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Autonomous PV Systems for Developing Countries: Assessing Student Learning of Experiential Study Abroad Programs

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Energy Conversion and Conservation Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

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Paper Authors


Jeremy C. Ferrell Appalachian State University

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Dr. Jeremy Ferrell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment where he teaches courses in renewable energy and conducts a research agenda around biomass energy systems, industrial ecology, and appropriate technology in the lesser income countries. His academic training is in natural resource management, biosystems engineering, and renewable energy technology. He earned a PhD from North Carolina A&T State University in Energy and Environmental Systems. Jeremy has an extensive background living and working abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay, working as a Natural Resources Consultant for GTZ, as a Fulbright Scholar in Sao Paulo Brazil, and leading sustainability-focused study abroad programs in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, India, and Peru.

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Brent Jason Summerville P.E. Appalachian State University

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Providing unique international educational opportunities is central to the holistic educational mission of the Sustainable Technology Program at Appalachian State University. Since the first experiential trip in 2006, the program has engaged students in unique international experiences with hands-on learning and technology transfer. This paper highlights study abroad programs to Costa Rica (2017 and 2018) and Peru (2018) that designed and implemented autonomous photovoltaic systems for lighting and cell phone charging for rural communities without access to electricity. The technical components of designing a stand alone solar power system are many including: 1) load analysis, 2) battery and array sizing, 3) charge and load controller selection, 4) installation, and 5) cost analysis. Prior to departing, students participate in designing, prototyping and installing the system. These efforts have produced an open-source set of plans. The “Appalachian Street Lamp,” is an inexpensive system that can be deployed to remote locales that can access a cellular network but do not have grid power. These field courses emphasize key learning outcomes including: 1) use essential math and science skills to solve applied science problems, 2) formulate, design, or develop a system, process, or program to meet desired needs, 3) demonstrate the capacity to function in project teams, and 4) use the techniques, skills, and technical tools necessary for professional practice in the discipline. A survey designed to assess program impact was sent to all 37 study abroad participants in September 2018. 22 responses were recorded that answered five questions related to technical proficiency and global competency. An average response of 4.90 was recorded across all questions using a Likert (1-5) scale. A final open-ended comment section revealed many testimonials stating the positive educational impact. As educators, we see great value in getting students out of their comfort zones. Developing international courses with hands-on work projects can create unique transformational opportunities and become a platform for piquing student interest and motivation. This paper chronicles developing this program, the technical system, and the impact of learning technical skills in a study abroad context.

Ferrell, J. C., & Summerville, B. J. (2019, June), Autonomous PV Systems for Developing Countries: Assessing Student Learning of Experiential Study Abroad Programs Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida.

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