The Wits Energy Access Project is looking to assist students who are often left in the ‘dark’ while studying online.
Select students who live in areas without a stable electricity connection will be getting help from the Wits Energy Access Project soon. Five solar systems donated by the project will help students stay online more consistently.
This project was started at the Wits University’s school of electrical and information engineering by Wits PhD candidate Raees Dangor, along with his supervisor and head of school, professor Estelle Trevoge.
Recently, the digital divide was eased by the university through the provision of 30GB of mobile data and loan devices. However, Dangor says some students continue to face the challenge of not having the energy needed to power these loan devices. “We sought to mitigate the impact that the energy crisis and lack of electricity supply has on students’ access to, and participation in online education,” he laments.
Dangor left the process of choosing the five students to the Wits SRC. The SRC sent out a twitter post, making the announcement on May 5, 2021. According to Mpendulo Mfeka, current SRC president, students had to fill in google forms along with a motivational letter to apply. Out of the 60 applications received, “The SRC top five will deliberate on who is most needy, but these names will not be disclosed,” said Mfeka.
The names of the five students will be forwarded to the Wits Energy Access Project on Friday, May 21 and then the systems will be sent out to the students within two weeks. Dangor will be personally responsible for the monitoring of these systems and receive feedback on how they are working.
These solar systems use technology developed and supplied by Personal Consumer Grid Innovation (PeCo Power), a company initially founded by Wits in 2019. These five systems will be used as a field trial to test the performance of these solar systems when used for educational purposes. “We developed something at Wits, but it is at a point where we can roll them out to students,” says Dangor.
To build these solar systems, the project received funding from 12 sources through a ‘backabuddy’ crowdfunding page, with their biggest donation of R30 000 coming from the Electrical Engineering & Allied Individuals Association (EEAIA). The solar systems comprise a 270-Watt solar panel and a 64-ah led acid battery. It can be used for lighting, device charging and can power any 12-volt DC appliance the students might have.
FEATURED IMAGE: Raees Dangor next to one of the solar system that will be handed out to the student. Photo: Semakaleng Motsoere
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