Engineers Without Borders is a non-profit, humanitarian organization committed to partnering with developing communities worldwide to implement sustainable engineering projects. At the University of Tulsa, our chapter has started a project entitled "Sustainable Energy for North East Asia". We are working in China's Jilin province with an American NGO that is trying to teach the local people sustainable, organic agriculture practices.
Jilin is a rural province in northeast China, next to Russia and North Korea. Many of the residents are Korean refugees who are impoverished and oppressed by the Chinese government. The region is sub-Siberian and the climate is harsh and cold. The local people heat their homes by burning unfiltered coal inside, which causes widespread respiratory illness. Electricity from the power grid is expensive and unreliable, when it's available at all.
We hope to address these social, economic, environmental, and health problems in the area by introducing sustainable energy technology. We are developing several sources, including photovoltaic cells, passive solar heating, greenhouses, biogas generation from animal waste, and multiple wind turbine designs. These will be integrated into one system to sustainably power a residence for a shepherd and his animals. By using simple designs and materials that are available in the region, we aim to make our project reproducible by the local people. Through this transfer of technology, we hope to affect more people than just those with whom we work personally.
This project is in its second year. Last summer, a team of four students traveled to the site on an assessment trip. While there, we determined the needs of the community and investigated the materials that were available in the region. We also built a wind turbine that brought new technology to the area - a self-furling tail. This summer, 10 students are planning to travel for the first implementation trip.