Julian, Welcome to Toronto!

Welcome to Toronto Julian! 

This is a reminder to join us on Tuesday, September 15th from 6:00 - 8:00 pm for a brief reception and presentation on the initiative we call "Winds of Change". As you may know, this not-for-profit initiative will bring innovative technology from the University of Toronto to rural Nicaragua to help farmers irrigate small plots of land in order to grow more food. 

At this informal session you will hear from the Winds of Change founders, John Shoust and Rob Scott, and from our special guest. We are thrilled to welcome to Toronto our good friend and partner, Julian Ramon Guevara, Managua Regional Director for Seeds of Learning, the NGO with which we are working in Nicaragua. While he is in Toronto we want to introduce him to the community supporting Winds ofChange. 

We are being generously hosted by Wilfrid Laurier University at their downtown Toronto office located at: 


130 King St. West, Toronto at York Street

Ontario, Canada M5X 1C9

Main Floor, Exchange Tower

416.306.0866 x5121

RSVP by reply email. Attendance is limited to about 30 people so get your name, and that of your guests, on the list. For those who are interested, informal drinks may follow nearby. 

Reception in Toronto Tuesday Sept 15th 6:00 - 8:00 pm


Please join us on Tuesday, September 15th from 6:00 - 8:00 pm for a brief reception and presentation on the initiative we call "Winds of Change". As you may know, this not-for-profit initiative will bring innovative technology from the University of Toronto to rural Nicaragua to help farmers irrigate small plots of land in order to grow more food. 

At this informal session you will hear from the Winds of Change founders, John Shoust and Rob Scott, and from our special guest. We are thrilled to welcome to Toronto our good friend and partner, Julian Ramon Guevara, Managua Regional Director for Seeds of Learning, the NGO with which we are working in Nicaragua. While he is in Toronto we want to introduce him to the community supporting Winds of Change. 

We are being generously hosted by Wilfrid Laurier University at their downtown Toronto office located at: 


130 King St. West, Toronto at York Street

Ontario, Canada M5X 1C9

Main Floor, Exchange Tower

416.306.0866 x5121

RSVP by reply email to rob@emberadvisory.com. Attendance is limited to about 30 people, so get your name, and that of your guests, on the list. For those who are interested, informal drinks may follow nearby. 

Crowd Funding Campaign Started August 19th

What is Winds of Change?
In collaboration with the University of Toronto, Winds of Change is a not-for-profit initiative that as designed a windmill for small scale irrigation. Windmills can be built from locally sourced materials and assembled on site for a cost of less than $500 CDN.
The approach of Winds of Change is to offer the design, engineering assistance and micro-loans  allow farmers to deploy and maintain windmills on their land. Windmills will be used to pump small amounts of water from existing wells to support sustainable farming practices including micro -irrigation. 

  • We will collect charitable donations in Canada to create a funding pool. 
  • Farmers will apply for a small loan to pay for a windmill, either on their own or in cooperation with a neighbour
  • Re-payment of the loan will be made possible through the sale of surplus fruits, vegetables and eggs at the local market
  • The revenue from re-payments will be managed by our local NGO partner, Seeds of Learning, to fund other projects in the community, creating secondary benefits

Before we can start accepting donations to fund windmills we need to install the prototype
near the school and community centre in Pedro Arauz. The community well is fitted with a simple hand operated rope pump made with a bicycle wheel (pictured above). In October, together with our local friends, we will build the prototype on a foundation we built last May. Once installed, the windmill will pump water into an elevated storage tank, currently being built by the community,  from which the community will irrigate the shared garden. 

Campaign Goal
This campaign will help offset travel costs for our team of students from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. We currently have wo student teams f four students each hat are refining the design and testing the innovative braking and power transfer systems conceived by the 2014/2015 team. We need to raise $5,000 to subsidize our next trip to Nicaragua with each student personally contributing $600. Costs include airfare from Toronto to Managua; food and lodging coordinated by our local partner; and materials costs for the first windmill.  

Once the design has been proven, Winds of Change will work towards becoming a "100% Charity". This means that 100% of charitable contributions will go to the local community. Through our partnership with a Canadian based charity called Students Offering Support (SOS), donations will be tax deductible in Canada. Ongoing overhead costs, including travel expenses, will be paid by the founders and select private donations.

