Haiti Service Learning - Spring 2015
My first year at OSU, I was drawn into Solar Education and Outreach by a homemade solar panel on a table at an activities fair. Former President, Robby Breetz, told me about the Haiti outreach program and the weekly solar cell soldering group. It seemed pretty straightforward to me: students interested in solar energy finding applications for it. So I joined.
It was not until this past year that I went to Haiti. We worked on Institution Evangelique Mixte/Borel Chery de Fauge, a K-8 school in a rural village outside of Les Cayes. It was the 2nd year the group worked with this school as it had been expanded since the last trip. In fact, construction was still occurring throughout our installation. Our group also collaborated with 8 Civil Engineering students from the American University of the Caribbean in Les Cayes, Haiti. That's a picture of us sitting in front of IEBCF after the first day of work on Sunday. I'm the one in the gray shirt on the steps. I was pretty excited to leave the U.S. for the 1st time, can you tell?
We soon realized there was an enormous amount of work cut out for the group. Two extra rooms had been finished that needed lighting and power. Also, more than half the conduit that had been laid in the ceiling had cement blockage. This meant we needed to buy, cut, and mount our own. Numerous hardware store trips and hours of drilling into cement ensued. Despite our workload, the group still had a lot of fun. We bonded with each other and our AUC friends.
Another huge focus of the project was ensuring the security of the solar panels. Solar panels are often a target for theft throughout Haiti. We were faced with designing a way to mount them that would leave them accessible for the school without affecting sun exposure. Luckily, we were able to find a welder, and Roger honed some of our early ideas to a workable frame. Not only could the panels be locked into it, we set it up at an angle to increase sun exposure.
On Friday, the group took a brief pause from installing the system and visited AUC to present seminars on 3 different topics related to solar energy: Electricity Basics, Solar Electric Systems, and Solar Photovoltaic Physics. The AUC students were a perfect audience, with perceptive questions regarding our material. Afterwards, we all exchanged contact information and received a tour of the campus. Then it was back to Fauge to keep working.
Finally, after days of drilling, wiring, sweating, welding, and troubleshooting, it was time to install the solar panels. Even though they had fulfilled their end of the deal, half the AUC students came to help us finish on Saturday. We celebrated by taking a lot of pictures together and going for a hike to take in the landscapes.
In just 1 week, our group was able to
-Install a 900W solar electric system in addition to the 750W system installed the previous year
-Relocate the control panel to the 2nd floor and combine the two electric systems installed
-Provide lights and power to 10 classrooms
-Provide enough energy to install a computer lab in one of the classrooms
-Provide lights and power to the administrative office and supply closet
-Secure the new and existing panels on the roof of the school in order to prevent theft or damage
This was by far the largest project undertaken by SEO thus far, and a roaring success. I am excited to lead this formidable group of students in its efforts this year.
Rachael Schneider (SEO president and Junior in ISE at The Ohio State University)
If you would like to see more photos from the trip, you can look at the Haiti 2015 photo gallery.
If you are interested in participating in the Haiti Service Learning Project in Spring 2016, attend one of the upcoming information sessions or an SEO meeting.