How can you harness energy from the sun in South Africa? Thanks to the efforts of Jacob Cordonier and E4p, students at the township of Mamelodi in South Africa developed a hands-on understanding of how they can fabricate a dye sensitized solar cell or DSSC.
Cordonier, a mechanical engineering senior and member of the Flexible Electronics for Sustainable Technologies research group, traveled to the Bophelong Combined Independent School to demonstrate to 10th, 11th and 12th graders how a DSSC can be fabricated using inexpensive materials such as glass and pomegranate juice.
The school has 676 students, but no science lab to reinforce the concepts they learn in class. The nearest lab is a 10-minute bus ride and is shared with a government school with approximately 1500 students. The government school is held open on weekends to allow more learners to take advantage of the single lab.
“I wanted to make a lasting impression on these kids,” said Cordonier. “I hope that this demonstration will spark their Scientific and Engineering spirits and lead them towards pursuing a STEM college degree after graduating high school.” Cordonier answered questions the learners had about the experiment, as well as questions about college life in the U.S. “I was very pleased with the quality of questions. It is unfortunate that they live in such rough conditions.” Jacob noted. About 40 percent of the students at Bophelong do not have parents. Some live with extended family or at government orphanages, while a few live at the Bophelong Community Center Orphanage. HIV/AIDS is still largely prevalent in the area, affecting some of the students. When learners are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, they are removed from government schools. Bophelong is one of the few schools in the country that is accepting students with HIV/AIDS.