Five University of Colorado Boulder engineering students recently returned from Haiti where they introduced a green energy vocational training program, paving the way for a new era of distributed power in the poverty-stricken, earthquake-damaged nation.
“Haiti is a proud country that lacks the infrastructure needed to support the opportunities we enjoy in the states,” said Joanna Gordon, a graduate student in mechanical engineering. “This sustainable energy vocational training aims to plant a seed of conscious development. By investing in the future and focusing on efficiency and conservation, community needs can be met.”
After an initial visit by the CU-Boulder team to Haiti in January to assess specific energy needs and employment opportunities for those who are trained in the field, the students worked with engineering professors Alan Mickelson and Mike Hannigan to design a 250-hour curriculum for the Mon P’tit Village school in Leogane.
The curriculum they developed, 80 percent of which is comprised of hands-on exercises, covers the installation, operation and maintenance of solar, wind, and hydropower renewable energy systems, including such basics as wiring and circuitry.
Last month, the students returned to Leogane for three weeks to train six local instructors on the essential knowledge and skills they need to pass on to their students. To provide the instructors with hands-on experience, CU students led them in a reinstallation of the school’s solar electric system, including fixing the angle of the solar panels mounted on the roof so they achieve maximum performance.
The local instructors will further develop the curriculum by writing course assignments and more. Beginning this fall, they will teach the curriculum to local students in the 11th grade and beyond. The Neges Foundation, a relief and development organization, is supporting the instructors.
“I am short of words to describe the admiration, respect and high esteem that I felt toward the visiting team of students from Boulder, Colorado, for the dedication, passion and professionalism that they were able to demonstrate toward the Haitian teachers during the green energy training,” said Yoleine Gateau, founder and vice president of the Mon P’tit Village school.
“On behalf of the Neges Foundation, founding President James Philemy joins me in thanking the entire team of professors and students who came together to make this a model of what people -- regardless of their color, creed or culture -- can do to reach out to the less fortunate in this world,” she wrote in an email to CU.
Nathan Canney, a graduate student in civil engineering who is completing the Engineering for Developing Communities Graduate Certificate at CU-Boulder, said he was “stunned by the extreme warmth and openness that I received from the Haitian people,” despite the fact that many Haitians remain displaced from their homes and are living in tents on school grounds following the January 2010 earthquake.
“Whether it was during our training classes, meals, playing soccer, or at the beach, we and the Haitian instructors were always making jokes and laughing,” Canney said. “I felt like my best self, where I was bringing joy to those around me and equally feeding off of the joy they were sharing.”
The CU team was led by graduate student Matthew Hulse and also included graduate student Mark Hasemeyer, along with undergraduates Steven Kluck, Kelli Fischer and Alex Demarais.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Foundation and the CU-Boulder Outreach Award supported the project. The CU-Boulder Outreach Award is supported by the Office of the Chancellor, the Office of the Provost and CU-Boulder Continuing Education.