Undergraduate Blog / Defining Your Babson

Changing solar energy batteries– more complicated than expected.

Switching a lightbulb at Babson is an easy request, all it requires is to go buy one and change it. In contrast, providing light to rural communities in Guatemala so the children are able to read without straining their eyes and so the mothers can cook without burning themselves is not an easy task. Moreover, these people do not have the means for things we now take for granted in more developed areas. This increases my appreciation towards my current situation, I could have been born in one of these communities. That is why it is imperative to help these people as much as we can in order to improve their standard of living and consequently improve the situation for their next generations

Part of the work I do in this internship is to provide repair service to the installed solar energy kits to the clients. The clientele is composed of people living in secluded communities that lack of electricity. The community we worked on was named Mano de Leon (Lion’s hand). These batteries cost Q270 (around $34) to change. The battery changing process is fairly simple, it just requires some screwing and plugging of cables. Although it’s a simple process, its execution was more complicated than expected.

We were able to change the batteries of the clients in our second attempt. This is because we overlooked a major detail: people that make around $38 a week cannot dispose of 34 dollars that easy. They still need money mostly for feeding their big families (they tend to have 5 children or more). So on our first attempt, the people that we were supposedly going to change the batteries from were not home. This was frustrating because the way to get to Mano de Leon is not easy– and we had double checked the night before to make sure they would have funds and be available.

After countless phone calls and scheduling constraints, we were able to organize a second attempt. This time we were going to go up the mountain only with the assurance that the people were going to be there and have the money. In actuality, only one battery change was completed seamlessly. One system needed other tests, and the other client was not home. I have gained appreciation for just how hard scheduling and maintenance can be in sustainable development. Alex and rene batteries