Student Engineers with a Mission Empower Through Solar Power

Only about one quarter of Haitians have access to power through a weak and unreliable national power grid that was damaged heavily in the earthquake of 2010. Most Haitian businesses rely on generators for their power, which are costly to purchase and operate with the high cost of fuel.

Baylor University Senior Lecturer Brian Thomas is no stranger to this dilemma facing Haiti. As a faculty sponsor for the student organization “Engineers with a Mission” at Baylor, Thomas recently brought a team of engineering students to the Joshua House to install solar panels at the IDADEE Orphanage. Once operational, the panels will provide enough solar power to enable the orphanage, the school and the Joshua House to significantly reduce usage of their current generator and utilize solar power for the majority of day-to-day, average electrical use at the nine-acre compound.

This was the first time that Baylor University students visited the Joshua House, but it was Professor Thomas’ seventh trip to Haiti, as he has taken part in numerous projects with the student engineering organization.

“Every year a team of students from Engineers with a Mission travels somewhere to do a project. The idea is that we partner with an organization that is already doing good things and try to support them in their efforts,” explained Thomas. “We like to serve out of the gifts and talents that we have been given by the Lord; we have some technical ability in the area of solar off-grid electricity systems which is exactly what was needed at IDADEE.”

Thomas learned about the needs of IDADEE and the Joshua House through a colleague at Baylor who made contact with the Pittsburgh Kids’ Foundation and the effort grew from there. Thomas traveled to the Joshua House in December, where he met up with Pittsburgh Kids’ Foundation President Brad Henderson, to assess the viability of installing solar panels at IDADEE.

“We determined that we could install a large array of solar panels that would charge a large battery bank. That battery bank will then serve as a source of energy for the compound,” said Thomas. “We also had the added benefit of bringing students along and enabling them to see something they have never seen before, experience a new culture, see how projects are done, and possibly learn a new language. Most of all these students get to do a very real project for a very real client that will directly benefit from their efforts.”

Thomas plans to return to the Joshua House this summer to conduct training for the IDADEE staff, to teach them how to properly maintain the panels and batteries, conservation techniques and possible expansion of the system.

To view a video about the project, visit our media page.