Engineering students bring solar solution to Botswana family

A family in the village of Mmanoko in Botswana has access to safe, renewable electric power thanks to the efforts of engineering students from the University of Botswana and Case Western Reserve University.

The prohibitively high cost of running power lines to remote villages in Botswana has left some 85 percent of rural households in the country without access to electricity. As part of a research program that addresses sustainable energy issues in the region, students installed a 100-watt solar lighting system in the home of Mmanoko resident Tlhabologang Kebopetswe that will allow her and her family to light their home, watch TV and charge their cell phones.
 The project was part of the Research on Sustainable Energy for Sub-Saharan Africa program, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative held at the University of Botswana. The program, run by Case School of Engineering’s Dan Lacks, the C. Benson Branch Professor of chemical engineering, and Mohan Sankaran, associate professor of chemical engineering, brings together teams of students from universities across the United States and University of Botswana to collaborate on projects involving sustainable energy.
Joe Toth, a senior chemical engineering major at the Case School of Engineering at Case Western Reserve, designed the system, and he and his fellow students in the research program teamed up for the installation.  
According to an article in Botswana’s Midweek Sun, before the installation in June, Kebopetswe and her seven children relied on the occasional candle to light their one-room hut, and only when they had money to spare. Kebopetswe told the paper she was particularly grateful that the new access to solar power would help give her children more time for studying and schoolwork.