Call to Action:

The crowd funding campaign is hosted by Indiegogo - its easy to use. It will end on October 17th. 

1) To donate,  click on http://igg.me/at/windsofchange/x/11531

2) If you have suggestions for media coverage, and others who may be interested in helping us promote our efforts, please let me know! Lets spread the word. 

3) Please promote us on social media, including Facebook, and Twitter 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/windsofchangecanada?fref=ts

Twitter: @CaWindsofchange


2015-2016 Team Kick-off Meeting Success!

Today we had a chance to meet on the grounds of University of Toronto and brainstorm with our two new teams formed to take on this years Winds of Change project challenges.  

As a result of last years success with our U of Toronto partnership we have formed two new teams to tackle the 2015-2016 design challenges.  

Last year we successful design and implemented much of the Winds of Change windmill prototype. Our new teams will be assigned to the task of further developing and testing of the Braking Systems and the Power Train.  With these focused assignments we hope to have a successful build on our upcoming trip in October 2015.  

This work combined with the work currently underway in Nicaragua among the community on a new water storage tower will provide the community with an ongoing reserve of water in preparation for the dry season.

Stay tuned as we will be pushing hard for the next two months to complete the design.

John Shoust - WOC Co-founder


Building Foundations in Nicaragua: Lessons We Learned

After reading the blog entries from Rob, Amy and John I am confident that you have gained a true representation of what you would have seen had you been with us. I would like to address some of the foundational things…beneath the surface. 

Now that we “Canadians” have departed what is the impact in Pedro Arauz?   

As far as impacts/changes that you could see from outer space, there are only three small red plates close to the community center’s well structure. As with all good foundations, there is no evidence of the time/effort/cost invested in the excavation, the construction of the structural and reinforcing elements, and the careful adjustments to ensure the plates are all at exactly the level and in exactly the position required by the design team.

As far as impacts/changes within the “community” I believe these are also substantial but like the red plates, there is minimal evidence of the how members have expanded their sense of community. Rob, Amy and John provided their observations and thoughts on how the community welcomed our return and provided enthusiastic endorsement of the Winds of Change project.

For me, indications of the developing sense of community included suggestions and concerns at a community level rather than a personal level during our gatherings. As an example, concern about the potential that more water might be pumped than the aquifer can maintain during the dry period (the season of greatest water use). “Is there enough water under the community to handle all the water pumping including that from the community well once the windmill is operating” (whenever the winds are blowing)? Then we were asked about the potential impact of massive volumes pumped for huge rice farms some distance from Pedro Arauz.  

The design team had already anticipated the need to avoid excessive withdrawal by the windmill and planned to return extra water to the well rather than run it to waste as is done in other windmill wells we viewed. They also include equipment and procedures for shutting the windmill down when the community did not want it to be operating. The community was reassured with this information.

To address concerns about taking too much water from all wells the community is interested in documenting current aquifer performance and capacity.

During its fall 2014 visit the design team gathered information on depths and water levels of some of the existing wells. We committed to design a log for reporting this information and send it to Pedro Arauz along with an approach for gathering community-wide information and interpreting what’s happening with their shared water.

An important goal of this trip was to solicit input from the community to be factored into the design. We were pleased with the suggestions:

What we were taught

1)   Someone often suggests a better way – After reviewing details of the foundation steel, community experts suggested bending the steel rod into the desired shapes rather than cutting and welding straight pieces. Once we expressed our enthusiasm, a bending tool was created, pieces of the steel rod were fabricated into super nails that were hammered into an old piece of wood to make a jig to ensure the six square and twelve “U” pieces were of the correct size and shape. Next the three pieces of each level of reinforcement (our grid) were “woven” together into a rigid shape that was then welded.  The resulting grid was then welded to the support post. These grids require fewer cuts, are stronger and require fewer welds. This will result in a decrease in the time and cost of making grids for future foundations.

2)   Local experience should be considered – We brought our ratio of cement/sand and gravel for mixing concrete but accepted the community proposal for a ratio that works there. Local mix ratios contend with existing temperatures (extreme for us) and local soil conditions. They do not have to deal with our freezing!

