshie, for “he wields power over you who tells your story”.

In the last few months, the AMP team have sought to hear the stories of e-waste workers in Agbogbloshie through the use of interviews. For us, these are the voices that should be heard. It is our primary aim, through these interviews, to give a voice to the voiceless, to inform the E-waste workers and invite them to be a part of the AMP makers collective. The team recruited and trained two of the e-waste workers (Sam & Iddrisou) to help with the process and they have been engaged in all AMPs activities for the past five months. They participated fully and performed tasks from translation to administering the questionnaires themselves as well as photographing the work spaces of the interviewees. As part of the interview process the team continued to map the e-waste landscape, this time, with specific reference to the interviewees and the location of their workspaces. From this data a detailed map of the Agbogbloshie ecosystem is being constructed. The process is helping the team better understand the working conditions of e-waste workers, the various relationships that exist between them, their future aspirations and the nature of the Agbogbloshie site itself. Hopefully, this will help the team better integrate their needs into the project. So far, over 500 workers have been interviewed. The interviews, which started in May 2014 and are still ongoing and have four main areas of interest:

  1. E-Waste Expertise 2. Training   3. Health Awareness and Practices  4. Aspirations

So far, certain patterns are beginning to emerge- majority of the population in Agbogbloshie are from the Northern part of Ghana especially towns and villages near Tamale, the lingua franca of Agbogbloshie is Dagbani, though some have good command of the English language, majority do not. Most of them dropped out of school at the Junior high school and primary (P5 & P6) levels.

E-waste workers engage in various forms of purchasing of equipment, disassembly, weighing and sale, and provide several tons of urban mined materials like copper.  There are also many industrious and entrepreneurial individuals who make highly useful objects. Indeed, Agbogbloshie is more than just an e-waste dump. During the survey we took  photographs  of some of the activities that go on in the yard and here is a field note.

Despite all of these very positive aspects of Agbogbloshie, there still remains the blight of filth and cable burning which means the risk of contamination and disease are highly pervasive. In general, there is a fair level of awareness about health risks amongst the e-waste workers. Thanks to the ubiquitous media coverage of that specific issue, e-waste workers are at least vaguely aware of the adverse effects of burning on their health. They however said that since it was their job, they felt as if they had no option than to do it. In reaction to this discovery on health, the AMP team have designed a utility shirt for the workers. When the second prototype of the utility shirt (the spacesuit) was showed them, e-waste workers insisted on the face gear (with possible embedded gas mask). It was observed that, workers in Agbogbloshie start their day early with the cart pushers, moving out early in the morning to source electronic equipment. Our discoveries provide us with information about Agbogbloshie but this is helping us understand the workings of informal communities, and people who are surviving on the “peripheries” of our awareness and yet contribute significantly to our lives. More than just an e-waste dump, Agbogbloshie is a huge open air manu-factory.

Made in Agbogbloshie

Agbogbloshie is a challenging site. As a space, Agbogbloshie is sensory overload: soil and water darkened from pollution exude noxious vapours under the heat of the sun; toxic fumes emanate from burning sites; the clamour of slamming hammers and banging chisels fills the air… But that is only part of the Agbogbloshie story.

A closer look at the ecosystem of the giant self-organized open-air factory shows that Agbogbloshie is about more than destruction alone. A parallel set of activities support the livelihood of onsite workers: food and entertainment spaces — Agbogbloshie has both a cinema and foosball tables! Numerous mosques dot the landscape (we found a total of 14 mosques in the area surveyed) serving five times a day the faithful that are working nearby. Since believers must take ablution before praying, water circulates in plastic tea pots from water tanks, the few municipal water supplies and public toilets/showers that are sprinkled around the site. Workers also engage in making: making tools (such as chisels) to disassemble e-waste or other items into scrap that has a resalable value, making machines (such as a furnace blowing system using a bicycle wheel) to make these tools, and making items (aluminum pots and coal pots using metals harvested from refrigerators) to sell outside the boundaries of the site.

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Furnace blower at a blacksmith workshop making chisels for e-waste disassembly

We love the hand-crafted bicycle tyre-powered blowers used to ventilate locally-fabricated furnaces for cottage industry smelters (seen in various places). They are a powerful example of the on-going knowledge transfer within Agbogbloshie and testament to the intertwined nature of making and technology development. Exactly what AMP seeks to further leverage in Agbogbloshie.

Here is the link to our Flickr album Made in Agbogbloshie. While (e-)waste processing is crude and hasty to maximize profit (informal e-waste workers earn a higher than average income compared to informal workers overall), we certainly see all the parts necessary to make the machine, the self-organized open-air factory, run smoothly. Making is just part of it.

