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Intern Austen Brings the Gift of Light to Rocky Point!

As an intern at blueEnergy, Austen Sybert, a junior at John Hopkins University, USA, helped design, build, and install a solar panel lighting system for a home in Rocky Point, Nicaragua. During his two week trip, Austen also had the opportunity to visit three more communities in the Southern Atlantic Region of Nicaragua: Kahkabila, Pearl Lagoon, and Wawashang, to better understand both the joys and complications of development work in marginalized areas.


By Austen Sybert - Paint was still drying, the solar lighting system was neatly packed and all the tools and spare parts double checked – the design and build phase of my project was coming to a close. The next morning I would load the installation materials on two taxis, a bus, a boat and a horse (not too remote by Nicaraguan standards), to reach the site of my solar install in Rocky Point. The solar array provided 60 watts, an amount sufficient to light two CFL bulbs, convert DC current to a versatile AC outlet and empower a household with the basic service of electricity. The family now had the opportunity to improve their own lives.
Chris Sparadeo and Austen Sybert holding the solar panels in a taxi

The final phase of my project, educating the household about their new solar system, proved to be the most difficult but rewarding phase. The household had a teenage girl, Kyoni, enrolled in a technical course on how to install solar systems. Naturally, she was engaged in acute oversight during the installation. Due to her keen interest I explained the steps and components to her as the installation progressed. When it came time to illuminate the dim home by connecting the battery to the system, I requested Kyoni make the connection and be responsible for lighting her family’s home. She cautiously agreed, connecting the red positive wire to the negative battery terminal and the black negative wire to the positive battery terminal which blew the current inverter. No light. This lapse in my supervision was far from a catastrophe to the installation process. I reminded her of the current charge of the wires and handed her the spare inverter to connect, which lit her home. 
Kyoni connects the charge controller

Several days later I had the opportunity to tour the P.L.A.C.E. school (Pearl Lagoon Academy of Excellence) with the blueEnergy board of directors. In one of the classes we visited, I spotted the girl who lived in Rocky Point and illuminated her home with the solar system I had the opportunity to design, build, and install. This class happened to be the Kyoni's technical course on how to install solar systems. I walked over to her, reminded her of my name and asked, “Do you feel like you know more about solar systems then your classmates?” She nodded, easily making this stop at her school the most rewarding point of my trip. To share a laugh before my tour continued I asked, “What’s the charge on black electrical wire and what’s the charge on red electrical wire?” Of course, she nailed the answers.

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