Imperial engineering students are to build on their work to provide electricity to rural communities this summer
An award winning social enterprise project run by Imperial engineering students is set to build on its work providing electricity to rural communities in Rwanda, after securing funding and specialist tools worth £13,000.
e.quinox, which aims to find practical and sustainable ways to bring power to rural communities in developing countries, is managed by students from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. The project works by providing villages with portable batteries from a kiosk, where they are charged up using renewable energy. Local people can then hire out the batteries to power electrical devices, bringing lighting, refrigeration and a wealth of other benefits to areas without mains electricity. Money from hiring the batteries is channelled back into maintaining and developing the kiosk.
Last month, the London Network of the Institute of Technology and Engineering’s (IET) announced at its annual Young Professionals Challenge, that it would sponsor e.quinox £7000.
Davy Thielens, current Chair of the London Network said: “Through this donation, not only do we want to support the amazing work of these talented young people, but we believe that together with the IET we can promote their activities around the world through the Institution’s global membership and Industrial partners. We are also very keen to use their initiative to inspire other students and young professionals as a model of what youthful talent and enthusiasm can achieve. We see this as the start of a fruitful long term relationship."
"We are thrilled to have secured this funding, which will enable us to expand our work and help more people light up their homes this summer."
– Rushabh Mehta
The project was first set up 2008 by second year students working on a group project. Students typically volunteer for a year and spend term time developing plans, with support from staff in the Faculty of Engineering. The students then put the plans into practice by volunteering over the summer holiday, working in remote areas of Rwanda. So far four solar powered and one hydro powered energy kiosks have been set up in Rwanda and Tanzania, providing electricity to around 500 households.
In addition to the funding from the IET, Hilti, an international company which provides tools to the engineering industry, have now donated cordless drilling and cutting equipment and specialist support, worth over £5000. The company made the donation after working on the project for the first time last year.
Pavlos Gklavinas, Regional Manager at Hilti said: “We donated tools to e.quinox for the construction of a hydro kiosk last year and we were very impressed with the results. When the students got back in touch this year, our only thought was to consider how we can help them further. It was a no brainer and this year not only are we providing tools, we will also provide support to enable the students to use the equipment. These people are changing lives, and this is the least that we can do.”
The funding means that the students will be able to embark on several new projects this summer. A key project will see the students work in partnership with local small businesses in Rwanda to create a second generation of kiosks. More battery boxes will be manufactured in response to the huge demand for them by employing and training more local people. Data-loggers will also be installed at the kiosks which will send information back to London, allowing the team to analyse the effectiveness of the project.
Third year mechanical engineering student Rushabh Mehta, E.quinox Chairman, said: “We are thrilled to have secured this funding, which will enable us to expand our work and help more people light up their homes this summer. The funds will be used to launch the second generation of our stand-alone kiosks. The fully automated rural electrification system will provide basic power and lighting to over 350 more people in Northern Rwanda while providing a platform to serve many more in the future.”
By collecting data from each project and making it publicly available, students working on e.quinox hope the initiative will have a wider impact with local entrepreneurs or local governments replicating the project’s system.
The College’s Energy Futures Lab Centre for Doctoral Training Network has also funded three students from the project, enabling them to present e.quinox’s work at a conference in Germany next month.
e.quinox has previously won the top prize in the IEEE Presidents’ Change the World Competition and the JP Morgan Good Venture Award in 2010. As well as IET and Hilti, supporters of e.quinox include the UN, JP Morgan, the Rwandan Government and the College’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
Leave a comment
Your comment may be published, displaying your name as you provide it, unless you request otherwise. Your contact details will never be published.