Several residents had concerns that design documents appeared to show exposed foundation concrete. They felt it would be ravaged by the weather. Fortunately the design did call for the hole to be backfilled. As we discussed this, community experts proposed backfilling with local sand and compacting the sand to produce a solid cover for the foundation. In Ontario we do not experience soils where during dry periods surface cracks form, which may extend ½ meter down. This local knowledge further improved foundation integrity.  

3)   Local tools and techniques usually work best – Short-handled shovels and pick axes were arranged for digging foundation holes. But local tools were more productive and easier to use. We quickly adopted the “earth chisel” for cutting through the hard layers of the soil but for soil removal at a depth of about 3/4 of a meter we were obstructed when removing the loose material from the tiny hole (½  meter by ½ meter). Diggers replaced the short-handled shovels with a small plastic cereal bowl then climbed into the hole to remove loose bits. This was a slow process and required quite the distortions. When the last hole needed deepening, a community member went into tool storage and returned with their long-handled shovel. He used it to clear out the chunks much faster and with less effort than every prior chunk digger! Perhaps if we had started by asking for a demonstration of the local tools and methods…

4)   Improvements in design must always be tested against the extremes - Many who reviewed the posters with the design features shared concerns about elements that had not worked in another location. While most of these matters had been carefully and thoroughly considered by the time we shared the design, all concerns were documented and will be considered again in the next phase of design and testing. Usually we were able to explain to the community member how the design team addressed the concern (e.g. why only six blades are proposed). In all cases we undertook to have the design team ensure the local information was being addressed.

The student team and Amy invested enormous brain power and time optimizing existing windmill and pumping theory to produce this the Winds of Change design that meets the requirements (much cheaper, permitting manufacture/erection/operation/maintenance within the community using available skill set and equipment, with the potential of commercial opportunity for the community). The design will be offered to all at no cost.  

Thanks to the community of Pedro Arauz, Winds of Change, and Seeds of Learning for permitting me this fantastic opportunity to learn! 


Building Foundations in Nicaragua - Third and Final Day

Today we finished the third and final day of our foundation build.  With amazing support from the community we continued to dig and align the base holes and ensure they will be positioned in the correct orientation, elevation and distance from one another.  The community was quick to jump in and assist and even outpace our effort to bring the base to completion.  

Once digging and alignment completed we mixed the cement and filled each hole to the correct depths checking and rechecking measurements.  



Once the foundation work completed we refocused on skill building among the community for the more intricate pieces of the windmill.  In particular the rope pump wheel was a excellent starting point as it provides a good mix of welding, metal forming / shaping and an eye for balance and accuracy.   If this critical piece can be accurately fabricated there is no doubt field assembly by the community will be possible.

   Wheel Template and start of forming the circular base.


Wheel Template and start of forming the circular base.

We then completed our trip with a town hall meeting to continue to gather information and provide the community with updates about what is to come in our next journey down in the fall.  

The community member support has been nothing short of amazing throughout the process as you can feel the excitement among members that hope continues to pour into the community through efforts like Winds of Change.  They are now looking beyond the first windmill and attempting to solve issues they never before questioned like "What is the most effective way to distribute this water to crops?", and "How can we prepare to fabricate more windmills within the community?".  

We continue to have high confidence in the community and it further reassures us that they are an excellent choice to support and develop the design.


Building Foundations in Nicaragua: Day Two


Today was another productive day working with the community in Pedro Aruz.  We woke up bright and early and after a quick breakfast we were on site and ready to go.  Since it was Sunday and many of the community members were in church, we had limited help in the morning.  Fortunately, we had done the majority of the heavy work on day 1 and only had one more foundation hole to dig.  Our refined digging technique and the few community member hands we did have helping us made this work go faster than the previous holes.  Luckily, we had the hole prepared before the mid-day heat moved in.

We took a break during the heat of the day for lunch and a visit to the neighbouring community of El Papayal to do some more background research.   The neighhbouring community had two wind pumps that had been built with the help of World Vision back in 2005.  The pumps were still working with repairs being done by community members.  However, they had encountered many of the same challenges we had heard about in our previous research trip of premature rope failure, the rope coming off the transmission wheel, and difficulty repairing damaged components.  These are all items which we’ve taken into account during the design process and hope our new concepts will help address.

