Greening technology in Nicaragua

Originally published in the 2015 edition of Innovation magazine

A student-led project in the School of Construction Management Technology will bring more reliable electricity to a Nicaraguan health care facility by way of solar power.

The project is made possible by the inaugural Student Passport Competition, sponsored by ELECTRI International – The Foundation for Electrical Construction. The competition focused on under-served areas in the United States or internationally where students could introduce or add to electrical service available to a community.

A team of five students, led by Nick Bogucki, through personal experience and discussions with the clinic director, decided to help the Lidia Saavedra de Ortega polyclinic, in Managua, Nicaragua. It is the only clinic in the country that specifically serves Nicaragua’s retirees. Its power service is unreliable, which affects the quality of available care and can damage expensive equipment used for diagnoses and treatment.

“They are suffering pretty drastically from the shortages in energy,” says Bogucki, president of Purdue’s National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). “Our project, because it is funded by ELECTRI members, will be completed at no cost to the clinic, so this is their best option.”

The team has had plenty of logistics to figure out before work begins. They needed to design the system to identify the equipment needed, plan how to store and transport the equipment, analyze the building’s current energy use, and travel to Nicaragua to complete the project.

Construction management student J.P. Lacayo, a native of Nicaragua, has helped make connections with government officials and suppliers within the country. Additional help came from his father, who lives in Nicaragua.

The team will model its installation on the recently upgraded solar infrastructure at Knoy Hall on Purdue’s campus. Graduate student Erick Smith has been working on the design. The team invited an electrical engineering technology student to assist, and members are also receiving guidance from a Purdue electrician.

The Purdue NECA group was the first student chapter of the national organization.

Read more about the Passport Competition.