Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Continuing the Solar Work

The time since my last update has been spent teaching more school workshops and putting the final touches on the teachable solar USB charger, which now has a box to contain it. Before, the circuit was very fragile but now that we’ve found a way to fix it within a box it is much sturdier. With our design finalized, we’ve begun teaching others how to build them. I realized there is definitely a trade-off in how many people we invite to come learn how to make the solar chargers and how much they learn. With a small number of people, they can be involved in the entire process from reading the diagram and building the circuit to making a hole in the side of the box for the USB. With more people, in order to make sure the workshop runs smoothly we have to prepare more for them. We could draw out where to put each component on the project board, but then they wouldn’t learn how to build a circuit from a diagram. We could cut the acrylic box lid for them, but then they wouldn’t learn how to use a hacksaw. We started with teaching just two people, and this weekend we are planning on inviting five more. We plan to grow it slowly and figure out a process before inviting large groups. Over the past couple of months I've learned a lot about solar power, and I am even helping the neighboring organization outfit their office with solar panels.

With the end of my internship approaching quickly (next week), continuity is on my mind. I was hoping that instead of going to the schools and teaching the students, we could teach the teachers how to lead a simple workshop on how to make an LED circuit. In addition, I’ve been working closely with Chris. Chris is a Tanzanian working at Twende with an interest in electronics and in teaching. Yesterday I taught Chris how to build a circuit from a schematic, and introduced him to so that he can teach himself more. Tomorrow we’re going to walk him through the process of building the solar phone charger, so that he in turn can continue teaching more people after Odawa (the Kenyan electrical engineer I’ve been working with) and I leave. Chris owns a small store, and he is planning on using the charger we build to charge customers phones for a small fee. With the constant power outages these past few weeks in Arusha, such a service would be valuable to many.

In addition, I’ve had a number of conversations with people who are living in Arusha and have a lot of experience in international development. I’ve been collecting ideas, and I definitely see a need for new ways of distributing projects… similar to what the neighboring organization to Twende, Global Cycle Solutions is doing. There are opportunities to use mobile networks to get more feedback on products. In addition, there is a need for inexpensive remote payment tracking. I am considering doing a self-study this fall as a way of further investigating some of these ideas and potentially building a prototype.

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