APOPO hosts The Wandering Engineer

Holli Kimble in Tanzania to learn more about the HeroRATs.

The APOPO Training and Research Headquarters in Tanzania hosted a two-week visit from a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow, Holli Kimble. Holli is a chartered mechanical and explosives engineer from the U.K.

The purpose of her Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship project is to use the science, engineering, and technology in Humanitarian NGOs and staff stories to inspire children (particularly in the UK) to see themselves as engineers and scientists of the future. The project, “The Wandering Engineer” includes visits to up to four NGOs in African nations and will result in the production of a website with a blog, case studies, and resources for schools (lessons for science clubs).

As a large part of the project, Holli planned to visit APOPO’s Training and Research HQ in Morogoro, Tanzania, followed by a visit to APOPO’s landmine-detection operations in Angola. Her visit encompassed various elements of the training program and allowed her to shadow various members of the APOPO team (from trainers to researchers to QA and IT). Information gathered during her visit will be used to develop case studies of the staff, showcasing the diversity of backgrounds and interests at APOPO.

Holli on her time in Tanzania

"My two weeks with APOPO at the Headquarters in Morogoro, Tanzania has been such an impactful experience and as I leave on the next stage of my adventure, I am really hopeful that it's this is just the beginning.

I heard about APOPO (and it's incredible HeroRATs) back in 2010 when I was researching novel detection methods for buried explosives during my Explosives Ordnance Engineering Masters in the UK. It has been a dream of mine since then to visit and I am grateful that the Churchill Fellowship I have been awarded this year has allowed it to happen.

During my fortnight here I have been welcomed by every member of the team and I feel privileged to have been given a detailed view of each aspect of APOPO's work from TB and Mine Detection operations to training, research and welfare. I visited the training minefield, even riding on the truck with the rats, and saw them in action sniffing out deactivated landmines in a realistic setting. It's nothing short of incredible. The research team have also got some great projects underway and I was lucky to see some of the rats sporting miniature backpacks as the researchers consider how the rats might contribute to Search and Rescue tasks. The TB detection project blew my mind - the rats are able to detect cases that have been missed by microscopy - leading to an increase in treatment rates and reducing pain and suffering in communities of great need.

I was also invited by Dr Cindy Fast, Head of Training and Innovation, to give a mii symposium about explosives to the trainers and researchers. I was grateful to be able to help the trainers put their important work into a wider context, and I received some really thought-provoking questions from them.

Meeting the rats themselves and seeing them at various stages of their training has been more impressive than I ever expected. Their individuality shines through at every moment and I can see the spark of intelligence that led to the APOPO founders choosing the African Giant Pouched Rats for this work. Full Cheek Friday, when the rats are given lots of healthy treats to stuff into their pouches, is probably my favourite part of the week. I am captivated by these creatures and I can't wait to see what else they can do."

Thank you Holli for taking the time to come out and visit with us, learning more about APOPO's work and sharing your knowledge of explosives with the team.