Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Practical Energy Education

Global Challenge Juried Award

Practical Energy Education

Competition Year: 2011

To bridge the technical divide between those who design appropriate energy technologies and those who utilize them

Education and Training Energy and Environment Mobile Devices and Communications

  • Team Members
  • A. Waldman-Brown
  • E. Burnell
  • F. Safir
  • M. Hickman
  • H. Beem
  • J. Huang


Quick Links

Our Pitch

Many communities in developing countries—particularly in rural areas—lack adequate energy generation to improve quality of life. Installing new technology is difficult without specialized knowledge and foreign equipment, and locals often rely on outside aid organizations to supply and install new systems. Although many development engineers have invented more 'appropriate' technologies for rural electrification and alternative fuels, they lack the means for distribution among those who would benefit most.

In collaboration with Hormenoo Crossman and the Suame Magazine Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit in Kumasi, Ghana, we will develop a Practical Energy Education Network for the developing world. We hope to disseminate existing technical ideas, and inspire locals to devise their own energy solutions. Our network will help teachers, students, community members, and international volunteers to understand the practical science and engineering principles behind energy generation.

We will develop an international online wiki community to share different technologies and ideas, and compile this knowledge into a resource book that will be available for free on our website. After we publish our resource text, the Practical Energy Network wiki can become a forum for technology sharing and collaboration. We will disseminate our ideas through informal Practical Energy workshops, in collaboration with both local and international organizations.


Provide creative energy engineering education for over 180 students in the first year.


2011 MIT School of Engineering “Global Villages” Challenge

Who We Are

Anna Waldman-Brown (MIT SB'11 Courses 8, 21W) worked with Ned and Aron to develop an alternative energy curriculum in Ghana last summer. She also taught classes on oil mining in Ecuador, and worked on photovoltaics and solar thermal technology in Nicaragua with D-Lab. Despite her comprehensive theoretical understanding of energy generation, she can successfully explain its concepts.

Aron Walker (MIT SB'07 Courses 10,12) is a fourth year U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. He spent the first three years teaching high school chemistry, physics, mathematics, and geography, and is now training future science teachers. As the founder and coordinator of the Shika na Mikono Project (an effort by Peace Corps Volunteers to develop and disseminate methods for hands on science education with low cost and locally available materials), he has facilitated four Peace Corps trainings and a dozen official trainings for Tanzanian teachers. He has published a manual on hands-on science education for Peace Corps Volunteers and is currently authoring four other books, three of them in collaboration with the Tanzanian Ministry of Education.

Brianna Conrad (MIT SB'11 Courses 6-1, 8) has considerable hands-on electrical engineering experience, and has worked with wind power, photovoltaics, and solar thermal technology.

Fareeha Safir (MIT SB'13 Course 2) has worked for Global Cycle Solutions on a bicycle-powered grain mill, and with MIT's D-Lab to design a lighter rickshaw truss. As a member of Engineers Without Borders she has designed a solar powered lighting solution in collaboration with the community of Degeya, Uganda.

Edward Burnell (MIT SB'13 Course 2) worked with Anna last summer to develop a hands-on energy curriculum in the Ghana Fab Lab. Before making solar panels with Ghanaian high school students, he worked with Grace teaching grade school energy generation lessons in Ghana and at MIT's Edgerton Outreach Center. He designed and constructed the blades for a 600 Watt stall-control wind turbine, and is currently teaching a class in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering class on the design and construction of small turbines.

Jessica Huang (MIT D-Lab Staff) has background in civil/environmental engineering and has worked with communities in Ecuador, Uganda, Honduras, Cambodia, India, Ghana, China and Nicaragua. She also taught middle school and high school students about water issues and treatment technologies in Thailand and Egypt. When she was a student at Berkeley, she facilitated the “Energy 101” course for the minor program in the Energy and Resources Department for 5 semesters. Before coming to D-Lab, she did a fellowship at Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, where she researched innovations in renewable energy and energy efficiency and developed strategies to communicate them to policymakers, business leaders, and people from all walks of life. She is now working at D-Lab on education initiatives and helping to coordinate projects in Southeast Asia.

