For some students, learning never extends beyond the classroom: they do their homework, they cram for tests, then they go about their lives with nothing to show for their time but letters on a transcript. For Rensslaer Polytechnic Institute students enrolled in the Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) campus group, their classroom lessons on solar power and being put to practical and powerful use.
“After about a year of planning, designing, building, and testing,” reads a post on Rensslaer’s website, “the group installed 2.4 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of a local school [in Haiti] – enough to power 10 HP tablet laptop computers donated by Rensselaer,” as well as additional laptops donated to the school via the One Laptop Per Child program. The solar system includes 32 backup batteries capable of storing enough electricity to power all laptops for three days without sunlight.
ESW students explained that their system was designed to be efficient, easy to repair, and require minimum maintenance — perfect for locations such as Haiti. Going further, the students taught residents how to maintain the solar system and draw as much value from it as possible. ESW is contemplating revisiting the location this summer and has pontificated devising solar fryers and installing additional software on school computers.
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