Physics and Engineering in the Village

Are you tired of having your work appreciated? Does it embarrass you when people celebrate your achievements by cheering, singing, and dancing? Yes? Well, then I don’t recommend working on a water and solar-power project in Africa. Engineering students Rob Best (’10), Isabel Bush, Evann Gonzales, Ozzie Gooen (all ’12) and I spent 6 weeks installing photovoltaic panels, a solar-powered water pump, and classroom lighting at the Clay International Secondary School in Ngomano, Kenya. Along the way, we gained new insights into Newtonian gravity, off-grid electrical systems, the challenges of getting things built without the HMC machinist, and how “technology divorced from humanity is worse than no technology at all.”

The video here was recorded at the HMC Physics colloquium, given by Peter N. Saeta on 7 September 2010. If you'd prefer a written summary, click here.

2011 January 24

Benson sent some pictures of further progress, reporting that the pump has been working steadily for three months and that he had found another use for its water.