The Engineering Projects in Community Service team, Fiji Lights, launched their first prototype in July 2013 after overcoming challenges with their initial models. Fiji Lights is committed to designing and building a sustainable lighting system for schools in Fiji that do not have access to fuels and electricity after the sun sets. This summer marked their first attempt in being the solution to creating better conditions for students in Fiji.
The team first formed through mutual interests in energy, education and the environment, the students also share a commitment to helping others through innovation.
The Fiji Lights team discovered that in Fiji most students are only able to work on homework and studying during the sunlit hours. After sunset, the students use kerosene lamps or are not able to study at all. A lack of study time in the evening can lead to poor performance in school. And the kerosene lamps can pose a threat to the safety of the students and their families.
Learning about the circumstances of Fijian students sparked an interest in the students in EPICS. How could they provide a safer environment for Fijian students to be able to study and do homework while also being cost efficient?
The team began working on a solution in January 2013. The team’s idea was to have a prototype that met the socioeconomic needs of the Fiji students. When the team realized their initial prototype was neither safe nor practical to life in Fiji, they went back to the drawing board. This time they knew their prototype must meet multiple needs of those in Fiji and be sustainable. The Fiji Lights team returned to basics—the next prototype had to be safe, efficient, aesthetically appealing and simple. The Fijian students could learn how energy worked and also reproduce the lights.
The team then found an opportunity for their second prototype to be shipped but it would have to be ready by the end of June 2013. With not a moment to spare, Fiji Lights rose to the occasion by diligently working on the second design and building of the prototype. The team first built the solar-powered charging station and then the lighting structure. Finally, the team hooked up all components and studied the exchange of power from the sun to the solar panel, to the batteries and then to the lights. The team found that their second prototype’s initial testing went far better than their first! The second prototype lasted for over 10 hours on just one 12-volt battery.
Currently Fiji Lights is testing their prototype in Fiji and hopes to receive feedback soon. In the meantime, the team is applying for funding and researching ways to generate more innovative ideas to create electricity for lights. They would like to explore lights powered by kinetics and biomass energy.
Fiji Lights is composed of the following students:
- Brendan Cahill: chemical engineering, sophomore
- Daniel D’Ippolito: mechanical engineering, sophomore
- Phoebe Henson: electrical engineering, junior
- Morgan Kelley: chemical engineering, sophomore
- Rebecca Martarella: chemical engineering, sophomore
- Anthony Wilson: electrical engineering, senior
The Engineering Projects in Community Service program, known as EPICS, is a national award-winning social entrepreneurship and service learning program. Teams design, build and deploy systems to solve engineering-based problems for charities, schools and other not-for-profit organizations. EPICS students don’t wait to graduate to make a difference! If you are interested in joining EPICS, consider enrolling in the one-credit hour FSE 194 EPICS Gold I course for the spring 2014 semester.