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Seattle U Engineering Students Help Create Electricity for People in Developing Countries

Over the summer, a Seattle University Professionals Without Borders team traveled to Chirundu, Zambia to implement a senior design project.  The project was conceived by Father Bert Otten, SJ, Emeritus Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who now lives in Zambia.  With only 21% of the people in developing countries have access to electricity; the project was to test a unique way to deliver power to rural developing countries.

Seattle University students installed a waterwheel electrical generator on the Zambezi River in Chirundu, Zambia.  During their senior year, the Electrical and Computer Engineering students designed and completed extensive testing to determine the power characteristics of the generator. A prototype of the generator was constructed to design and test the controls, transmission, and an appropriate way to store the generated power.

The installation uses simple, appropriate technology to deliver renewable electricity to rural communities on larger rivers in Zambia. Using a commonly available washing machine motor and simple electronics to charge batteries, the system is more cost effective source of power than the equivalent solar panels in this rural part of Africa. This electrical system is easy to maintain and can be recreated in other communities.  The total cost, including the construction of the waterwheel is less than the solar panel equivalent.  The waterwheel platform was developed for a spiral pump by a Seattle University Senior Design team in 2009

The installed generator system includes a generator, controls, protection, and a battery system. The battery system can be used for a variety of purposes, including charging cell phones, operating pumps and other electrical devices.

In picture: Senior Design Project Installation Team: Nowell Ancheta, Colin O’Brien, Steve Szablya, Faculty Advisor

Other Project Team Members, not in Zambia:
Jeremy Deibell
Andrew Sprenger

Industry Advisors

Byron Lynch
Mark Beggs, BSCE 2012
Meghan Reha, BSME 2009 (on the original 2009 team)
Renee Vandermause BSCE 2013
Jeff Wilhite, Staff SU
DeLaunde Hopkins, Staff SU

The Project Center

Working as a faculty advisor on student projects helps me to expose my students to an entirely new range of skills that they will need when they become practitioners in their chosen fields. Project management, teamwork, communication, translating academic knowledge to reality are skills that set our students apart. The partnerships we’ve built with sponsoring organizations provide valuable professional connections for students and faculty alike.

- Teodora Rutar Shuman, Chair, Mechanical Engineering