#ampqamp14

#ampqamp14 ran June through August, 2014 at the Kokrobitey Institute, Hub Accra (now Impact Hub Accra) and the Agbogbloshie scrapyard, in collaboration with Togo’s Wɔɛlab. #ampqamp14 focused on M&D (Makers & Development, a practical hands-on approach to R&D) for the spacecraft, while #ampqamp15 focused on codesign of the AMP app.

#ampqamp @kokrobitey institute.team&-MOTION#ampqamp14 #woelabampqamp14 and woelab massive20140403_06293920140403_115111

Participants included:

Name Area of specialisation  Institution
Michael ACQUAH Physics University of Cape coast
Divine KWAME Communication design University of Cape coast
Maame Amma ANINKORA Physics University of Ghana
Rejoyce DOUMON Psychology University of Ghana
Louis BADOE Medicine University of Ghana
Nutifafa Yao DOUMON Teaching Assistant, Physics University of Ghana
Etornam AVOUGLA Graduate (Maths & Statistics) University of Ghana
Samuel AMOAKO-FRIMPONG Aerospace engineering Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology
Daniel Henneh ADU Electrical engineering Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology
Timothy AFFRAM Mechanical Engineering Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology
Leonce Olorode ATANLEY Electrical Engineering Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology
Martine PANDAM Maker WOELAB Togo
Kokou Dieudonnei AYEBUA Maker WOELAB Togo
Yannick MENSAH Maker WOELAB Togo
Rhodes O. AUDRE Maker WOELAB Togo
Kakatsi K.E. TEDO Maker WOELAB Togo
Lena KORSAH Designer Kokrobitey Institute
Natalie FORDWOR Programs Manager Kokrobitey Institute
Chamil MADHAWA Production Manager Kokrobitey Institute
Renee NEBLETT Art Education Kokrobitey Institute
Rafa FONT (Recyhub) Sustainable development Royal Holloway, University of London
Mawuena BANINI Architecture Central University College
Emmanuel Kusi OFORI-SARPONG Architecture Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology
Kuukuwa MANFUL Architecture Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology
Ivy ASUO Physics and Materials Science Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology
Yasmine ABBAS Design & Architecture AMP co-founder
DK OSSEO-ASARE Design & Architecture AMP co-founder

#ampqamp14 – Weeek 1

First weeek =) of#ampqamp14 started at Hub Accra by a discussion of AMP’s objectives for the three coming weeeks: to co-design and build with AMP makers (comprising of STEAM students and graduates and eventually e-waste workers) a module of the spacecraft–AMP’s  makerspace–and share its progress with the community in Agbogbloshie.

Participants started discussing the design of the spacecraft, its frame and interior frame comprising of an octet truss system, prefab panels, soft and roof systems. We then developed a critical path for each system so to know what to do at each step of the way until we build the spacecraft. The brainstorming sessions were very intensive, with some of the participants sketching/drawing the various concepts related to the spacecraft.

 

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Participants designing the critical path
Participants designing the critical path

By the second day we enthusiastically produced fully developed critical paths,  identified and quantified in terms of duration and dependency of the various tasks

Critical path for AMPQAMP
Critical path for AMPQAMP

We also prepared for the first workshop ahead, the plastic workshop to be carried out at the Rex Cinema in collaboration with Brad Marley and Efya  from the POLY Bank GH organization. In preparation for the workshop, we conducted background research on the physical properties, melting methods and stewing methods. We sourced the plastic–shredded-PET (polyethylene therephatlate) old plastic bottles and stewed shredded-PP (polypropylene)–and a number of molds from Agbogbloshie. This was also a good occasion to share our process with the Agbogbloshie community. This is a picture of the tools we brought to the Rex Cinema to conduct our experiments.

Tools bought from Agbogbloshie for the experiment
Tools bought from Agbogbloshie for the experiment

The Rex is an open-air cinema, a wonderful space to experiment within. There, young Ghana makers were busy melting, stewing and molding different types of plastics and exploring the production of architectural parts, panels, brick or tiles, made of recycled plastic. Sam and Idrissou, Agbogbloshie community agents, helped with burning the charcoal.. They were far more skilled than us!

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Below are some of the observations from the experiment:

  • We observed that the PET melting process was very slow and began really late, also at temperatures slightly higher than 260◦c, which is the theoretical melting point value. PET began to char and thus underwent incomplete carbonation and changing color from a transparent blue color a marble brown colored plastic. PP however, started melting at a lower temperature and rather melted over a larger temperature range and also produced a smooth finish.

