Students help deliver power to rural Rwanda

The Dartmouth

September 26, 2011

By Clare Coffey

Fifteen students from Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering (DHE) stepped off the plane in Kigali, a city whose clean and safe streets contrasts starkly with Rwanda’s history of instability and violence, on July 15, according to project leader Joseph Anthony ’12. Rural Rwanda—a place in which virtually everyone has cell phones but must walk five kilometers to charge them—was the students’ final destination.

As they drove farther from the metropolis and power grids, huts lit by kerosene and dry grass replaced spacious homes and thriving businesses, DHE president Theodore Somers ’12 said. The group of students prepared to embark on a two-month quest to improve the hydroelectric power in Rwanda’s remotest region.

The group returned to Rwanda this summer to fine-tune a turbine that the group had installed in a village in the Banda sector on a 2008 trip, as well as to assess new sites for future hydroelectric construction, Somers said. The previous group had constructed the turbine out of local scrap metals and although the students had instructed villagers on basic repairs, the machine required more complex weatherproofing and redesign, Somers said.

“Basically, we were trying to make the whole system more robust,” he said.

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