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Two Innovative Projects Proposed for 2017 Student Passport Initiative

Jun 27, 2017

ELECTRI International – The Foundation for Electrical Construction has selected two Student Passport Initiatives to be reviewed by the ELECTRI Council at their July meeting.

The projects include adding renewable public lighting to the impoverished Mexican community of Toltenco, and a solar-powered water pump for the community of West End, on the island of Roatán, Honduras.The Foundation will increase its support for this program by awarding $20,000 towards the first place project and $10,000 for the second place initiative. ELECTRI’s Program Review Committee invited two schools to join the Council to present their proposals.

University of Toronto: Toltenco Public Lighting and Infrastructure

The University of Toronto Student Chapter (CECA/NECA) will concentrate on Toltenco. Mexico. Located along the southern rim of Mexico City, Toltenco faces crippling infrastructure challenges. It lacks reliable electricity and safe housing. Known for informal settlements where inhabitants live in extreme poverty without access to basic city services, Toltenco has about 800 residents, with an average household income of $135 per month, huddled in houses built with cardboard and garbage. A major issue in this community is violence. Residents of Toltenco have identified public lighting as the most effective way to improve security and trust. However, the community does not have access to formal electrical service nor the means to pay the usage fees demanded by the local electric utility. 

The student team from the University of Toronto Chapter has designed an efficient way to address Toltenco’s safety problem using an off-grid array of LED street lights with integrated solar panels and batteries. This proposal to ELECTRI International was developed in partnership with TECHO Mexico City, the local chapter of an international organization that started in Chile. TECHO’s mission is to work with informal settlers to end poverty through community work that involves inhabitants and volunteers. Street lighting is an important step in the overall goal of developing Toltenco into a sustainable, safe community. 

PennState: Roatán Water Pump Solar Array

The Pennsylvania State University NECA Student Chapter recognizes the major trend towards implementing renewable energy systems in developing communities around the world. As prices of energy sources continue to increase, there is a push for more sustainable, reliable, and cost effective solutions, particularly for island communities that often rely on importing fuel sources to meet energy demands. In an effort to accelerate the transition to more sustainable energy systems, the Penn State Student Chapter has designed a solar panel array that will power a water pump in the community of West End, on the island of Roatán, Honduras.

When implemented, this design will provide the energy necessary to power the water pump that serves a number of families in the community. The existing water pump currently relies on an expensive and unreliable grid connection. The power plant feeding the grid runs on imported diesel fuel, which comes at a high cost and is an unsustainable energy source. With this project, students will continue the University’s existing relationship with members of Roatán’s communities and the team’s local electrical contracting mentor, Vegas Electric. Building on its past projects, Penn State plans to broaden its focus by involving the island utility, Roatán Electric Co (RECO) which has already launched efforts to eliminate the use of diesel fuel generation, and also initiated construction of a 10 MW wind farm. Penn State’s proposed PV array will provide power to the water pump so it can better supply the necessary amount of water to families living in the community, thereby reducing West End residents’ electricity bills.

About the Student Passport Initiative Competition

The Student Passport Initiative encourages NECA Student Chapter members to engage in meaningful service learning experiences in developing communities.

Each year, the competition’s winning Student Chapter Team will work to meet a critical need to provide new or upgraded electrical service in an underprivileged domestic or international location of their choice.

ELECTRI International has designed The Student Passport Initiative to promote the growth of sustainable colleges and university programs that advance the development of efficient and sustainable energy solutions and cultivate the professional development and personal growth of students.

Program Goals:

  • Encourage construction management and electrical engineering students to take an active role in improving access to electricity in rural, developing communities inside or outside the United States. 
  • Help young adults learn the value of “paying it forward” by taking their time to volunteer for projects that will make a difference in the quality of life for other people.


Students who are active members of a university-sponsored NECA Student Chapter.

Visit ELECTRI.org for more details.