Published on May 18, 2022
Ten students from NAIT’s Alternative Energy Technology program recently returned from Peru after installing an off-grid solar power system in a primary school in a remote village of 500 people high in the Andes.
Partnering with Light Up The World, the students applied the technical skills they acquired through their polytechnic education to install an off-grid solar photovoltaic system for young learners and teachers in the village of Ccollpapata, Peru. Two NAIT instructors accompanied the students to support the project.
Before the installation of the off-grid solar power system, the school lacked access to electricity, depending on candles and battery-powered lights as the only light source for the teachers who also reside in the school. Student learning was also limited to non-electrical technology, limiting the ability to gain vital technical skills needed for higher education and employment for those who may choose to eventually leave the village for larger, more modern communities.
By providing access to reliable and sustainable energy to the school, the Peruvian students are now able to utilize modern learning equipment such as laptops, computers and printers to expand their learning experiences and technical skills development. As a central location in Ccollpapata with full access to electricity, the school could potentially serve as a hub for the entire community.
A recent grant from the Government of Canada’s Global Skills Opportunity program helped offset much of the cost to the 10 NAIT students who travelled to Peru. The funding will support student travel costs for four years. Starting in 2023, NAIT will look to send 22 students per year on international work-integrated learning trips aimed at bringing access to affordable and clean energy to communities in need.
The Peru project was the polytechnic’s first international student trip since 2019 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The 10 students and two instructors departed Edmonton on April 22. The installation took four days to complete.
In the months leading up to the trip, the students took a 15-week course to gain skills in intercultural competency and communication, international project management, and risk identification and mitigation strategies – all valuable skills in today’s global marketplace. Students learned about the steps involved with executing an international project in a remote community with people of other cultures speaking other languages. This included project planning, approvals, design, procurement, and logistics. They discussed energy and environmental issues in Peru, learned intercultural communications strategies, and explored global energy issues.
"Participating in the Peru solar project with Light Up The World was a once in a lifetime opportunity! It was an adventure full of interesting experiences and beautiful surroundings which helped me to grow as a person. In the course we learned a lot about global inequalities regarding access to electricity and how we can make a difference by participating in projects like this, which bring renewable solar energy to remote and off-grid communities. It's a great feeling to be able to help communities in need while learning about solar energy systems." - Eric Willier, NAIT Alternative Energy Technology student
“Study and work abroad programs are invaluable learning experiences that ensure students are culturally literate, resilient, adaptable and ready to succeed in an increasingly globalized world. This is perhaps more important than ever, which is why we are so proud to work with our partners to deliver Global Skills Opportunity. This groundbreaking program will allow more Canadian students to access these opportunities to develop the skills they need to gain a foothold in today’s global marketplace.” - Denise Amyot, President, Colleges and Institutes Canada
Going on this trip really put into perspective how lucky we are here to have so much access to electricity and I felt very grateful for the opportunity to share that with other people. – Ayrton Blank, NAIT Alternative Energy Technology student
“With this experience, students have an opportunity to put into practice the knowledge and skills they learn in the Alternative Energy Technology program in a real-world situation, bringing clean electricity to a community in need. Working on a project in a remote community in Peru, these students learn valuable intercultural competencies and global skills, preparing them for successful careers in the global marketplace, working with people across other cultures.” - Doug McFarlane, NAIT Alternative Energy Technology instructor and Peru project coordinator
The project in Peru was an unforgettable, life-changing experience. Helping a remote village gain access to electricity was beyond rewarding and I’m very fortunate to have been a part of it. – Jessica Morrison, NAIT Alternative Energy Technology student
My trip to Peru with Light Up the World and NAIT is now a highlight of my life. I was able to travel to some amazing places and to be a part of a truly worthwhile project. I can't recommend strongly enough for interested people to consider volunteering their time and do the same. – Bryce MacKay, NAIT Alternative Energy Technology student
ABOUT NAIT’s ALTERNATIVE ENERGY TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM
- NAIT’s two-year Alternative Energy Technology diploma program prepares students for successful careers in Canada’s fast-growing clean energy technology industries.
- Students learn the theoretical and practical skills needed to design, integrate and maintain systems that utilize major alternative energy sources such as solar, geothermal, wind, biofuels, hydro, fuel cell and co-generation.
- Graduates of the program have successful careers in areas such as renewable energy system design and installation, energy advising and management, and clean energy and sustainability project coordination and management.