Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Making of a Solar Electrical Power Charging Station

The core strategy of our project to provide electrical power to hundred of households in Gicaca is to set up charging stations to where households take their batteries to be charged.  The most physically and nerve-racking task is to install the solar panels on the roof of the house which acts as the charging station.  

Firstly the solar panels are affixed, cables connected, and properly sealed against the rain.  

Two local youths experienced in working on the flimsy roof climb onto the roof from a ladder.  They have to know how to spread their weight over a wide area, sometimes with the help of an upside-down bench, to avoid falling through the roof. 

Two people pass the set of solar panels to two others sitting half way up the ladders. 

The two on the ladders pass the solar panels to the two on the roof. 

The two on the roof fix the solar panels on the roof. 

The two then jumped off the roof to the cliff opposite the house. 

My heart was in my throat all the time the youths were on the roof.  And I almost could not bear to look when they jumped off the roof.  But they obviously know what they are doing. 

The whole process of getting the solar panels on the roof took only a few minutes. But training my students to plan and execute that took many months.  The rest is the installation of the wiring, the controllers, and the rest of the circuitry to complete the charging station.  

This is actually the second charging station that the team has installed on this trip.  I directed the installation of the first one.  Then I asked the students to direct the second one.  There are a few places where I have to provide some guidance.  But by and large they can manage it.  Now they have to do the other two.  

I told them they are learning to think, plan and execute systematically like good engineers.  This is going to be useful when they tackle other problems in the future.  I am not quite sure they are aware of the education that they are getting.  This is not something they can get easily in a classroom. 

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