Princeton PACE students in Agbogbloshie


In January 2016 AMP ran a one-week #ampqamp with students from Princeton University’s PACE Center for Civic Engagement focused on making short health & safety videos for the Agbogbloshie scrap dealers community, narrated in Dagbani.

This group of students, led by Ellie Sell ’17 and Christie Jiang ’17, opted not only to volunteer collaborating on the AMP project as a form of ‘alternative spring break’, but also to spend months prior planning their trip and conducting research around issues of health and safety related to unregulated e-waste processing plus weeks after their visit to Ghana editing and producing the videos. (They blogged about it here.)

Watch the Youtube playlist of videos they produced below. For more on how this connects to the full AMP project, check out this Q&A with the Princeton PACE Center. A huge thank you to the whole team from all of AMP!

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