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NTU EEE students’ volunteer trip to Indonesia for solar power system set-up in June 2017


Early in June, a laudable group of passionate NTU EEE students flew to Indonesia’s Nias Island for an overseas volunteer trip titled “Youth Expedition Project (YEP) Nias” on 6 – 17 June 2017.

The participating students are members of the NTU EEE Club and are also the first batch of students ever to organise an Overseas Community Involvement Project (OCIP) with support from the YEP and HOPE Worldwide Indonesia. Fundings also came from organisations which include the National Youth Council’s Youth Corps Singapore, NTU Student Affairs Office, other sponsors and fundraising events. The group of 16 students consisted of NTU EEE and IEM students of all academic years who took on different roles for the organisation of the trip, such as “programmers”, “business managers”, “safety officers”, “logistics officers”, “publicity officers”, treasurer and secretary.

Nias Island’s supply of electricity is through the usage of grids. Usually after a major rainfall, there would be blackouts and electricity would only be restored after a day. The majority of people would live in pitch black darkness. In addition to that, the people do not practise proper waste disposal habits. Waste is usually dumped into the ocean or burnt.

The NTU EEE students visited a community centre and local school. The community centre is mainly used to support and run community development efforts such as pre-school education and computer training. The NTU EEE team planned for the installation of solar panels, with members mixing cement manually and building a cement flooring. They installed gates around the cement flooring, dug into the ground to lay the cables from the community centre to the cement ground and installed the circuit breakers for the panels.

Ms Gayathri Narkunan, a co-leader of the NTU EEE team, shares the team’s long-term goal, “In years to come, the students intend to improve the solar power system so that it could provide for villagers in the neighbouring areas as well. This project would be a pioneer step in helping the island gain better access to electricity, and spreading more awareness on the importance of eco sustainability.”

As for the venue of the local school, it provides primary and secondary school education for children. Poor maintenance and practices have resulted in deteriorating structural conditions of the school. Water leakages occur everywhere including the classrooms, and they disrupt lessons and create fire and shock hazards. The NTU EEE team sealed the ceiling gaps to prevent further water leakages. They also taught the children the environmental effects of burning waste, and the importance of eco-sustainability. Finally, the team helped to clean the classrooms, toilets and the surrounding school environment.

A week before the volunteer trip, the NTU EEE team faced equipment shipping problems such as the Indonesia side’s delay in obtaining the required shipping licence and internal miscommunications among the team’s shipping agents. As a result, the items only reached Nias Island on the 19th – 2 days after the NTU EEE team’s departure. Undaunted by the setback, half of the members determinedly took a second trip back to Nias Island on 23 – 26 June 2017 to complete installing the panels. Their travel expenses this time were fully self-funded!

For the previous first trip, the NTU EEE team had prepared all the ground work except the installation of the solar panels. For this momentous 2nd trip, the team was finally able to install a 3kW Solar Power System at the community centre – even working overnights! Ms Gayathri says, “We built the structure for the panels to rest on, fixed the panels onto the structure and did testing of the solar power system. Being a renewable source of energy, the system would not only provide stable electrical power but also be environmentally friendly. Indeed, from this whole experience and from going through the hardships and fun, lighter moments, the NTU EEE team overall learned several life lessons like: operating as a cohesive team; having greater appreciation of life and the privileges; multicultural understanding and respecting others’ cultures.”

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Published on: 5-September-2017​
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