Project Installation Team (l to r): Nowell Ancheta, Colin O’Brien, Steve Szablya
Crocodiles, a Waterwheel and Access to Water: Watch Video of the Project Here!
The townspeople of Chirundu, Zambia, used to risk their
lives just to gather water. In 2008, when four of his neighbors were killed by
crocodiles as they fetched water from the nearby Zambezi River, Father Michele
Crugnola asked Seattle University students if they could help.
In response to that request, a Seattle University Senior Design Team designed
a waterwheel-driven spiral pump. The pump lifts river water to
storage tanks which then feed three wash basins happily situated a safe
distance from the river. The waterwheel platform now provides the 7,000
inhabitants of Chirundu with the water they rely on for drinking, cooking and
washing. That was in 2009.
Fast forward to 2013, and we find another group of SU
students responding in a creative way -- this time, to the fact that only 21%
of the people in developing countries have access to electricity.
In June a Seattle University “Professionals Without Borders”
team returned to Chirundu. The students, working on their own senior design
project, installed an electrical generator on the existing waterwheel, the same
one developed by SU students four years earlier. The project was conceived by
Father Bert Otten, SJ, Emeritus Professor of Electrical and Computer
Engineering. Father Otten, who now lives in Zambia, and the design team see this
as a pilot project to test a unique way to deliver power to rural developing
Over this past year the Senior Design Team (Electrical and
Computer Engineering students Nowell Ancheta, Colin O’Brien, Jeremy Deibell and
Andrew Sprenger) designed and constructed a prototype of the generator. They
also conducted extensive tests to determine the generator’s power
characteristics and appropriate methods for the control, transmission, and storage
of the generated power.
The newly installed 216-W
generator system was funded by the Center for Environmental Justice and
Sustainability, the Seattle University Endowed Mission Fund, and the Department
of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The system includes controls,
protection (grounding) and a battery system that can be used for a variety of
purposes, including charging cell phones and operating pumps and other
The generator uses simple, appropriate technology to deliver
renewable electricity to Chirundu. It features a commonly available washing
machine motor and simple electronics to charge batteries. In addition, the
system, even when the cost of constructing the waterwheel itself is factored
in, is a more cost-effective source of power than the solar panel equivalent in
this rural part of Africa. The entire electrical system, like the existing
waterwheel project, is easy to maintain and can be re-created in other
communities. This pilot generator project also sets a precedent for others to
follow throughout the region.
The newly installed generator,
operating on the Zambezi, produces 9 Amps at 24 Volts, 24 hours a day.
Other Project Team Members, not in Zambia:
Mark Beggs, Bachelor of Science in Civil
Engineering (BSCE) 2012
Meghan Reha, Bachelor of Science in
Mechanical Engineering 2009 (on the original 2009 team)
Renee Vandermause BSCE 2013
Jeff Wilhite, SU Staff
DeLaunde Hopkins, SU Staff