Juba STEM Center Repaired and Operational
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
The Gelfand Family Trust has established the Juba STEM Center in November 2017. Unfortunately, the solar power system never worked reliably and couldn’t start accepting students in a timely manner.
Operating a STEM Center within the largest university in South Sudan is a multi-faceted challenge. Challenges include no utility electric power, few suitable buildings, currency inflation, equipment shortage, and remoteness.
In September 2019, STEMpower had partially solved those challenges, by constructing spacious buildings that include six STEM labs, an auditorium, and a vocational training center, as well as sending a container of technical lab equipment. Meanwhile, STEMpower and friends of GFCT team tackled the electrical power situation, and also erected an automobile repair garage roof.
Three months ago, the STEMpower team took charge and engineered a simpler, more understandable, and more redundant solar power electronics design. We engaged SunGate Solar (https://sungatesolarsolutions.com), a local South Sudanese company specializing in solar power systems, to professionally implement the new design.
Finally, we were able to experience a moment of joy as the STEM Center’s 400 solar panels of electric power finally operated properly, and the ceiling lights and power outlets came on!
Juba University is now being transformed into a technically proficient University. Students are now enjoying their lab-oriented class at the STEM Center. Other NGOs operating in Juba are also using the facility for various educational purposes.
Special thanks to Juba University Vice Chancellor John Akec, who resolved various situations at the University, and to Andrew Anda, director of the Juba University STEM & Vocational Center
Currently, STEMpower and Juba teams are overseeing a replacement of the automobile repair garage (destroyed during high winds), as well as overheating in the solar battery containers.
There are more South Sudanese engineering-oriented universities in need of STEM Centers. STEMpower looks for partners who share the vision towards a technologically - developed, economically - independent, and self-sustaining Africa. Together, we will implement to repair the country.
Note #1) STEMpower and SunGater re-arranged the Juba University STEM Center’s solar power circuitry into six independent strings of solar PV panels. Each PV string now drives a battery charger-controller and three inverters. Each inverter is capable of independently generating 8 kilowatts of AC power. Thus, each of the 18 independent redundant power generators can be switched in and out, as needed. We rejected the modern-but-complicating solar power concept of “AC coupling”, because there is no AC utility power in South Sudan to couple to!
Note #2) Our flexible distributive electrical engineering design let us pursue innovations. As an example, we envision transforming excess solar power into industrial 3-phase power, for welding and heavy machinery in the automobile repair garage. Because the 150 kilowatts of modifiable solar power circuitry can now be further re-configured, our solar power generator itself serves as an object of STEM study.
Note #3) STEMpower’s many solar power experiences have confirmed the biggest problem of remote African solar power generation: the storage batteries. STEMpower’s ongoing relationship with the Chemical Engineering department of Case CWRU University (Cleveland, Ohio, USA) has the fortuitous side benefit of looking into practical battery alternatives. Moreover, our STEM curriculum now includes hands-on student participation into that exploration.