We returned to the site after lunch with our sights set on welding up the windmill attachment plates and pouring the concrete foundation.  We had more community members in to help and the work progressed really quickly.  Just as it looked like we may get all the work wrapped up today, the skies opened up and there was a long heavy downpour.  This halted our foundation work for the day, but the kids didn’t seem to mind and were happily playing in the rain.  It also gave us a chance to interview community members and start making test pieces of the new windmill transmission we’ve designed.

Even with the rain today, I’m really happy with the progress.  We shouldn’t have any trouble wrapping up the foundation construction tomorrow before our town hall meeting, as long as we don’t have continuous rain.  I’m really excited to finish up this first step and can’t wait till we implement the full design in the fall!


Building Foundations in Nicaragua: Day One

Day one of our trip, Building Foundations in Nicaragua, went well. After a long day of travel (let's call travel day "Day Zero"), we arrived in Managua to be welcomed by Julian, Casey and Sergio. Julian is the local leader for Seeds of Learning (SOL), the local NGO with which we are working. Casey is originally from Texas but has worked in Nicaragua for many years. Sergio is an engineer from Spain who came to Nicaragua in January to work with SOL. 

After a nice breakfast of eggs, beans, tortilla, coffee, and juice we headed to the work site. The people of Pedro Arauz welcomed us warmly. After a prayer by the local pastor and a welcome speech by the local community leader - Juan,  Julian explained the Winds of Change project. We were very pleased at the level of interest and engagement in the proposed design. It was quite an experience to have several of the men of village ask questions and debate aspect of the design. Wayne took lots of notes and assured the group we would continue to seek input throughout the process. 

The main construction task to be completed on this trip is building the foundation onto which the first windmill will be installed. The design calls for three square holes measuring 50 cm x 50cm at a depth of one one meter. For anyone who has dug holes in clay, you know that the first 1/3 is pretty easy but it gets harder as you go. After a couple of hours of strenuous digging in the hot sun one of our hosts stated that had we offered to pay a local person $10 to dig the three holes they would have been thrilled, been able to feed their family for close to a week, and may have still thought he was over charging us. The going rate for manual labour is $12 per day. A quick calculation to put that in perspective....working six days per week for 50 weeks per year provides an annual income of $3,600. But finding paid work is not easy. 

I'll be thinking about that as we dig the third hole this morning. 




Building Foundations in Nicaragua - 2015

About one year ago, we started Winds of Change with the goal to help farmers in rural Nicaragua grow more food through improved irrigation of their land. With help from the University of Toronto Faculty of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering w now have a design and a prototype for a low cost windmill that can be built from locally sourced materials for a cost of less than $400 CDN.

Background information about the project can be found at www.windsofchangecanada.com

On May 15th, seven of us will return to Pedro Arauz with the objectives to

  • Assess and prepare the readiness of local suppliers and the community for the first installation
  • Build the concrete foundation for the prototype windmill
  • Evaluate potential sites for future installations
  • Provide continuity to build relationships with the communit - relationships are the foundation of future success

Travelling on this trip will be the Winds of Change leadership team: John Shoust, Dr. Amy Bilton, Wayne Scott and me - as well as John's son Ethan (6) and my kids Andrew (14) and Sarah (11). They will be assisting with interviewing local families and building community relationships.

Once we have proven the concept, our goal is to set up a sustainable rent-to-own funding model to assist farmers in the community to install more windmills. our donation can make that idea a reality. If you would like to contribute to this effort, you can make a tax deductible donation to the project via our Canadian charity partner, Students Offering Support (SOS) at: 


Our colleagues in Nicaragua have sent us a list of high priority items that are needed in the community. If you have items from this list that you would like us to take, please let me know before May 8th so that we can arrange to collect them. Unless otherwise specified, items can be new or second-hand (gently-used). 

· Storybooks in Spanish
· Board games, such as: Monopoly, Guess Who?, Snakes and Ladders, Connect Four, Sequence, Spot It, chess, checkers, pick-up sticks, Macula, Jenga, Bingo, Candy Land. We prefer that word-based games are in Spanish.
· Decks of cards and card games (Uno, etc).
· Building blocks and Legos
· Crafts materials (water colours, tempera, beads, etc.)
· Laptops (older models are fine, but we are in particular need of two machines that can support Windows 7)
· Android tablets
· Two smartphones
· 1 LCD screen
· External hard drive
· Portable LED Multimedia projector with HDMI port
· Dash cam
· Semi-professional digital camera (such as Nikon Coolpix L330)

Upon our return we will arrange an information session and trip debrief for those who are keen to get involved. Please let me know if you'd like to be on the invite list for such an event in June -  date and venue yet to be determines.

