During 2016, we began a pilot, to introduce an academic program in the field of Off-Grid Technologies for the Developing World. The pilot was part of the engineering studies for a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at Afeka College. The program was held thanks to the generous support of the MEPI program at the US Embassy. The program exposed the students to the rising sector of technology development for the developing world. The pilot is designed to lay the groundwork before entering additional Israeli academic institutions.
Billions of people, all over the world are living off grid. Without available access to electricity, water and sewerage. Not only in Africa, also in rural regions of India and China, outskirts of cities such as the pueblos of South America, refugee camps and disaster-hit regions such as Tahiti, Thailand or Fukushima. Due to the unlikely feasibility of connecting networks in these countries, a strategy must be devised to deal with the implications of this disconnection. For example, difficulty cooking, lack of water for drinking and agriculture, inability to refrigerate food and medicines, difficulty in charging basic electrical appliances such as telephones and computers, sanitation problems, morbidity due to smoke inhalation, etc.
In recent years, there has been significant growth in the development of technologies, economic models and strategies to cope with this problem. In 2013, $4.6 billion were invested in aid to Africa alone, in the field of water infrastructure. The global market is much larger. However, this is a relatively new market, with fast pace developments. Consequently, many academic institutions find it difficult to bring the most up-to-date content to their students, in order to prepare them for the job market.
Afeka College immediately recognized the opportunity for such a course. They were delighted with the experience that Eilat-Eilot can offer.
Special thanks to Dr. Moshe Tshuva, Director of the Engineering Department at Afeka College, who supported the initiative from the beginning and dedicated much of his time and experience to ensure the success of the course.
In August 2016, we launched the academic program at the U.S. Embassy at an official event, to which we invited the heads of departments and deans in the engineering, life sciences, public policy and exact sciences fields.
Course Participants and Content
We began the pilot by issuing a call for Afeka College’s engineering students to register for the optional course (without credit).
The response was greater than anticipated and over 50 students expressed an interest in the program. Of these, 20 students registered and were accepted.
The course includes 60 hours in a variety of subjects:
- Introduction to renewable energy – types and technologies
- A Look at opportunities and challenges in the renewable market
- Introduction to the needs of the developing world and off-grid life
- The accelerated development in Africa – forecast for the coming years
- BOP – Bottom of Pyramid Economy
- Basic tools for entrepreneurship
- Introduction to Israeli technologies in the fields of water, food and energy – engineering, Logistic and Economic Challenges
In addition, the course included a 2-day tour of the Arava. The students visited the Off-Grid Demonstration Village and solar fields, and were exposed to the thermo solar sun tower technologies and mini wind turbines.
The students noted that this course was one of the most significant courses of the entire degree. We realized, that the students were looking for real-world examples of the tools they were learning at university. The young people want to be at the forefront of those who are searching for meaning. The course offers values and significance and its importance is enormous.
The biggest outcome of this pilot, is that we have on-going cleantech academic courses throughout the academic year. With leading Israeli Academic institutions participating, all have approved granting academic credit for the course.
The course was held two days a week, over an entire semester. The students prepared projects to solve problems arising from an off-grid life.
Here are 3 examples of projects created by the students in the course: