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EPICS in IEEE: Lighting the Way for Education and New Opportunities

For many people throughout the developing world, having the energy needed for such things as lighting or heating water is a real issue-a situation that EPICS in IEEE can help resolve. With its unique philanthropic model that addresses local community-service needs, EPICS in IEEE is helping drive a new generation of students towards STEM-based curriculums.  By supporting projects based upon education, sustainability and creating new opportunities, EPICS in IEEE is helping to create a pool of future engineers with the knowledge and skill sets to implement innovative solutions, mentor upcoming students, and become more socially conscious throughout their careers.
 
A look at a recent solar project in Africa sheds light on how EPICS in IEEE works with college and high school students, local community leaders, charitable organizations, businesses and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to empower young people through practical, engineering-based educational experiences applied in the field.

Emasithandane Children's Home: Supplying Energy to Empower Youth
Located in Nyanga, Cape Town, South Africa, the Emasithandane Children's home provides shelter to abandoned children and orphans from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Until recently, the more than 50 young residents had no hot water geyser and only a limited supply of power available through a prepaid monthly electrical arrangement that was insufficient to meet the home's energy needs. And, as education is known to be an important factor in helping people escape poverty, providing "clean lighting" for young students to conduct home studies and develop a passion for furthering their education is something very much in line with the EPICS in IEEE charter.

After being approached by David Oyedokun, chair, University of Cape Town (UCT) IEEE Student Body Projects Committee, EPICS in IEEE became engaged in the project. The project was initiated with the formation of a team consisting of nine UCT IEEE Student Members and 15 local high-school students (9 boys and 6 girls). Collaborative participants included the NGO Jembi Health Systems and the Engineers without Borders branch at UCT. The initial plan to design, build and deploy a stand-alone 1kW array of solar panels to power a solar water heater soon grew to include plans for a 2400W photovoltaic electrical system to provide for the home's basic electrical needs.

Other sponsors and participants in the project included Crossing Borders Stuttgart e.V., Eskom, Hills Solar, MLT Drives and Solaire Direct Technologies. Following a detailed theoretical phase, where students gained the basic knowledge that they needed to move towards the design and construction of a working system, Solaire then hosted them for a practical, hands-on learning session to carry out solar panel construction and address the practical aspects of carrying out the deployment.

The successful project continues to serve as a platform for promoting alternative energy solutions in South Africa. It also clearly demonstrates how supporting organizations can play a meaningful role in helping further the education of students both directly involved in these types of power generation projects, as well as those benefiting from having a clean energy supply, hot water, and the light and power needed for home study.

It is becoming more apparent that advanced technology for power generation, storage and delivery that increasingly incorporates renewable energy sources will require a new generation of power engineers. Providing power to disadvantaged people in the developing world can open doors to new opportunities for many and offer valuable learning experiences for young students. Through its ongoing work, EPICS in IEEE is committed to encourage and motivate the engineers of tomorrow, helping them acquire skills and educational experiences so that they can give back to their local communities and work to transform lives through technology.

To learn more about EPICS in IEEE, please visit http://epics.ieee.org/

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