Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Service to Humanity: Replacing Kerosene in Africa

Five students—Ph.D. candidate Daniel Harburg Th’06, M.S. candidate Louis Buck ’10 Th’11, Lee Taylor Tu’12, Adam Price Tu’12, and William Kamkwamba ’14—won the regional level of the Hult Global Case Challenge for their ideas about how to help the NGO SolarAid encourage Africans to replace kerosene lamps with solar-powered lights. According to Harburg, solar-powered lights cost $10 to $30 in SolarAid’s current approach. “The problem is that people don’t have the up-front money to pay for the lamps. They’re used to using kerosene, which they buy for $.30 a can,” he says. The team’s solution: replace the light’s solar panel with a battery and create a battery-swapping system through a local entrepreneur. “When your battery dies, you go to your entrepreneur and pay $.30, just as you would for kerosene. He gives you a new battery that’s been recharged from his solar panel. Now you have light, and the payment structure looks a lot like kerosene,” says Harburg. Though the students didn’t win the competition finals, they are trying to take the idea forward. “We talked to the manufacturers of the lights, and they were excited about doing pilot projects,” says Harburg. Teammate Kamkwamba, whose self-taught engineering efforts are the subject of the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, may handle part of the initial implementation. “William is really excited about it and wants to try it out back in his hometown in Malawi,” says Harburg.

Categories: The Great Hall, Service to Humanity

Tags: entrepreneurship, environment, humanitarian service, projects, students

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