GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Membership, Solar Cells, and Plantains – oh my! – LSWE Camp Day 2

Wednesday 8/15/2018

Melinda Kothbauer, Computer Engineering, BSE ‘18, SWE at UM

Christian Greenhill, Materials Science & Engineering, Ph.D., GradSWE at UM

The second day of camp began with remembering everyone’s names. Each person was responsible for stating everyone’s name that had gone before them before introducing themselves again and saying their own name. It became increasingly difficult, but made for healthy amounts of repetition leading to better name retention! Of course the room was filled with a lot of laughter at the slightest hesitation indicating a forgotten name.

After brief introductions, the LSWE students spent the morning thinking about their organization: “How do you generate interest in LSWE?”, “How do you utilize members to their fullest potential?”, and “How do you retain membership over time?”. Gillian Minnehan, sophomore in Computer Science led this workshop by breaking students into groups to discuss each of the different questions. The students then shared their ideas for implementable ideas in each of the categories. The LSWE camp hosts both current and new members to the organization, so the ideas generated came from diverse perspectives.

Have you ever made solar cells from berry juice? Probably not yet, but that’s exactly what we did this afternoon at the LSWE camp! There’s a molecule in raspberries, blackberries, and cherries, called anthocyanin, that absorbs light very well. We built a device that extracts electrons from the illuminated anthocyanin in the berries to create current or electricity. But you won’t find many fresh anthocyanin-rich berries in tropical places like Liberia. You’ll mostly find juicy pineapples and sweet plantains like the ones we had at  breakfast and lunch. Christian Greenhill, Ph.D. student in materials science and electrical engineering, managed to smuggle frozen blackberries wrapped in aluminum foil in an insulated lunch box with two ice packs into the tropics. We learned about renewable energy, solar technology and everyone built their own solar cells. We had fun measuring the voltages. Our highest voltage indoors (not in direct sunlight) was 358 mV from a 2x2cm cell – pretty impressive.

After a long day of organization development and hands-on engineering, all the students – UM and LSWE alike – retreated to the dining hall for a scrumptious ending to the day including sauteed chicken or fish with vegetables and fried plantains. The UM team spent the evening all together prepping for the next day at camp – packing supplies, finalizing presentations, and discussing our progress so far! We are excited to see what’s in store next.

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