Students dedicate senior design project to Haitian orphanage

Sawyer Strelnieks — Staff Writer

Access to reliable electricity in rural areas of Haiti has been a growing problem in recent years. To help with the shortages, seniors Ty White, Matt Benardis, and Jake Dodge dedicated their senior design project to helping an orphanage in Haiti that is in desperate need of an updated power grid.


The Children of the Promise(COTP), an orphanage in Haiti, currently has a large and noisy diesel generator to power their electrical grid. Fuel is very expensive and maintaining the generator to power the electrical grid is difficult.

Dordt’s group of seniors took on the challenge of designing and managing the project of repowering this orphanage in Haiti. They partnered with the COTP organization to make this challenge more attainable.

“The talents and skills that have been gained at Dordt University are great, but without application, they become useless,” said White, a senior majoring in Electrical Engineering. “We want to use our gifts and abilities to help people who truly need it.”

Working with Power Systems Engineering Inc. (PSE), these seniors are designing a solar power grid. There’s only one problem: the initial cost to get the system up and running is expensive. Haiti currently doesn’t have the resources to manufacture the equipment needed to build this renewable energy system. Shipping these supplies is also very expensive, so logistics present a serious challenge for this senior design group.

“The legal work and fees are our biggest antagonist,” said White. “The next problem we face is energy storage.”

Since solar energy only generates power during the daytime, the team’s other struggle is designing a system that can store large amounts of electricity during evenings or cloudy days. This is a very expensive process and this small orphanage in Haiti is unable to afford the system that they need to power their facilities.

The design team is currently working on a solution to these challenges and is continuing to move forward and prepare the system for instillation as soon as possible.

These seniors have contributed many hours and have been working ahead of the other design groups in order to implement their new design quickly to help the orphanage avoid extra spending on diesel fuel.

“We are most looking forward to seeing the genuine thankfulness in the orphanage user’s eyes when they know they are being care for,” said White. “They are children of God, just like we are and there is no better calling for a Christian than helping your neighbor when they are in need.”

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