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Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering named a winner in IEEE Presidents' Change the World Competition

Sep 13, 2011   |   IEEE

Team Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering Pico-Hydro Project is the winner of one of five Outstanding Student Humanitarian Prizes in the 2011 IEEE Presidents' Change the World Competition. The award letter states, "Out of 209 entries your project captured the true spirit of the competition 'to develop a unique solution to a real world problem using engineering, science, computing and leadership skills to benefit humanity.'" The winning team will receive $1,000 to put toward further endeavors.

Winning project summary

Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering Pico-Hydro Project

Team Members: Theodore Sumers

DHE in Rwanda - Summer 2011

Wouter Zwart '14 and Collin Chideme '14 work on one of DHE's small-scale hydropower sites in Banda

Access to electricity in Africa is limited, particularly in rural areas where there is little or no grid infrastructure. Only 7% of the population in Rwanda has access to electricity; in rural areas, less than 1% of the population has electricity. The remoteness of Rwanda’s rural population renders conventional grid electrification unfeasible in the foreseeable future.

Development of industry is also hindered by the lack of infrastructure, and without any major economic activity there is little or no incentive for extending the existing electrical grid into remote rural areas. Larger, wealthier villages frequently employ diesel generators, but smaller communities are left in the dark. In areas without electricity, people must rely on kerosene for lighting, an expensive, polluting, and potentially dangerous solution. Many technologies and activities we take for granted—cell phones, refrigeration, and even studying or working after nightfall—are costly if not impossible.

As developing nations industrialize, they face enormous challenges; the team believe it is important to use o technological expertise to help overcome them efficiently and cleanly. With small-scale rural hydropower, we can sustainably bring electricity to even the most isolated communities, encouraging localized rural development and bringing them at least a fraction of the benefits we enjoy in everyday life.

The team’s approach is innovative because they focus on introducing low-cost sustainable hydropower technology which has the potential to spread without outside aid. Rather than relying on more traditional and expensive micro- or mini-hydropower, they scaled down the model and operate in the <5 kW range, operating a battery charging kiosk instead of powering a mini-grid.

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