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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Sunshine in a Suitcase

When you board an international flight, you usually don't pack a pair of 50-watt solar panels in your checked baggage. But that is what four Jacobs School of Engineering undergraduates did, when they travelled to Mbita, Kenya, last summer as part of the Global TIES—Teams in Engineering Service—Program. The team visited the site of their humanitarian engineering project, which is aimed at bringing renewable energy to an off-the-grid island community. With the solar panels, the students created a portable charging station that can recharge cell phones, lanterns, water purifiers, medical devices and other life-improving technologies. The solar prototype is part of a larger Global TIES project to help the San Diego chapter of Engineers Without Borders bring electricity to a new technology and adult education center in Mbita that will provide Internet access and technical-training programs.

"It was a really powerful experience for all of us involved," says Anita Prasad, Revelle '10, a team leader for the project. "It opened our eyes to how many problems there were that could be easily solved by students, by engineers."

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óDaniel Kane