Renewable Know-How

By Rebecca Marietta
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Students Use Ordinary Items for Renewable Energy

Cardboard. Silver foil, like the type used to wrap Christmas packages. Five gallon buckets, emblazoned with the names of familiar lumber companies on the side. Things many Americans view as trash — these resources, in the talented hands of the faculty, staff, and students of the Institute for Biblical Community Development and the Engineering and Renewable Energy departments at JBU, have the potential to become life-enhancing technologies in underdeveloped countries.

“We improved the designs on a stove for New Hope Children’s Institute, an orphanage in Uganda,” Dr. Young-Gurl Kim, professor of engineering and director of IBCD, says. “This enables the staff of the orphanage to cook more efficiently and have access to hot water, which is vital for hygiene purposes.”

In Bolivia, Cliff Peters, an IBCD technical specialist with 15 years experience in renewable energy and sustainability development, fashioned foil-covered cardboard into solar panels for cooking, thereby reducing the need for wood or charcoal heat.

Recently, Dr. Larry Bland, associate professor of engineering at JBU, along with Dr. Kim, received two grants from the EPA: onethat allowed them to improve drinking water quality in a village in Guatemala; another, with the aid of undergraduate research assistant Katie Sessler, created a tracking solar water heating system.

That study’s research will be sent to Uganda, once an additional grant is approved, to equip national workers in the use of this technology. “Our call is to be stewards of God’s creation. We can be agents of blessing to others by teaching them how to make the best use of God’s resources,” says Dr. Kim. “Engineering and renewable energy studies are very effective tools for demonstrating Christ’s love in places where people’s very livelihoods are at stake.”