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SEI Alumni and Team Members from Around the World Become Solar Ambassadors

Posted by: chris
February 14, 2013

By Laura Walters, SEI PV Curriculum Team

In the beginning of October, I hopped on a plane and flew to California to take part in the first-ever Solar Ambassadors Training with We Care Solar. Fourteen woman from around the World and were chosen to take part in this training – fourteen strangers who were about to form a special bond.

Who is We Care Solar and what was the Solar Ambassador program all about? If you are part of SEI’s network, you may remember the name We Care Solar from when SEI partnered with them in the past to build their signature Solar Suitcases with our students. The Solar Suitcase is a small stand-alone PV system developed specifically for emergency lighting in remote hospitals and health clinics. When the battery is charged and it is sunny, the systems can also be used to charge cell phones (for emergency communication) and laptops for hospital purposes. This may not seem like a lot to us, but when you are trying to deliver a baby with the light from a candle or cell phone it can be the difference between life and death.

During the introductions on the first day, the caliber of the women in the training became apparent. The group was comprised of doctors, electricians, engineers, energy economists, consultants, solar technicians, educators, and more. This was a powerful group of woman.


This training was unique – it brought together diverse focuses such as solar electric design principles, hands-on installation work, best teaching practices, maternal healthcare issues (focusing on the developing world), and troubleshooting of solar systems. It was the merging together of these very different professions – health care workers, solar technicians, and educators – that made this training unparalleled. Before arriving in CA, students took SEI’s PV 101 and PV 203 courses, to get a solid foundation in solar electric principles. While in California, students got their hands on systems, put their knowledge to the test when trying to figure out the errors in mock systems, and learned how to use a Fetal Doppler to hear a baby’s heartbeat (along with about a million other things). This training was packed.

I surprised myself when we were being quizzed on common delivery issues in developing countries – I was jumping out of my seat when I knew the answer. I am typically squeamish and I thought that I would have a hard time with the healthcare portion of the course – but I found that I was actually fascinated by it! It was empowering to understand some medical terms, and learn about common delivery problems and procedures. This course shed light on maternal healthcare…in more ways than one.

Less than six months have passed since the Solar Ambassador Training and things are already starting to happen! Three Solar Ambassadors have gone into the world and successfully completed trainings and installations in Malawi and Eretria, others have organized and taught students how to assemble Solar Suitcases at the San Jose Tech Museum for Innovation, while others have given educational talks in their communities. I am so proud of my fellow Ambassadors and I can’t wait to see what the next six months will bring!

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