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    Marble brown colored tile made from PET
  • We may have over heated the PET plastics, which led to the formation of a brittle-porous tile.
  • Contributing factors to such brittleness of the plastic panel are associated to the cooling rate and media and this caused cracks.
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    Cracked tile made from PET
  • Also, the temperature of the charcoal flame could not be controlled and hence over heating ensued.
  • It was also observed that stewing of PET did not work. This is probably due to the fact that it has a high melting temperature and the oil doing not facilitate that phenomenon.
  • PP plastics however work well with stewing in oil. From the experiment, we formed a very strong mold which can be used for wall panels, table tops and many others.
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Brick made by stewing PP plastics

 

Find here the Lab report.

We were honored to host Prof. Kwadjo Osseo-Asare (AMP co-PI) and Dr. Victor Oteng-Atiemo (retired from MD of DOW chemical Ghana) who gave us advices on how to proceed and continue our experiments.

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Here is the link to Flickr photo set.

The Sound of Plastic

There is more than e-waste processing happening in the open-air recycling factory: plastic processing represents a significant portion of Agbogbloshie’s ecosystem and economy.

Woman in the plastics business
Woman in the plastics business

The plastic processing chain involves various actors (male and female — contrary to e-waste processing which does not employ female workers) and machines:

  • Collectors get plastic waste from all around the city and temporarily store them onsite. Dismantlers scrap plastic out of e-waste or other items.
  • Men and women sort out plastics based on empirical and heuristic approaches: they separate plastics according to their thickness, malleability (thermoplastics are malleable and can be recycled, while thermoset plastics are not), and by the sound plastics make when workers bang on them with a screwdriver!
  • In our interaction, workers in Agbogbloshie did not know about the resin identification code system. However, as observed many locally-made plastics lacked labels, as well as scrap pieces of plastic detached from primary parts in which the label is inset. Thus, if the processing is carried out in a hasty and crude manner, then having resin identification codes may not be overly helpful.

As we learned by watching the documentary film The Electronic Tragedy by Dannoritzer Cosima, in other parts of the globe where informal plastic processing also occurs, heuristic approaches include burning plastics with a lighter and smelling the burnt material – each type of plastic has a different burning temperature. This strategy is more dangerous for the workers’ health than local methods of differentiating between types based on the sound of plastic.

Plastics sorted by color
Plastics sorted by color
  • In Agbogbloshie, it is common knowledge that television cases (made of non-recyclable thermoset plastics) cannot be sold for recycling. And this is also the reason why the item is often used for storage or as a stool. The local workers separate plastics into three main categories (while there are seven identified categories of plastics. PET (bottles) and PVC (pipes) are in addition): “rubber” (e.g. polypropylene, PP), “gallon” (e.g. high density polyethylene, HDPE), and “plastic” (not recyclable). In all, they process Polypropylene PP, High Density Polyethylene HDPE, Low Density Polyethylene LDPE, Polyethylene Theraphalate PET, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), and other types such as PP-MD20, and PP-TD30.
  • Women remove labels and caps of PET containers (water bottles for example; water bottle c­­­aps are made of another type of plastic). Workers sort recyclable plastics by colors before (loud) shredding using locally fabricated shredding machines. They then sieve the shredded plastics before washing it. The plastic is now ready to be sold to industries – local and global!

Prices vary according to the type of plastic and depends on the market. For our plastic experiments, we purchased the Kg of shredded PET for 3 Cedis and the Kg of PP for 2 Cedis. The workers specialized in plastic processing were rather excited about the business opportunity afforded by our plastic experiments (bricks and tiles made with PP and PET) and we look forward to this knowledge transfer.

Find more pictures on Flickr.

A smokeless future for Agbogbloshie

In line with the intention to make tools for the remaking of the Agbogbloshie electronic landscape, the AMP team, in collaboration with Rafa Font of Recyhub, met at the Kokrobite institute to assemble the Hal Watts’ E-source– a man- powered copper cable shredder. The two day session commenced in high spirits with each person, contributing to the assembly. Slowly but surely, all the parts came together and the basic functions tested. At the end, a few observations were made about its applicability to Agbogbloshie, and these were recorded as notes for the designers to consider.

Hal Watt first design
Hal Watts’ first design of E-source.