Muchas gracias

Roberto Scott
mobile 647 972 2641
ember advisory ltd.

The Design Continues...


The team is hard at work continuing their design.  In our last meeting 2 weeks ago we discussed two key technologies for the base of the design.  Rope or Piston based pumping.  After much deliberation and consideration for all of the factors involved in support, design and fabrication we will be moving forward with a Rope pump based design.

The team has set a goal of completing a preliminary design by the end of December with a prototype shortly after in February.  

The key difference between the WOC design and others commercially available will be the local support, content for long term sustainability and of course cost.

For those unfamiliar with the technology, below is a sketch and photos of designs and assemblies.

The Design is underway!

Nov. 17, 2014

  The team has completed their 3rd design meeting at University of Toronto and are close to a final decision on the technology they will be using for the windmill pump.  There are many designs available on the market but given the unique set of requirements for the community the final choice will need to involve careful consideration of many items.

The team has set a goal to have the final design completed by Jan. 1, 2015 and a prototype fabricated shortly after for testing.


Laurier Alumni Trip to Nicaragua March 1 - 8th

Make a difference: volunteer in  Nicaragua

We know you're passionate about engaging with the global community, so we wanted to share our next volunteer travel opportunity with SOS (Students Offering Support) and Laurier Alumni with you first.

Go on an amazing journey to Nicaragua March 1st, with Laurier Alumni and SOS, a student-led charity foundered by Laurier alumnus Greg Overholt (BBA/BSc '08).  As a previous participant, we are inviting you to join us once again volunteering in Pedro Arauz, Nicaragua.  On this trip, volunteers will be building an agricultural resource center.  

To learn more about the full trip itinerary, see pictures of similar community building projects, or to apply to the trip please click here.

Trip Details

Date: March 1-8, 2015

Location: Pedro Arauz, Nicaragua

Cost: $1675 ($875 flights + $800 program cost)

Application Deadline: January 1, 2015


Successful Day 2

Day 2:

We've now completed our day 1 activities and after a well deserved nights sleep we are up and off to complete our surveys of the community well and interview community members.  

Our goal is to gather data from each member on specifics like liters per day of consumption, farm / crop size, types of crops, well size / dimensions / depths, number of people using each well and several other factors.  These will help us prioritize and steer the development to meet demands.

Here are a few photos from our day 2 adventures.

The Team is on their way!

With the engineering team now formed and ready, step one will be a journey to where it all began to begin collecting vital information for design and development.

On Oct 10th, 2014 the team is embarking on a 4 days journey to rural Nicaragua!  While there the team's goal is to conduct surveys of existing wells, meet with the community and it's leaders and survey the land and available raw materials to begin their design work back in Canada.  

A data logging wind sensor will also be installed in the village to collect wind speed data which will be downloaded monthly and analyzed by the team.  This data will be crucial in the design specifications of the windmill.

We wish the team safe travels and best of luck in their first of many missions!


Building on proven success...


The idea behind Winds of Change is not new. As part of our background research we came upon this solution that was developed in cooperation with the Dutch several years ago. The video provides an excellent summary of the need that skill exists in rural Nicaragua even with the success of this innovative, low cost, wind powered pump. 


An innovative low-cost windmill for water pumping used in Nicaragua for small-scale irrigation, cattle watering and domestic use. The design is based on a Dutch model developed by CWD consultancy wind energy developing countries. The windmill drives a rope pump, similar to the hand rope pump of which 70.000 are installed in Nicaragua. Of the wind rope pump, up to now, 400 have been installed, produced by the enterprise AMEC in Managua.

The technology was transferred from the Netherlands to Nicaragua through Dutch development aid, funded by the development agencies SNV and ICCO. More information: www.ropepumps.org and www.arakis.nl. More info on www.akvo.org, the open source for water and sanitation.