Max and Adrian talk about their experience of six months in Ethiopia

Max Schlegel and Adrian Holste are two members of MTOWs who have been writing their Master Theses in Ethiopia from November 2018 until April 2019. In this interview they talk about their amazing stay there and they invite other students to live the same experience as them.

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Max Schlegel (left) and Adrian Holste (right) presenting their projects in the Tegbareid College in Addis Ababa.

How did the project about the low-cost production of prostheses progress? What has been done so far? What has the research revealed?

Adrian: So far, the project focused on the prosthetic ankle joint with regard to local producibility. We concentrated on other prosthetic devices: Max on the knee joint and I on the foot. In our project we locally manufactured injection molds for prototypes. Also, new contacts to industrial partners could be established.

Max: In the end it was quite successful. I managed to produce an artificial knee joint with injection molds I built myself. Although a final test could only be conducted with one patient, the outcome was satisfying for all project partners. The molds stayed at Cheshire Services Ethiopia in Addis Ababa and I hope that they will start their own production in near future.

Did any other projects emerge? We are looking forward to your stories!

A: Together with staff members of Tegbared College and other students from MedTech OneWorld Students we developed an autoclave prototype using reverse engineering. The prototype was produced in cooperation with the local industry and will be tested in the clinical field soon. Furthermore, at the end of our stay, the Institute for Medical and Polymer Engineering of TUM organized the 1st International Networking Day on Medical and Plastics Engineering. We did not only help organizing the event but also attended it and presented our project findings and the student initiative. That was exhausting, interesting, fun and a good experience.

M: Of course, we got in contact with a lot of medical personnel, working in Addis Ababa which gave us big input for upcoming developing projects. Many of these can be supported during the Global Health Challenge. Besides that, we met Abel  Hailegiorgis, a small entrepreneur who has been recently in Munich for universal training. We support him during his stay and help him getting around in Munich.

Ulrich, Abel  Hailegiorgis, Adrian and Max (from the left).

Which interesting experiences have you had that could bear meaning for our group in the future?

A: As I mentioned, we produced an autoclave prototype together with Ethiopian students and a local manufacturer. This is our first development project for OneWorld Students. In the 1st International Networking Day on Medical and Plastics Engineering together with students from our group we visited the ALERT Hospital to get an inside view on medical technology in Ethiopia. At the networking day we got in contact with many persons from the industry which can potentially help in the future.

M: We met many people from different business areas. Therefore, we got to know the specific demand for medical products as well as a broad overview over locally available materials and means of fabrication.

What did you like most during this experience? And what really impressed you?

A: I liked the non-superficial way of getting to know the Ethiopian everyday life. Working at a college, making friends, eating local dishes, going by minibuses to work and walking through the streets gives you a feeling for Ethiopian life. Even though it can be very exhausting sometimes.

The influence of China impressed me the most. They build everything everywhere and lend a lot of money (with interest of course). Most mega projects are contracted with Chinese companies who profit a lot. They keep all the key technologies and are not interested in sharing experiences or investing in educational programs. So, they will get the next contract, too. Just few European and American companies have entered the market.

M: I really enjoyed getting in touch with other people and gaining insight into their live and work. I was really impressed by the daily problems Ethiopians handle with limited resources.

Max and Adrian with Fabian Jodeit and Markus Eblenkamp (from the Institute for Medical and Polymer Engineering of TUM) and two locals students during the 1st Ethiopian – German Networking Days on Medical Technology in April 2019

What kind of accommodation did you find in Ethiopia and which were usually your workplaces?

A: After living in a small room without a window at guest house in La Gare (very central and walking distance to the Tegbared College at Mexico), I moved to into a very nice shared house with two other flatmates.

Mostly, we worked at Tegbared College (in the Technology Transfer Center and in the General Manufacturing Workshop). Once a week, we drove to Cheshire Services in Menangesha (at least 1 hour drive). And sometimes we worked from here or there: guesthouse, home, hotel lobby for wifi, visits of factories and rehabilitation centers, …

M: I stayed in guesthouses for the whole time. After some days, I found a guesthouse in from where I could walk to the Tegbareid college, our main workplace. Though being quite pricey (7$ per night) and small (2.5×2.5 m room) I preferred it over other alternatives since I didn’t have to use public transport. Apart from working in the Tegbareid we also often worked in Cheshire’s workshop in Menangesha, a suburb of Addis Ababa. We got there by using Cheshire’s staff shuttle.

Any tips for future MTOWS who go to Ethiopia:

A: Bring a harness and shoes and go climbing at the local climbing crag Amora Gedel. Besides that, we created a document with information which are good to know and don’t hesitate to ask. On my experience everything works out in some way. So, don’t panic and stay relaxed.

M: It’s a great experience and you should definitely work on a project in Addis Ababa if you get the chance. Having said this, it’s also important to adapt to local ways of working. So you shouldn’t be too strict with schedules.