Gold engineer brings eco-solution to Tongan school

Tonga's second largest secondary school is saving approximately USD588 a day on ground water pumping costs, thanks to the effort and skill of a seven-person student engineering team, which included Gold Award participant Daniel Scott.

Daniel, an engineering student from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, was part of an Engineers Without Borders team which helped Tonga College to find a sustainable solution to its energy costs. His role in designing and installing a solar-powered pump also enabled him to complete his Gold Service section.

High energy costs

Tonga, an archipelago of 176 islands in the South Pacific, depends almost entirely on imported diesel fuel for energy generation. Not only is that energy sourced at a high cost to the country, especially in the light of rising global fuel prices, but the use of diesel generators has a hugely negative impact on the environment. Alternative sources of energy are increasingly being targeted as a way to reduce the country’s fuel bill.

At the invitation of Tonga College, and endorsed by the Tongan Minister of Education, the Engineers Without Borders team installed a 1.4 kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) powered water pumping system. This will provide the school with a guaranteed and sustainable source of water for the lifetime of the pump.

Daniel played a key role in designing the housing for the pump and solar panels, purchasing the pump, and fitting the components. He also supported fundraising efforts to raise the NZD40,000 (USD33,000) needed to pay for the project, and liaised with teachers and students at the school during its construction in November 2009.

Benefits for all

It wasn’t an easy project to complete, requiring not just technical skills but also interpersonal ones as Daniel kept in touch with the school community to understand their needs. However, the results have been well worth the challenge. The pump serves as an ongoing educational tool for the 1300 school students, and ensures that the school has much more money available to invest in materials and facilities.

Daniel too has reaped rewards through the growth in his skills and confidence: “The highlight of the project for me was to see all our ideas and planning come to fruition with going to Tonga, seeing our project constructed and helping the people from the school.

"Seeing this happen was something that really gave me confidence in what we as a team had achieved, and also in my own contribution and the skills I had developed. I remember preparing some drawings that were sent to Tonga as a guide to building a small building for the solar panels, and I was so surprised when it was nearly built as I had imagined after we arrived.”

A future career

Following the successful completion of this project, Daniel hopes to tackle more engineering and environmental challenges in the Asia Pacific region: “I am now actively pursuing an engineering career with a long term goal of helping people from the Pacific region with sustainable technology.”

He is in no doubt that the Award has influenced his choice of career: “I could have never anticipated how much doing the Award influenced where I am today. I think the key reason to do the Award is to really discover what you enjoy doing and what you are best at.

"Perhaps this is one of the main things that young people really struggle with – finding what they want to do and actually doing it. The possibilities of the Award are endless and available for everyone, but it is guaranteed you will expand your horizons and increase your employability.”

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