Madeline Hickman (MIT SB'11 Course 2) has spent several months working with D-Lab community partners in Ghana, Kenya, and India, including work on bicycle rickshaws and motorized mobility aids. She has worked on projects related to both education and alternative energy in the developing world, and has mentored several design classes at MIT. She raced across Australia with the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team, and once taught workshops with several teammates at a school in Hong Kong.

Grace Kane (MIT SB'11 Course 2) worked with D-Lab health for a week in Nicaragua, and traveled throughout Ghana with D-Lab over IAP. She has taught engineering classes for high schoolers at both the Boston Fab Lab and the Edgerton Center for several years, as has worked as a teaching assistant in ESG. She has conducted research in ocean engineering and fluid dynamics, and has previously researched alternative energy generation.

Michael Semone (Harvard SB'11, Course 2) worked closely with eighth grade students in Massachusetts to study “how students learn engineering” and practice inquiry-based and guided-teaching methods. In addition to his weekly presence in the classroom, Michael worked with small teams of undergraduates to produce demonstrations and activities for the eighth graders. Michael has professional experience in custom product design and prototyping, including knowledge of industry and various manufacturing methods.

Heather Beem (MIT PhD '13 Course 2) has engineering experience that spans various sectors of academia and industry. Her current research is a cross of design and fluid mechanics, and it is uncovering new insight that could be applied to ocean/wind energy extraction. She looks forward to this project bringing together two things she enjoys: building things and working with students.

Our Community Partner

Partner Name

Suame Magazine Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit


Kumasi, Ghana


Suame Magazine is one of the world's largest international development facilities. Their network includes thousands of students and professional engineers, as well as dozens of connections to projects in neighboring rural villages. Their stated mission is to encourage "appropriate technological innovations, partnership, marketing, employment creation and enhanced investment opportunities to establish the estate as the main industrial hub of Ghana and West Africa."


  • Service Location
    Takoradi, Ghana
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Comments and Support

  • Anna--you are amazing! With more than 50% of the 2010 congressional freshmen denying any human responsibility for global warming, it's heartening to know there are young people like you and your team working to bring power (in more ways than one!) to underserved communities all over the world. You've got my vote!

    Posted by Carolyn James on Fri, Apr 15th 2011, 14:07 Report Abuse

  • PEN is going to create generate both awareness and change. Empowering young people in developing countries to build and maintain their own sources of energy is is such a powerful idea. SO is creating an open source cook book for the projects. Joining D-Labs with the Peace Corp will spread it fast. I imagine all over the world, thousands of villages suddenly having electricity because of this team. Way to spread light with a bright idea.

    Posted by J D Brown on Tue, Apr 12th 2011, 20:12 Report Abuse

  • Training foot soldiers for a revolution! You go guys!

    Posted by P. Waldman on Tue, Apr 12th 2011, 19:46 Report Abuse

  • Go for it!

    Posted by Laurie Cohen on Mon, Apr 11th 2011, 12:52 Report Abuse

  • What a fantastic idea and project. We need many more like you in the world Anna. Good Luck!

    Posted by Rose Kauper on Mon, Apr 11th 2011, 11:23 Report Abuse

  • This is an amazing concept. I live in Syracuse and have been trying to start a program exactly like this for years. If you need any help feel free to let me know. You kids are starting a movement that could transform the general public's knowledge of environmental planning forever. It is obvious that you have put tremendous work into this project and I have no doubt it will succeed in some way or another. Good luck and I will happily promote your project within my lab all week.

    Posted by J. Malin on Mon, Apr 11th 2011, 00:52 Report Abuse

  • What a fabulous project - congratulations on a wonderful idea and good luck!

    Posted by Jan Waldman on Mon, Apr 11th 2011, 00:35 Report Abuse

  • Oh Anna! this is so fascinating!

    Posted by Waldman, Mikela on Mon, Apr 11th 2011, 00:15 Report Abuse

  • Great, Anna!!

    Posted by Sue Carlomagno on Sun, Apr 10th 2011, 16:58 Report Abuse

  • Awesome pitch tonight, Anna!

    Posted by K. Mytty on Tue, Mar 29th 2011, 19:55 Report Abuse

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