First developed as a bicycle with cable shredding capabilities, this new prototype, still maintains the idea of pedaling as a means to power the machine. It however deviates from the initial literality of a bicycle. The design was inspired by the problem of burning copper cables in Agbogbloshie, which Hal visited, to gain firsthand experience of the situation. The AMP and Recyhub teams were joined by students from the college of engineering KNUSTs creativity group. These are engineering students with an interest in e-waste processing.

The AMP team started by unpacking and positioning the frame, and then the tubes for water were appropriately placed. The next in line was the turning wheel, which we placed in the part of the frame allocated for it. We then proceeded to hang the chains on the cassettes and connected it to the main shredder blades which sits at the centre of the frame. This was followed by the pedals which we bolted in place. After testing to see that the pedal functions as it should, we proceeded to install the processing trough and then tested once again to ensure that it moved when pedaled. We then adjusted the seat until it was in the right position and then bolted it. Following this, we placed the receptacle for the cables over the blades, filled a barrel with water and then proceeded to fill it with cables and began testing the entire set up.

The second prototype of the E-source assembled in Kokrobite by AMP and Recyhub
The second prototype of the E-source assembled in Kokrobite by AMP and Recyhub

On the second day of the workshop, the function and assembly process were explained and tested further in collaboration with students from the Ashesi University, who were in Kokroite to engage in various forms of maker workshops. They found the experience thrilling and enthusiastically asked a lot of questions. Among the questions that came up were:

  • Is it possible to find a low energy way of mechanizing the system?
  • How easy or otherwise will it be for people in Agbogbloshie to assemble the machine themselves?
  • Will the volumes of cables shredded by the machine compare favorably with volumes currently processed in Agbogbloshie by means of burning?
Students from Ashesi University learning about the Esource.
Students from Ashesi University learning about the Esource.

In terms of future steps, the AMP team hopes that, further studies in collaboration with stakeholders such as Recyhub,  the creativity group and Hal & Watt (inventors of the e-source) will help to advance this initiative until such a time that, all e-waste workers in Agbogbloshie have a version installed and the burning of cables no longer occurs.

See more pictures on Flickr

Call for Summer Internships

Are you interested in technology? Do you like making things? Does environmental pollution bother you? Have you ever imagined the future as something awesome?

Are you a student or recent graduate in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics, planning, architecture and design, or environment and natural resources?

Apply today to be a part of this year’s AMP QAMP, a three-week camp for young makers in Accra.

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Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) is a collaborative project to upgrade the quality of life and environment at Agbogbloshie, the largest e-waste ecosystem in Ghana. AMP is an experiment in design innovation and youth-led M&D (makers & development). The short-term goal is to design and build a makerspace for the hyper-local context of Agbogbloshie, together with an open-source technology platform to support its operation. The long-term goal is to rehabilitate the environment of Agbogbloshie and to help green the community’s current recycling practices. We believe this can happen through the site’s transformation into a network for more advanced materials processing and small-scale distributed manufacturing. AMP as a open-source project seeks to create an alternate convention that partners e-waste, scrap and recycling industry with the technical know-how and social entrepreneurial framework to remake the landscape themselves, over time.

AMP contends that (domains of) architecture and electronics have converged. At such a moment—if we capitalize on this opportunity to make open, democratic and collective the capability of manipulating materials from the level of chemistry up, by means of digital technology, we can move beyond the notion of “e-waste”. Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE or 3E)—old or new—constitute a vital stream of raw material for the global production chain. Not only are such 3E-materials in reality the physical building blocks of electronic landscapes and digital space, but many are also recyclable, i.e. plastics, steel, aluminium, copper, glass or other valuable materials. If successful, AMP will amplify the economic potential of Agbogbloshie and Ghana’s makers.

AMP QAMP is a series of informal maker “camps” to build the future of Agbogbloshie. The primary session of QAMP for 2014 runs from the 1st to the 20th of July in Accra, Ghana.

Participants will work collaboratively as part the AMP makers collective to address key aspects of building an ecology of makers in and around the Agbogbloshie e-waste stream, from the ground up. We are interested in young people who are proactive, intellectually curious, open-minded, imaginative, detail-oriented and able to work in teams.

If interested, please submit a cover letter to qampnet@gmail.com by June 30th including the following information: Area of Specialization / Course of Study (year of graduation); Digital Media and Graphics Software (with level of proficiency); CAD/CAM and 3D Modeling Software (with level of proficiency); Programming Languages (with level of proficiency); and Fabrication Experience (sewing, cabinetry, furniture-making, jewellery, glass-blowing, welding, circuit board etching, breadboarding, etc.) Short-listed candidates will be scheduled for in-person interviews starting the week of June 23, 2014.